One of our clients recently pointed out that there is a lot of conflicting information about how to cloak affiliate links out there and inquired about our take. If you’re looking at this specifically from the perspective of an Amazon Associate, I would recommend you read this excellent piece on Link Cloaking & Amazon Compliance.
One more clarifying tidbit right off the bat, link cloaking is different than just link shortening.
Link shortening is just shortening any link. Long link becomes short link. That’s it.
Link cloaking, on the other hand, is more of an affiliate-specific term. The idea here is that you “cloak” an affiliate link (which might also be very long) to make it visually much more appealing and hide a bunch of the extraneous characters, particularly the affiliate tokens, etc.
Should you be Link Cloaking?
As with just about everything in life, this is not necessarily a wholly black and white kind of situation. In our opinion, it’s a light grey kind of situation, and the answer in most cases can be yes. You can cloak affiliate links, without being nefarious about it.
Long ugly links with many numbers and characters please precisely no-one, and they tend to introduce some level of friction and mistrust into the process. And when you’re trying to make people trust you, neither of those qualities is particularly desirable.
On the other hand, when you remove friction, increase trust and improve the user experience, more sales will happen and you will increase your affiliate revenues. That should always be the goal, and link cloaking may help you achieve that.
Link Cloaking – The Disadvantages
Let me skip right to the heart of the matter regarding the significant disadvantages of link cloaking. There is only one. Done improperly, it can get you into all kinds of trouble with the Amazon Affiliate program.
Here is what Amazon says:
“You will not use a link shortening service in a manner that makes it unclear that you are linking to an Amazon Site. “
– Program Participation Requirements, Section 6. (w) “Content on your Site
Does that mean you can’t use a link shortener? Nope, it does not.
Does that mean you can’t “cloak” a link? Nope, it does not. Do you think I’d spend hours writing a blog trying to answer a question for which the simple answer is: NOPE.
But it does mean you have to “make it clear” that you’re linking to an Amazon site. This, my friend, is what we lovingly refer to as a disclaimer, and here’s a great article about the topic of staying compliant with Amazon.
Here is what I have shared so far about link cloaking.
1. Link cloaking – you should follow the principles of it to remove friction, build trust, and therefore help you increase affiliate sales.
2. Be careful – if you don’t do this properly, it can get you into a world of trouble with the friendly affiliate overlords.
So, to come to the only sensical conclusion, I will show two different strategies on how to properly cloak your links for maximum affiliate success. One strategy is the most straightforward way to properly cloak (and disclose) your affiliate links. At the same time, the other is the most effective, revenue-boosting way to cloak and disclose your affiliate links.
The good news is that both can easily be done with Geniuslink, and neither should add any complexity to your workflow and when done correctly shouldn’t jeopardize your Amazon Associates account.
The Simple Way To Properly Cloak Your Affiliate Links, Without Being All Malicious About It
The simple way is to create a geni.us link and when you post it, be sure to adequately disclose its destination and your affiliate relationship.
Here is an excellent example of that from Matti Haapoja.
Until just about a couple of years ago, I would have told you this is the single most effective strategy to improve the user experience and earning ability of an affiliate link – while still staying fully compliant with the rules of the world’s most popular affiliate programs.
There is one downside to this method. And quite honestly, it has little to do with the fact that you are cloaking your affiliate links. But instead, you want to be able to offer your audience multiple purchase options. Because, well, not everybody loves buying at Amazon. Unfortunately, including multiple links, with all the proper disclosures, can turn into a cluttered mess real quick.
Now there is a better way.
And this is the way.
The Most Effective Way to Properly Cloak Your Affiliate Links, Without Dubious Cloaking
What I am about to describe here is a strategy that accomplishes three key objectives.
1. You’re shortening links, therefore making them less ugly and more user-friendly. Your audience will be happy.
2. You’re properly disclosing your relationships with various affiliate programs. Your affiliate partners will be happy.
3. You are maximizing the revenue earned from every click. You will be happy.
Here is the strategy.
Build a Choice Page with Geniuslink. You will still get a beautiful, short-link. If you anticipate verbally calling it out, you can name the link to your liking.
Your audience will be happy.
Once people land on that choice page, you’ll be able to include an affiliate disclosure. This is a way better and cleaner way to deal with affiliate disclosures, rather than having to label and disclose every single link. Your affiliate partners will be happy.
And then, last but not least, you’re going to be very happy by going the Choice Page route. Using a Choice Page and giving your audience multiple purchase options, you’re likely accomplishing two things.
1. You’re going to start earning additional revenues from more affiliate programs, therefore likely lowering your dependency on Amazon.
2. And here is the kicker, many of our clients are starting to earn “more” from Amazon by giving their audience purchase options other than Amazon. When we first saw the numbers, we almost fell out of our chairs. But it appears to be accurate as this might accomplish a “basic price check” for your audience, shortening their purchase journey while increasing the odds of you earning an affiliate commission. As I said, you’re going to be very happy.
Ok, so, should you cloak your affiliate links?
Yes, but you need to do it properly. Make sure you properly disclose your affiliate links. And then bonus points and commissions if you use a choice page.
Drops cloak, walks off the stage.