One of the best ways to earn passively online is from affiliate marketing. All you need to do is to recommend other people’s products and you get a commission for every sale made via your recommendation link. But even affiliate marketing has its snags.
If you are already at it, chances are you have wondered if it is possible to disguise your affiliate link from the ‘ugly’ default one that contains the affiliate code, to a more attractive one.
Alas, there is link cloaking.
As nefarious as it might sound, link cloaking is not at all illegal. In fact, you could think of it as merely a makeover which is necessary because of the high competitiveness in the affiliate marketing industry that has exposed it to a lot of scammers.
Too many dishonest companies now set up malware to affect the web browsers of internet users with the aim of replacing the marketers’ affiliate links with their own link to siphon the marketers’ commissions.
Thankfully, there’s a silver bullet to this problem in the name of link cloaking.
Link cloaking simply means customizing a URL from its default format to a new one that would not show any trait of being an affiliate link. This technique is also known as link masking.
An uncloaked affiliate link is usually very long and would look like something like thiswebsite.com/product/buy/2346. But after cloaking or masking, it changes to something of this form: yoursite.com/productz which is shorter and more convenient to work with.
That’s the ultimate goal of link cloaking, to make URLs convenient to work with. You’ll agree that the second link is easier to remember and share than the first.
Nothing changes aside from the appearance of the link. By clicking on both URLs, you will arrive at the same webpage.
Aside from this, link cloaking also has some specific advantages for affiliate marketing.
There might be a thousand and one reasons why using a link cloaker is important in affiliate marketing, but here are 3 of the most important WHYs:
If you are not being too modest, the reason you are in the affiliate business at all is to make profits. These profits are unsafe when your links are susceptible to malware designed to replace your affiliate links with others in an attempt to steal your commissions.
If not that, you can also lose commissions when a customer knows that he is about to click on an affiliate link on your page and bypasses it by chopping off the affiliate part of the link and goes directly to the main site, say Amazon, to make the purchase.
The way to avoid these is to cloak your links. That way link predators and by-passers would never know they are affiliate links.
Using a link cloaker means having full control of your affiliate URL so you can pretty much make it as attractive and sellable as possible, which Google wants for your ranking rather than the ugly default affiliate permalink.
In affiliate marketing, it helps to know which amongst your affiliate links is gaining more traction than the others so that you can leverage it for marketing.
If you discover that your audiences are barely clicking on your fashion product links but you have lots of clicks on health product links, then it would pay more to create more content around health products and promote them.
Using a link cloaker gives you the ability to track your links and get these valuable insights.
1. Genius Link
The first entry on our list of the best affiliate link cloaker is Genius Link.
Genius Link offers a 14-day free trial period and a $2/1000 clicks after the trial.
Its automated feature ensures that it syncs your affiliate account with your iTunes, Microsoft, and Amazon links.
Another high point is its geo-location based redirection feature that informs you of your shoppers’ countries and allows you to create custom destinations for other affiliate programs.
You can seamlessly manage all of your links from one location after a simple copy and paste action.
Genius Link features very simple and affordable pricing. You pay per click and the pricing plans include:
- 1 – 2,000 clicks: $5
- 3,000 to 4,000 clicks: $7
- 4,000 to 5,000 clicks: $9
- 5,000 to 6,000 clicks: $11
- 6,000 to 7,000 clicks: $13
As you can see the pricing increases by $2 for each 1,000 clicks above 2,000. Notably, Genius Link allows you to add a custom domain for $50 and there’s a business plan that costs $249 per month with $10 per 10,000 clicks.
You can cloak and manage your entire affiliate link right from your website by installing Easy Affiliate as a plugin from your WordPress dashboard. This way you can manage your contents and links from the visual or HTML editor on one dashboard.
It’s an exclusive link cloaking plugin for WordPress CMS and works very well with both the classic and Gutenberg editors.
Easy affiliate also lets you import your links as XML and export it to XML. Likewise, you can export your cloaked links in these formats. The plugin has an exclusive feature for Amazon affiliate links and you can track your clicks per month.
From the click statistics and charts section, you can get valuable insights on the performance of your affiliate campaign.
3. Pretty Links
Pretty Links is a free WordPress link cloaker that is ideal for affiliate marketing sites.
In addition to letting you easily customize your affiliate links, Pretty Links keeps a tab on the number of hits you get per URL including additional information like the location of the URL visitors and type of devices.
Pretty Links is an apt choice if you want a link cloaker that would organize your links into groups and create Google’s recommended nofollow links.
Notably, you can set your URLs to redirect in multiple ways some of which includes 301 redirects (permanent) and 302/307 redirects (temporary).
Pretty Links Pro features three pricing plans depending on your affiliate marketing level. The WordPress version is free but limited, you need to pay to get complete access to all features. The pricing plans include:
- Beginner Plan: $79 per year
- Marketer Plan: $99 per year
- Super Affiliate Plan: $149 per year
Thankfully, Pretty Links Pro offer a free trial but you can get your moneyback within the first 14 days of purchase if you’re not satisfied.
You know the WooCommerce plugin if you are familiar with e-Commerce and WordPress, but this plugin would also help to disguise all your affiliate links in your WooCommerce store.
With WooCommerce Cloak Affiliate Links plugin, you can add an affiliate link to your product pages without having to manually add each individual URL. This plugin hides the affiliate links when someone clicks through to your product page.
Also, it gives you the option to block search engine bots from following your external links.
Thirsty Affiliates is easily one of the most popular affiliate cloakers on the market in terms of management. It’s also a popular plugin on WordPress with close to 450,000 downloads. It was launched to help affiliates convert visitors into customers without making them inconvenient.
The WordPress plugin provides a simple setup interface and management of your affiliate links and also gives the option to set your links as either as dofollow and nofollow.
Some of the pro features include automatic keyword linking, geo-location, and CSV import and export. You can as well import links from third party APIs. For example, you can import Amazon Links from the Amazon Products API.
If you opt to use Thirsty Affiliates Pro, you have to choose from any of the following pricing plans:
- Basic Plan: $49 (for 1 site)
- Plus Plan: $99 (for 5 sites)
- Advanced Plan: $149 (for 10 sites)
All Pro pricing plans come with a 14–day money back guarantee and access to all pro features. The only difference is the number of websites they support.
LinkTrackr is an ideal tool for preventing commission theft from your affiliate links especially if you have no prior technical or programming knowledge.
By simply creating a tracking link which redirects to the affiliate page, you successfully secure your affiliate link.
Aside from link cloaking and tracking, LinkTrackr also supports PPC tracking, conversion tracking, and postback tracking. The platform features a URL rotator and you can split test links using the A/B tester.
You must pay to use LinkTrakr to cloak your URLs. The platform offers no free account. The available pricing plans include:
- Basic Plan: $7 per year – 100 tracking links
- Pro Plan: $17 per year – 500 tracking links
- Hyper Plan: $27 per year – 1,000 tracking links
- Extreme Plan: $47 per year – 5,000 tracking links
You get a 30-day money back guarantee for any plan you subscribe to. The highest plan – Extreme Plan – supports 500,000 clicks per month. If you need more than 500,000 clicks in a month, you can contact the support team for custom pricing.
If you engage in Amazon Affiliate Marketing, Auto Amazon Links is one of the best link cloakers you can use. It’s an exclusive Amazon Associates Affiliate plugin for WordPresss developed by Miunosoft.
This plugin saves you the stress of manually copying and pasting Amazon links in your WordPress pages. All you need to do is to select product categories that match your site contents and it’ll automatically display some of the best selling products in that category.
By default, the links feature your Amazon ID but you can cloak it using short codes among other options. The plugin lets you customize pages where your links appear. You can do this using post ID, taxonomy, page type, and post type.
Furthermore, you can automatically convert hyperlinks to Amazon products into your associate affiliate links. Auto Amazon Links feature a widget which you can use with WordPress page builders and sidebars.
Here’s another best affiliate link cloaker on our list.
ClickerVolt makes link cloaking easy to create and manage even for beginning marketers. You can also track your visitors’ IP addresses, browser types, referral addresses, and export this report all from your WordPress admin panel.
Notably, ClickerVolt lets you generate click reports for any time period. Also, it integrates AIDA technology which allows you to optimize your posts as you track affiliate links for visitors in different geographic regions.
Apart from its free version, it also comes with two premium plans i.e. $95.88 per year and $289.99 for lifetime license.
9. Simple URLs
Unlike other affiliate link cloakers, Simple URLs permits only 301 permanent redirection types to manage and track links. Links customization is directly from the text editor, and it keeps a record of click counts too.
This link cloaking tool is a product of Lasso, an all-in-one affiliate plugin for WordPress. Nevertheless, it works seamlessly as a standalone tool which means you can use it for other affiliate marketing tools as well.
Simple URLs feature what is tagged “Superior Link Referral Tracking”. This option allows you to efficiently track your affiliate marketing links by grouping them in categories. Ideally, you can group your affiliate links according to the affiliate platform.
Since all links can be accessed from a central location, the tool saves you the stress of having to edit affiliate links in all your pages. Simply edit the URL from the management dashboard and it’ll update on all your pages.
With this tool, you can import and export links to and from other link managers. All of these features are available for free; you don’t pay to use Simple URLs.
Hidden Affiliate Links let you disguise and manage your affiliate links in a matter of minutes. It is famous for its ability to automatically replace keywords with a link.
This tool is available as a WordPress plugin, but it’s not available in the WordPress plugin directly. To use it, you must download from the developer’s website and upload via the plugin section in your WordPress dashboard.
A unique feature of Hidden Affiliate Links is that it works as link redirector and as a keyword linker. The most recent version supports runtime keyword replacement
There is nothing sinister about link cloaking. In fact, some might argue that customizing (defining) your links is a more honest approach to affiliate marketing than leaving it naked.
If you want to protect your affiliate commissions then you should keep abreast with the best link cloakers and practices in the industry.
Disguising your links to more attractive ones is bound to get you more clicks and affiliate revenue.
Tom loves to write on technology, e-commerce & internet marketing. I started my first e-commerce company in college, designing and selling t-shirts for my campus bar crawl using print-on-demand. Having successfully established multiple 6 & 7-figure e-commerce businesses (in women’s fashion and hiking gear), I think I can share a tip or 2 to help you succeed.