What is link cloaking?
Link cloaking is a technique used in online marketing to mask the destination of a link. It involves creating a redirect from the original link to a different URL, usually with the intention of improving the user experience or tracking clicks. Link cloaking is often used to improve the click-through rate (CTR) of a website or advertisement. In this article, we will explore how link cloaking can increase CTR and the benefits it offers to marketers and website owners. This technique is often used in online advertising and affiliate marketing to help track clicks and sales, as well as to protect the destination link from being harvested by scrapers.
Why cloak a link?
There are several reasons why someone might want to cloak a link. For example, an advertiser might want to use a shorter, more attractive URL for display purposes, while still directing users to a longer, more complex destination URL that includes tracking parameters. This can make the advertisement more appealing and increase the chances of someone clicking on it.
Another reason for link cloaking is to protect the destination URL from being harvested by scrapers, which are automated programs that scan the web for links and copy them for various purposes, including spamming and phishing. By presenting a different URL to the user, the link Cloaker can obscure the destination URL and make it more difficult for scrapers to find and copy it.
How does link cloaking work?
Link cloaking replaces irrelevant and weird symbols from a URL and thus makes it easy to remember.
Consider the following long and complex link:
Now with the help of link cloaking this can be changed to
This leads numerous marketers worldwide to adopt link cloaking as part of a linking strategy as it replaces a weird-looking domain name with a prettier one.
How to cloak affiliate links
Cloaking can be done manually without using any plugin. However, there are many plugins for cloaking a link. Among them best 3 plugins are as follows:-
1. Pretty Links
You can use Pretty Links plugin to shorten and cloak a link. Creating attractive links and efficiently managing them becomes easy with this plugin.
- Rating: 4.6/5
- Best for: tracking and redirecting affiliate URLs
- Basic Pricing model: free
- Premium plan: $79/year
Advantages of Pretty Link Plugin
- Link management. By using this plugin tracking process become easy as you can organize affiliate links by grouping them.
- Link tracking system. Checking link performance, including affiliate conversion tracking becomes easy with this.
- Link automation. Various types of automation tools of this plugin help you to create cloaking links for all your pages and posts.
Disadvantages of Pretty Link Plugin
- Unable to help you identify any issue and can not ensure the smooth working of your website.
- Comes with too limited a redirection type.
Thirsty Affiliates is one of a few front-running plugins for link cloaking. You can add and track affiliate links from your admin dashboard. Also, you can boost your affiliate income by creating a branded affiliate link with this plugin.
- Amazon API importing. It is an exclusive tool for affiliate marketers to drive traffic to their Websites. It can import Amazon affiliate links from Amazon’s Product Advertising API.
- Link scheduling. With it, you can know well in advance when an affiliate link will be published.
- Automatic link health checker. It is able to Identify broken links or 404 errors. You will get a notification when it detects a problem.
- CSV Import or Export. Working on multiple sites becomes easy by its ability to import or export affiliate links via CSV files.
- Limited integration. You can not integrate it with the WooCommerce plugin.
- Limited support. There is a bottleneck in its support system.
- Rating: 4.5/5
- Best for: monetizing your site with affiliate marketing
- Pricing Basic model: free
- Premium: $49 for one site
You can manage all your links (from cloaked to regular links) from one central location by using this user-friendly plugin. You can use it with the Classic Editor, Gutenberg Block Editor, and Elementor.
- It provides split testing (A/B testing)
- It helps create a simple and short tracking link for your destination URL.
- You can UGC (user-generated content) and sponsored attribute support.
- You may find link errors in auto-published emails and may face Maintenance issues with the link disappearing after new updates.
Easy Affiliate Links Stats:
- Rating: 4.1/5
- Best for managing affiliate links
- Price: (Basic)free/
- Premium plan: $29/year
Link Cloaking vs Link Shortening
As the way of link shortening resembles that of links cloaking, many internet users take these two as similar. But there are a few differences in regard to purpose and look.
After link shortening, a link becomes shorter but not memorable. On the contrary, links cloaking provides more professional-looking URLs for affiliates.
How can link cloaking increase CTR?
The main goal of link cloaking is to improve the click-through rate (CTR) of a link. Here are 8 ways in which link cloaking can increase CTR.
1. Improved link appearance:
A well-cloaked link looks more professional and is less likely to be flagged as spam or a phishing attempt. This can increase the likelihood of users clicking on the link.
2. Customizable link text
When cloaking a link, you have the ability to customize the link text to make it more appealing to your target audience. For example, you can use action-oriented language like “Get your free trial now” instead of a generic “click here.”
3. Increased tracking
Link cloaking allows you to track clicks on your link, which can provide valuable insights into your audience’s behavior and preferences. This information can be used to improve your marketing efforts and increase CTR.
4. Easier sharing
Cloaked links are shorter and more manageable, making them easier to share on social media platforms or via email. This can increase the reach of your link and increase the chances of it being clicked.
5. Improved security
Link cloaking can protect your original link from being accessed by unauthorized users. This can be particularly useful for links containing sensitive information or for links that lead to a login page.
6. Increases email delivery rates
Sometimes including affiliate links in emails creates the possibility of spamming which results in your email id being blacklisted. To avoid this it is better to opt for link cloaking while using an email marketing campaign.
7. Better mobile optimization
Link cloaking can improve the usability of your link on mobile devices, making it easier for users to click and access your content. This is especially important as more and more people are accessing the internet via their smartphones.
8. Increased social media engagement
Link cloaking can help to improve the appearance of your links on social media platforms, making them more likely to be shared and clicked on by users.
9. Easy link management
In the event of your affiliate providers’ business getting closed, often it becomes tedious to remove all of their links.
But a few link-cloaking WordPress plugins make this easy.
10. Beats ad blockers
AdBlock Plus in the browser extension prevents internet users from seeing ads. Nowadays many users use this extension on their browsers.
Cloaking your links eliminate this possibility if it is not a case of hot-linked from the merchant’s domain.
11. Easy to no-follow affiliate links
It is time-consuming to add manually the ‘rel=nofollow’ attribute in your affiliate link every time. The links cloaking plugin makes this process easy.
A cloaked link can be used as many times as you want on your blog posts. It’s one of its advantages.
12. Better integration with a marketing campaign
Link cloaking can help you to better integrate your links into your marketing campaigns and create a more seamless experience for users. This can increase the effectiveness of your campaigns and ultimately lead to a higher CTR.
Overall, link cloaking is a useful tool for marketers looking to improve the CTR of their links. By using redirects or URL shorteners to cloak your links, you can create more professional-looking links, customize link text, track clicks, and improve the overall user experience. This can ultimately lead to higher CTR and more successful marketing campaigns.
Practical Tips for Successful Link Cloaking
Link cloaking can be a useful tool for tracking clicks and analyzing traffic, as well as disguising affiliate links and protecting against link hijacking. However, it’s important to use it ethically and be transparent with your users. By following these tips, you can successfully implement link cloaking on your website. Here are 5 ethical use of link cloaking and provide some tips for successful implementation.
1. Use link cloaking to track clicks and analyze traffic
One of the main reasons to use link cloaking is to track clicks on specific links. This can be useful for identifying which traffic sources are most effective, or for understanding how users are interacting with your content. By cloaking your links, you can use tools like Google Analytics to analyze traffic and identify trends.
2. Disguise affiliate links
Affiliate marketing is a popular way to monetize websites, but the use of long, complicated affiliate links can be off-putting to users. By cloaking these links, you can make them more visually appealing and easier to remember, which can lead to higher click-through rates.
3. Protect against link hijacking
Link hijacking refers to the unauthorized use of your links on other websites. This can lead to lost traffic and revenue, as well as damage to your brand. By cloaking your links, you can protect against hijacking and ensure that users are directed to the intended destination.
4. Use redirects carefully
Redirects are a common method of link cloaking, but they should be used with caution. If not implemented correctly, redirects can slow down page loading times and negatively impact the user experience. It’s important to test your redirects to ensure that they are functioning properly.
5. Be transparent with your users
While link cloaking can be useful for tracking clicks and disguising affiliate links, it’s important to be transparent with your users. If you are using link cloaking for any reason, be sure to disclose this to your audience. This helps to build trust and maintain a positive reputation.
How to Cloak Links Without a Plugin
You can cloak an affiliate link without using a WordPress plugin by using your FTP account. But this method is suitable for those with fewer affiliate links to manage.
You can cloak manually by following the steps given below:-
Use an FTP client like FileZilla to connect your site. Create a new folder in the root directory (public_html) of your website. Name the folder as your URL slug which can be /out/, /go/, and/recommend/ etc.
Does Amazon favor Link Cloaking?
Amazon doesn’t like its customers to be misdirected by affiliates. Amazon thinks it indirectly affects its reputation. And for this, Amazon bans affiliate marketer who uses link cloaking or shortening.
In conclusion, link cloaking can be a useful tool for increasing CTR on your website. By masking the true destination of a link, you can create a more streamlined and user-friendly experience for your visitors. This can help to improve the overall user experience and encourage more clicks on your links. Additionally, link cloaking can help to protect against spam and other malicious activity, making it a valuable tool for both SEO and security purposes. If you’re looking to increase CTR on your website, consider implementing link cloaking as part of your strategy.