Posted at December 3, 2019 at 2:46 am by Michael Lavrik
When researching affiliate marketing strategies, you may come across link cloaking. Countless affiliate marketers use this strategy to mask the destination of their affiliate links. Cloaking allows affiliate marketers to create and use their own custom links, which redirect users to their affiliate products.
Being that it shows users a different destination than the link’s actual destination, you might be hesitant to cloak your affiliate links, fearing it will lead to fewer sales or conversions. Cloaking your affiliate links, however, will almost always have a positive impact on your affiliate marketing efforts. On the topic of affiliate programs if you are interested in promoting InterServer web hosting and getting paid $100 per sale please consider our web hosting affiliate program.
What Is Cloaking?
Cloaking, when used in the context of link building, involves the use of a redirect to conceal the destination of a link. Also known as link masking, it replaces the visible destination URL of a link with a custom-created destination URL. When a user clicks on a cloaked affiliate link, his or her web browser will load the custom-created destination URL, at which point the user will be redirected to the real destination URL as specified in the affiliate link.
Here’s a comparison of a conventional affiliate link versus a cloaked affiliate link:
Cloaking isn’t considered black hat, nor will it leave your affiliate account vulnerable to suspension or termination. Nearly all affiliate marketing networks allow or even encourage affiliates to cloak their links. It’s a simple process that involves creating a new web page with a redirect to the destination URL of an affiliate link.
Benefits of Cloaking Your Affiliate Links
Cloaked affiliate links are more appealing than conventional affiliate links. As shown above, conventional affiliate links typically consist of long strings of letters, numbers and special characters. Because of their generic and non descriptive appearance, they don’t attract as many clicks as cloaked affiliate links.
When you cloak an affiliate link, you’ll have the freedom to change the destination URL so that it’s more appealing. You aren’t required to promote the unsightly affiliate links provided by the affiliate marketing network. Instead, you can cloak them. Once cloaked, your affiliate links will shorter and more descriptive, which should compel more users to click them. As a result, cloaking your affiliate links can drive higher click-through rates (CTRs) as well as more sales or conversions.
You can rest assured knowing that cloaked affiliate links are protected against malware-related link hijacking. Villainous affiliate marketers use malware to steal the commissions of hardworking affiliate marketers. They distribute malware that, once on a victim’s computer, automatically replaces other marketers’ affiliate links with their own affiliate links. The malware uses a link hijacking script to replace affiliates links viewed on the victim’s computer.
Link hijacking scripts work by scanning links for the footprints of an affiliate marketing network. If the script detects a link from an affiliate marketing network, it will replace it with the nefarious marketer’s own affiliate link. Thankfully, cloaked links are naturally protected against malware-related link hijacking such as this. Link hijacking scripts only look for conventional, uncloaked links, so you won’t lose any commissions from this nefarious tactic.
Statistics show nearly one in three internet users now have an ad blocker extension or plugin installed on their web browser. While ad blockers clean up a lot of spam, they often target legitimate ads, including those containing affiliate links. If you publish a banner ad using a conventional affiliate link, users with an ad blocker may not see it. Ad blockers will block ads containing links used by affiliate networks. And if a user doesn’t see an ad, he or she won’t be able to click it.
Finally, you’ll be able to track engagement signals more closely by cloaking your affiliate links. Affiliate networks offer their own tracking solutions, but they only track the total number of clicks and conversions an affiliate link generates. If you want to promote an affiliate link on three different channels, you won’t be able to tell which channel drove the most traffic. You can track clicks across multiple channels by cloaking your affiliate links. When promoting
an affiliate link on three different channels, simply create three cloaked links. Each of the cloaked links should have a unique filename, but they should all have the same redirect code pointing to your affiliate link. Once deployed in your affiliate marketing campaign, you can track how many clicks each of the three cloaked links generated to determine which channel drove the most traffic.
According to Search Engine Land, cloaking affiliate links in landing pages can lead to higher Quality Scores in pay-per-click (PPC) advertising campaigns. If Google or Bing detects affiliate links in your pages, they may impose lower Quality Scores on your target keywords. Of course, you can conceal your affiliate links, and therefore earn higher Quality Score by cloaking them.
How to Cloak Your Affiliate Links
There are several ways to cloak an affiliate link, one of which is to create a PHP file with a header redirect. Just create a new PHP file — you can create PHP files using Microsoft Notepad – – and add the following code to it:
<?php header( ‘Location: [enter your affiliate link here]’ ) ; ?>
After adding the header redirect code, save the PHP file with the name that you’d like users to see when hovering over the cloaked affiliate link, such as affiliate-product-name.php. You can then upload the PHP file to your website’s root folder. To ensure it works, try accessing the PHP file on your web browser. Visiting the location of the PHP file, such as example.com/affiliate-product-name.php should redirect you to your affiliate link. If you use WordPress, you can download a plugin to cloak affiliate links published on your website. Available at wordpress.org/plugins/thirstyaffiliates, the ThirstyAffiliates plugin adds a link cloaking feature to WordPress websites. Another link cloaking plugin available for WordPress is the aptly named Pretty Links. Available at wordpress.org/plugins/pretty-link, it allows you to quickly and easily cloak your affiliate links. To succeed with affiliate marketing, you must publish links to your affiliate products. But whether you publish them on your website, blog, social media profiles or elsewhere, you should consider cloaking all your affiliate links.