Disclosure: Please note that links to merchants mentioned within this post might be using an affiliate link which means that - at zero cost to you - I might earn a commission if you buy something through that affiliate link. That said, I never recommend anything I don’t personally use and find to be a valuable asset to my business.

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.

  4. Nice tutorial. I bought it this morning but I was looking how to add sub folder for all my created links… and you gave me the solution with the screenshot “Pretty Link Base URL”, I believe this part was for adding a custom URL :) I also edited the robots.txt with Yoast SEO thanks to you!

  5. Personally I use a link shortener as I do not have many affiliate links. I use sites such as tny.gd or tiny.cc

    Hope this helps :)

    • You have to be careful doing this as those free sites can go down at any time, the links could change, and you’d have zero control in changing where they redirect to. It’s happened before. I personally would never, ever use them – especially for this purpose.

      For instance, you might link to multiple affiliate links using some third party URL shortener, but then it goes out of business, a porn site buys it and suddenly every affiliate link you’ve published using it redirects to a porn site.

  6. Hello,

    If I use Pretty Links Pro and block Google from accessing my re-directs folder – will that not also block broken link checkers such as Integrity from finding my broken affiliate links?

    I have used re-directs before but found that Integrity and Screaming Frog weren’t finding broken links. Was this perhaps because I was also blocking access in robots.txt?

    • I don’t know anything about the Integrity program you’re using. Re Screaming Frog, they can follow the redirects. So, what you can do to test them using Screaming Frog is to do the following to check the validity of your redirects every few months.

      1. Open Screaming Frog
      2. Go to Configuration > robots.txt > Settings and check “Ignore robots.txt”
      3. Crawl your site with Screaming Frog
      4. Click on the Response Codes tab
      5. Limit results to only showing you Redirection (3xx) results
      6. Export the results
      7. Open it in Excel
      8. Delete the “Response Codes – Redirection (3xx)” top row
      9. Under the data tab, filter the results so you can sort them based on each column
      10. Now you have two choices: on my site, the affiliate redirects are the only ones that use 307 status codes, so I’d filter the results to only show me those status codes. You can also filter the results in the address to column to only show urls that contain the name of your affiliate links sub-folder: /your-folder/
      11. Copy the urls from the Redirect URI column after you’ve filtered them to only your affiliate redirects
      12. Go back to Screaming Frog, and go to Mode > List
      13. Click Upload next to where the address bar to enter the url to crawl normally appears and click Enter Manually
      14. Paste the Redirect URIs you copied from excel into the resulting box and follow the prompts to start the crawl
      15. This will present you with the status codes from the affiliate URLs – then investigate any redirects or 404s the same as you would if they were identified using a broken link checking tool

       
      Hope this helps!

  7. Great article with helpful tips. I have now set up the cloaking, but I was wondering about the following. Since all the links are redirects, it takes some seconds to load the links. Therefore I would like to show an “exit page” that says something like: Just waiting to redirect you to.. (shop name).. just a few seconds..

    Do you have a tip on how to show an exit page like that?

    • Honestly, if they’re taking that long a time to redirect, IMHO that means you need a better host. It should be almost instantaneous. That implies slow hosting – which isn’t good for multiple reasons, including this issue. :)

  8. Hey Rae,

    have you experienced any traffic drops from Google search on pages with nofollow affiliate links?

    I had a page that was consistently near or at the 1st position for high traffic keywords in Google. I added a few nofollow affiliate offers to the page it dropped to the bottom of the first page.

    Have you experienced anything similar?

  9. Hello

    I’m confused as to how to set up a sub folder – could you elaborate?

  10. Hi!
    I am completely new at ALL of this and I want to incorporate affiliates, but most every resource I have found for insight uses WordPress. Can I incorporate all of these features if my blog is through SquareSpace?

    Thanks!

    • Hey there! Any site can pretty much have any feature – it’s the ease with which it can be employed and the how that can change from site to site. WordPress is immensely popular and thus has plugins to do most anything you could imagine. Unfortunately, I don’t use SquareSpace and wouldn’t know how to do any of this on it.

  11. Sean Glennon says:

    I took the dive in and bought pretty link with your link here. My blog hasn’t earned any money yet, but I want to set everything up right the first time and I get pretty hesitant when I have to spend money. Anyhow thanks.

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