This post is part of the Friday Q&A section. Just use the contact form if you want to submit a question.
Do you have a opinion on link cloaking for affiliate marketers? Do the pros use cloaking and should it be a standard practice as an affiliate?
What Is Link Cloaking
Let’s explain this. Affiliate links are usually very easy to identify. They always contain some numbers and the referral id of the affiliate. One example could be:
If you use such a link, upon hovering the mouse over it the end user would be able to see it on the bottom of his browser (called “status bar”), and this could reduce the chances of him clicking on the link and making a purchase. Why? Because he might suspect that your recommendation/review was biased, and that you are just trying to earn an affiliate commission.
A better solution, however, is to use a redirect. That is, you would create another link that redirects to the affiliate one. The easiest way to do that with a URL shortening service like bit.ly. Alternatively you can also use some PHP or a WordPress plugin to create the redirects within your own domain. An example of a redirect could be:
Apart from cloaking your affiliate link the internal redirect might also get a higher click-through rate because some user might believe that they will not leave your website by clicking on the link.
Do the Pros Use It?
Yes the professional affiliate marketers use link cloaking, and it is a very widespread tactic around the web.
Some users frown upon cloaked links, because they won’t know where the link is pointing. Pro affiliate marketers are only worried with the bottom line, however, so if the conversion rates increase they will certainly use cloaked links.
My Opinion and a New Trend
I have nothing against using cloaked links. In fact on some affiliate marketing campaigns I promote I do use redirects. My main motivation for that is to be able to track clicks, but it ends up working as a link cloak as well.
However, I believe that the use of link cloaking is becoming less important in certain contexts. For example, if you promote affiliate products with reviews on your blog you might not need to use link cloaking, and if you do cloak your links you might not see an improvement on your conversion rates.
Why? Because your readers will know that you are promoting an affiliate offer (at least they should), and they will expect an affiliate link there. If you are upfront and transparent, therefore, you won’t need to cloak your links at all.
On other contexts link cloaking will remain important, though. One example would be on landing pages where you drive PPC traffic. You have no relationship with the people that will visit your page, so cloaking the affiliate links will probably increase your conversion rates.
What about you, do you use link cloaking? Why? Why not?
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