Cloaking and shortening links is something you must understand if you want to make money with affiliate marketing.
Affiliate links are the most important thing in the universe for an affiliate and you must handle them with care.
In this article, I am going to tell you exactly how you can cloak links the right way and what are the most popular URL shortener services.
I am going to tell you why you should always prefer cloaked links to URL shortener services.
You will completely understand what is cloaking, why you must cloak your links and how to do it correctly on any platform.
What Is Link Cloaking?
Link cloaking explained with easy words is the process of creating a better-looking/more-efficient link that goes somewhere else.
If you are in affiliate marketing you might know that affiliate links are usually very long URLs with a lot of parameters inside.
For instance, this is an affiliate link for ExpressVPN:
meanwhile, this one is the same link but cloaked, where I have full control and on my domain.
if you press on both you will land on the same result.
Your human eye will not be able to see what going on, but if you put the second URL here:
you will be able to see all the redirects and the first link will pop up somewhere!
Why You Should Cloak Links?
There are many reasons why you should cloak links!
Personally, I think that the reason that makes more sense is URL management.
For instance, if a company decides to change its affiliate program, your affiliate links need to change!
It would take you a lifetime probably to change all the links on your websites along with all the posts.
Meanwhile, if you have a link on your domain that goes to that offer, you will need just to change the redirect inside of that link and all the links will change.
Another reason is that cloaking links will protect you from affiliate link theft!
For instance, you could replace the affiliate ID of my URL with yours and you will earn a commission using my traffic.
If you cloak a link this is not going to happen because the user doesn’t have access to the backend of your site.
Another reason why you should clock links is that search engines general speaking don’t like to see too many affiliate links.
Using link cloaking correctly you will be able to mask the links and make search engines happier.
Another simple reason is that links on your site will look prettier!
Cloaking links it’s proved that can boost click-through rates of links.
Different Types Of Redirects
Cloaking links mean passing to someone who clicks your link a status code.
For instance, if you are going to click a link that is broken you will get in return a 404 status code.
4XX status codes are usually missing pages errors, 5XX are usually server errors and 3XX errors are redirects errors, 2XX are status codes that tells you that all is fine.
We are going to take advantage of the 3XX errors to redirect our links, and these are the main 3XX status codes you can use.
Here you can see a full list of 3XX status codes, but on this section, we are going to talk only of these status codes used for cloaking:
- 301: resource moved permanently — when clicked the browser will remember that the original content completely moved to the new destination.
- 302: resource moved temporarily — the browser will remember the new location only temporary or until the cache is not cleared.
- 307: temporary redirection — the redirection is never remembered from a browser, each time a link is clicked it’s like the first time.
You will always need to get in return a 2XX at the end of the redirect.
How To Cloak Links
It’s impossible for me to tell you how to cloak links, there are just too many ways to do it.
There are also popular services like bit.ly that will give you some sort of cloaking features but my advice is to stay away from all of these sites.
The easiest way to have full control over your cloaked links is to create a
.php file that redirects somewhere.
PHP is a coding language understood from 99.9% of the hosting services you will use.
All you have to do is to create a .php file with an editor like brackets.io Then name it as you want to and drop in it your affiliate link inside the code below.
You will need to replace URL with your affiliate link.
For instance, here you can name that file as
expressvpn.php and drop it in your affiliate links folder (zx in my case) to get something like this:
<script>window.location = "URL";</script>
Check them out here.
If you are a WordPress user there is no easiest way that using a plugin like ThirstyAffiliates.
Once you have installed the plugin you can easily create affiliate links in a few seconds.
Most Popular URL Shortener Services
I think that link cloaking and URL shortening are not the same things.
A lot of people who start with internet marketing knows about bit.ly!
That will allow them to create short URLs easy to manage.
These services are used to create shorter URLs but in fact, these services are nothing more than URL cloaking services.
The good thing about them is that you will have detailed analytics just by adding a + at the end of the URL.
For instance, you can see who clicked on this link adding a + at the end of the bit.ly URL:
The thing is that stats are public and you will not be able to change the content of the link if you want to do it later on.
You have no control over these links and they can ban your account with no reason and you will lose all your work.
These are the most popular and used URL shortening services:
With that said you should never use URL shorteners services like the ones above.
I have used Bitly on YouTube on certain channels.
I regret it a lot and when I will have time I will replace all the bitly links with my own links.
I am pretty sure that a lot of the bitly links I have made are no longer working.
I have absolutely no control over them putting in jeopardize my business and earnings.
It’s a no brainer using custom cloaked links instead of URL shortening services like bit.ly etc…
The main reason why you should cloak your link is so that you will be able to manage your affiliate links more easily.
Also, we have talked about some serious additional benefits and how to properly cloak your links.
If you are a WordPress user the best plugin that will allow you to cloak links is called ThirstyAffiliates.
It is completely free and it will allow you to cloak links in the correct way without any coding knowledge.
This plugin will also disallow bots from crawling your URLs and so much more awesome stuff.
There is also a premium version but I personally use the free version which is more than enough.
I hope that you found this article useful and if you have any question you can contact me.
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