How to Cloak Affiliate Links (& Why You Should)

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Comments

  1. Daniel Dessinger says:

    So do you cloak your Amazon affiliate links? Because I’ve heard of quite a few people getting the hammer dropped on them for lesser things than that. Amazon technically wants readers to know that they’re going to Amazon before they click, and it reserves the right to shut down or suspend an affiliate account for violating TOS.

    Quite a few health bloggers have extensive affiliate disclosures to help assuage Amazon specifically.

    • Yes, I cloak my Amazon links, but I’m also not a heavy Amazon affiliate, so I’m not super in-depth on their idiosyncrasies. Not sure I buy that the standard user would pay much attention to the mouseover link in the bottom left of their browser, but if the argument is they want people to know they’re going to Amazon, I think disclosure next to the link (Amazon affiliate link) should suffice, and you have to disclose it’s an affiliate link anyway to pacify the FTC, adding Amazon in front of it is no extra effort. That said, some of the old cloaking plugins used to use iframes, etc. that would obscure the end URL the user was on, which would have definitely violated that – and purposely – so that might be in play as well.

      The only reference I can find to cloaked links in their documentation is: “You will not cloak, hide, spoof, or otherwise obscure the URL of your site containing Special Links (including by use of a redirecting page) or the user agent of the application in which Content is displayed or used such that we cannot reasonably determine the site or application from which a customer clicks through such Special Link to the Amazon Site.” The bold there is my doing. My site is still the referrer. I’m not attempting to hide my site as the referrer – only track the link. So, I think they haven’t defined that super well.

      The Amazon linking guidelines say, “In addition, you must not use a link shortening service in a manner that makes it unclear that you are linking to an Amazon Site.” Bolding is once again mine and again, I see gray here. I’m not using a shortening service. I’m running them through links on my own site. If clarity is the issue, then see my comment re disclosure via (Amazon affiliate link) above.

      And, personally, the diet and health blogging sectors tend to have a higher concentration of scumbags with knowledge of advanced tactics than most, so I’m not surprised Amazon is up their collective ass on how they can promote them.

      I’ll try and see if I can get some clarification on it.

      My opinions on their verbiage aside – if this were a concern for someone or someone was heavily reliant on Amazon as an affiliate, then simply don’t cloak the Amazon links. You choose which links get cloaked (based on the setup of the plugin detailed above). So you can choose to leave Amazon links alone and cloak the rest.

      TLDR: I can’t know the rules for every affiliate program ever. In the ten+ years I’ve been cloaking affiliate links on my site internally, I’ve never had an issue. But if in doubt about a program, check its TOS and do as you see fit based on that. :)

  2. Nice plugin, I was doing this manually in pretty the same way until now.
    I have just a question: when I do a source on the page I don’t see a rel=”nofollow” on the pretty link although I have set it up twice in the plugin (general option and on this particular link)
    how to be sure the search engine will see it as a nofollow?

    • So, I ended up having a lot of back and forth over this. When I first started using PLP way back, the nofollow was on the link itself in the HTML of the page. After your comment, I contacted them because mine were gone too (it only took a long back and forth because I was in the Dominican for a month and slow as hell in responding to their email replies). Their support team looked into it.

      At some point, they changed to serving the noindex and nofollow directives in the http response header vs. having it in the HTML itself. I’m not sure of their reasoning for that, but I did confirm that all of my affiliate links I’ve labeled to be nofollow are indeed serving up a X-Robots-Tag: noindex, nofollow in the server response. Hope this helps! And it taught me they’d changed the handling of it – so that was good info to get. :)

  3. We working with a site that has thousands of affiliate links which go to specific products across Amazon and dozens of other vendors. I’m curious if you have advice on managing that many links. We’d probably try and group them both by post and by vendor, eg create a link called domain.com/getit/amazon-blue-widget-20-oz/ and then put that in the “Blue Widgets” group of a plugin like Pretty Links. But, I feel like there are likely opportunities beyond just the naming conventions like that.

    Also, in regards to the Amazon link discussion here in the comments, I’d imagine simply putting “amazon” in the pretty link URL path would be enough to mitigate any concerns.

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