Well, cloaking is the term used in SEO for serving different content to search engine crawlers than the real users. This is a black hat SEO technique to trick the search engine aiming to achieve higher ranking on the search results page. But on the affiliate marketing, cloaking is the process of masking the original URL with a pretty and clean URL.
Why Should You Cloak Affiliate Links?
Generally the affiliate links looks very long with referrer name and the company name. When you promote such affiliate links, users may not be confident in clicking such URLs. This will directly affect your affiliate earnings. So site owners tend to show the self-hosted URLs with their own domain name instead of showing the other company URL.
Example of Affiliate Link Cloaking
Before we start with the plugin details, here is a real example of the affiliate link from SiteGround and the pretty cloaked link.
|Original Affiliate Link from SiteGround||https://www.siteground.com/wordpress-hosting.htm?afcode=82f428882ed0b9cb004bf26614c25e5c|
|Pretty Link Cloaked URL||https://www.webnots.com/Recommended/SiteGround|
It is clear that the click through rate will be higher with the cloaked link thus increasing the possibility of getting more affiliate commission.
Note: Some companies like SiteGround also allows to shorten the URL but with their domain name. There are also many URL shortening services available like bit.ly. All URL shortening services will use their domain name. But cloaking with WordPress plugin will allow you to show the URL with your own domain name.
WordPress has many plugins to do the cloaking and here we will discuss cloaking with the popular and free Pretty Links plugin.
Why Pretty Links Plugin?
Of course, you can do the cloaking with any of the free or premium WordPress plugin. Based on our checking and usage, Pretty Link Lite works perfectly and below are some of the reason for choosing it:
- It is a free plugin can be installed from the plugin repository.
- It has an active installs of over 300k sites.
- Developer updates the plugin regularly to make it compatible with the latest WordPress version.
- Very good support on the forum.
- Good rating of 4.8 out of 5.
- Ver easy to create the cloaked URL.
- Hit count on each URL.
The plugin also has a pro version which is not required for individual WordPress users.
How to Create Cloaked Link for Your Affiliate Link?
Login to your WordPress admin panel and navigate to “Plugins > Add New” section. Search for “Pretty Links – Link Management, Branding, Tracking & Sharing Plugin” and install and activate on your site.
The plugin will create a menu in the sidebar with the name “Pretty Links”. Navigate to “Pretty Links > Add New”.
- Title – this is a title for your cloaked link. You can enter your own or leave it blank so that the plugin will use title of the target URL.
- Redirection – you can set either 301 or 302 or 307 redirect for your cloaked link. 301 is a permanent redirection which is not recommended. 302 and 307 are temporary redirects and you can choose one of them for your link.
- Target URL – enter the affiliate URL.
- Pretty Link – enter your pretty link URL. You can enter multiple level like “go/bluehost” or “out/hostgator”. So your final pretty URL will look like “https://yoursite.com/go/bluehost”. Remember you can’t provide the trailing slash (/) at the end of the URL.
- Notes – this is a private note for you to identify the affiliate link. The plugin does not use this field in any other place. So you can leave it blank.
Click on the “Advanced” section to customize the cloaked link further.
- No Follow – enabling this checkbox will set no-follow and no-index option for the link. Ensure to check this box so that search engines will not index and follow your affiliate links. Otherwise the link juice will be send to the affiliate domain which should be avoided.
- Sponsored – enable this if the link is sponsored by an advertiser.
- Parameter Forwarding – enable if you want to use parameter forwarding with the target URL. Leave it blank if you don’t want to use.
- Tracking – enable this option so that the plugin will track and the click statistics can be seen for the link.
There are many options available under “Pro” tab which is only for the premium paid users.
Dashboard, Stats and Options
After filling the required details and choosing advanced options, click on the “Update” button to generate a cloaked affiliate link. All the created links can be seen as a dashboard under “Pretty Links > Pretty Links” menu. The plugin also offers click analysis for each link which will help you tracking the performance of cloaked links.
You can customize some default settings and reporting options under the “Options” menu. Also there is a “Bookmarklet” tool available under “Tools” menu which will help you generating cloaked URL from the site your are viewing.
Inserting Cloaked Link in Post Editor
Pretty Links plugin offers option both Gutenberg and Classic editor interface. In Gutenberg, just select the anchor text and click on the small arrow on the block tools icons. Click on the “Pretty Link” option to insert your link.
You can search for the link and add parameters like opening the tab in new window. In addition, you can also create a pretty link directly from the editor screen.
If you are using Classic editor, select your anchor text and click on the pretty link icon to search and inert the cloaked link.
Cloaking is very useful for affiliate marketers to mask the ugly URL and show pretty link to readers. This can help you to increase the click through rate since users will see the URL is from your own domain. Higher click through rate in turns can help you to earn more commission from the affiliate product owner. However, make sure to setup correct URL and redirect type as you need. Tricking searching engines by masking malicious external URL or wrongly using redirect setup can harm your site negatively in search ranking.