Several Easy Ways to Create Pretty or Cloaked Affiliate Links

Many new affiliates ask about how to properly setup affiliate links. This tutorial will show you exactly how to create more user-friendly affiliate links.

Cloaking affiliate links versus making them pretty

People often want to cloak their links, hence the term “link cloaking”.  They want to do this mainly because they worry someone will steal their commission if their affiliate link is uncloaked.

This is a misconception in almost every market except the Intenet Marketing (aka “Make Money Online”) market.  The reason is simple.  In most niches, the potential customer is not an affiliate for the product he’s about to buy.  You are an affiliate, and you earn a commission.  The customer isn’t interested in using his own affiliate link to “steal” your commission because he probably doesn’t even know you’re part of an affiliate program.

The bottom line is that if you really feel you need to hide the fact that your link is an affiliate link, you should create a bonus to entice people to buy via your link. But I don’t want to get sidetracked here.  There are plenty of VALID reasons why you want to make your links look very different from the traditional affiliate link.

Reasons to pretty-up your affiliate links

 

  • Pretty versus strange.  Cloaked affiliate links don’t look weird.  The format of most affiliate links will confuse a lot of people and make them think the link is somehow unsafe.  Cloaking the link makes it look normal and increases click through rates
  • Remembering.  Cloaked links are easier to remember.  We use them on OutsourceFactor.com so that in our podcasts, when we refer to a product, we can refer to it as OutsourceFactor.com/keyword.  An example would be this link to a hosting company we recommend, Bluehost.  If we are talking about hosting in a podcast, it’s easier for us to say “OutsourceFactor.com forward slash bluehost” as compared to whatever our confusing affiliate link might be.  BTW, we disclose that we are giving people an affiliate link.
  • Tracking. If we use an affiliate link in a “tools we recommend” page, versus in an email campaign, versus in a sidebar widget … we’d probably want to know where our clicks came from, right?  Using cloaked affiliate links gives us this capability.  We can use slightly different links for each place we put our link and measure our results.

Fair warning

Some affiliate programs do not permit you to use any kind of redirect.  It isn’t that common, but it’s definitely worth checking BEFORE you start using cloaked links (aka redirects).  I happen to be in one such affiliate program.  The solution was to speak to the affiliate manager and buy a domain that was redirected using something called an “A record”.  I still don’t know exactly what I did, but I followed the guy’s instructions and he was happy.  This way the affiliate manager could see exactly what referring URL sent traffic to him.

So don’t go around using cloaked links unless you are sure it is permitted.

Three Simple Methods to Cloak Affiliate Links

#1:  WordPress plugin called Pretty Link. This really only applies to WordPress users.  Install the plugin and notice that there is now a new option in WordPress (left hand column) called Pretty Link.  It’s incredibly simple to use. You simply click “add new link”and tell the plugin the destination URL, and the short link name to use (the part after the forward slash).  Links now look like YourDomain.com/whatever. You can give your links a description too so it’s easy to remember what they are.

The benefit of Pretty Link is that it’s completely free, and you can create as many short links as you want for tracking purposes.  The admin panel is really nice.  For WordPress users, this is the best solution.  If you’re intimidated by WordPress, keep in mind that you can install it literally within a couple of minutes and a couple of clicks of your mouse.  It’s totally automated to install WordPress these days using hosts such as Bluehost, who provide an awesome service called “SimpleScripts”.  (Yes, that’s our “cloaked” affiliate link).

 #2: Use a domain redirect.  If you want to have a REALLY simple affiliate link, you can buy a domain name and forward the domain to your affiliate link.  People love .info domains for this because they are cheap to buy ($2 or less), and you can setup the forwarding straight inside your cPanel (most shared hosting providers give you an admin panel called cPanel). Inside cPanel you’ll find an icon for “domain manager”.  Once you’ve purchased the domain you can go into domain manager and setup a domain redirect. You do not need to understand anything technical here. You simply select the domain you’ll be forwarding from a drop down menu and provide a target URL.  Slap your affiliate link in the target URL box and you’re all done.

The upside of domain redirects is that they are simple to remember and look professional.  YourDomain.info is easier to remember than YourDomain.info/whatever.  The downside is that you can only create one redirection per domain so you need to buy multiple domains if you want to redirect to multiple affiliate links.

#3:  Use a PHP redirect. If you are not on WordPress you can’t use Pretty Link, so you might want to create a manual solution.  PHP is a programming language and it is understood (installed by default) on practically all web hosts.  Don’t let the term “programming language” scare you.  Here’s how you create a PHP redirect.

Copy and paste this code into Notepad, modify the target URL, and save the file as something.php (whatever you want to call it).

<?php
header( ‘Location: http://YourAffiliateLink.com’ ) ;
?>

Now let’s say you saved the file as mylink.php.  Simply upload that file to your web hosting account and now the link YourDomain.com/mylink.php will redirect automatically to your affiliate link.

There isn’t really much upside to using a PHP redirect.  It’s a tedious and manual job, and the links are not as pretty because of the .php ending that is required.  However, if for some reason you are not comfortable with alternative solutions, it works just fine.  And if  you aren’t expecting anyone to be able to remember your link, then the .php extension is not really a problem.  I’ve used PHP redirects plenty and they are just fine.  I’m just saying there are better ways, and I don’t use them anymore.

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Leave A Reply (2 comments so far)


  1. Adam
    5 years ago

    How about redirecting from an ebook like a Kindle book? If you are including links for resources or other affiliate type things, how can you do this in a format that cloaks the link while redirecting and preserving the link in the book?


    • Chris
      5 years ago

      Adam – no major differences. If you have an accompanying website to your book, running WordPress, then just create cloaked links using Pretty Links plugin. However you’d want to cloak links online do the SAME thing in your Kindle ebook.