Link Cloaking: What Is It?
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Link Cloaking is a process used by affiliate marketers that turns ugly links into pretty links and helps improve conversions and sales. And that probably all sounds like poppycock right now but once you start using affiliate links and start relying on those sales, you’ll quickly learn why link cloaking is so important.
Ugly links are scary
If you’ve ever used an Amazon affiliate link then you know exactly what I’m talking about. Here’s what they look like:
Most users won’t see that link on your site because you’ll be using anchor text. But when they hover their cursor over your anchor text that link appears in their task bar and a lot of your visitors will check before they click. If the link looks scary, (and I think we can all agree that Amazon links are downright frightening!) then some visitors just won’t click.
Affiliate links can be hijacked
Some affiliate marketers just refuse to click on someone else’s affiliate link. So they either go directly to the site and conduct their own search or they remove your affiliate ID from the link before they click through.
Unscrupulous affiliate marketers will not only remove your ID, they’ll insert their own and this happens frequently with links posted on Twitter. They sit there and watch for tweets containing affiliate links, pull the ol’ switcheroo and retweet – with their own link attached.
What Is Link Cloaking?
Link cloaking simply changes the link, generally making it shorter and less frightening. It also eliminates the hijacking problem because it makes the link look like a regular link that doesn’t include an affiliate ID. For example, here’s the same link from above after being cloaked:
See? Even if one of those sneaky affiliates were to get a hold of it there’s no way of telling where or how your affiliate ID is included and no way of inserting their own. Plus, it looks a lot less scary for your visitors.
How Do You Cloak A Link?
Bitly.com is a popular link shortening service. You simply paste in your link and it shortens it automatically. And you’ll find other link shortening or cloaking services on the Internet.
Some bloggers like me, who use a lot of affiliate links, like to go into their
.htaccess file and add redirects there, or even use some redirection plugin to manage these short links.
However, if you’re not comfortable digging around in your blog’s internal code files you could really mess something up.