Affiliate marketing is among the top methods of making money online especially from blogs even without driving a lot of traffic. However, affiliate links are very tricky to use because of hefty penalties from Google and international financial regulations. Despite this, you can now get a sigh of relief because the affiliate links can be cloaked. Here are two main ways of cloaking your affiliate links.
Benefits of cloaking affiliate links
- Makes the links a no-follow by default by hiding them in a script design
- Allows the site owner customize appearance of link destination
- Makes it easy to manage links
How to Properly Cloak Your Affiliate Links
Hide and disallow affiliate links’ folder
First, you create an outbound folder to serve as the base/root directory for the site. This means that the folder can be effectively hidden inside various subcategories. You can even form an individual subfolder for each affiliate network to make links look better whereas they are simply root containers.
Hide the folder/folders from Google and Scraping. Go to the main site robots.txt file and edit the file. Because tmp and cgi-bin folders are full of system files, they do not need to be added to search results or indexing. Though Google will ignore them, it is not always the case. The best idea is disallowing them. You can also apply the process to disallow content of similar files in your system.
Create a new PHP redirect script. This is a 3-type script, though only one has serious content on it. The first script, index.php handles all the cloaking using 302 temporary redirect code. The second script, redirects.txt, is the resource that the first file gets info from to tell when a link needs to trigger the script and the link to be redirected to.
Do not forget to hide the ‘?’ IDNAME tag. Apart from search engines, you also need to hide the IDNAME tags from other authorities that purposely look at URLs and IDs. They never like any URL address that comes with a ‘?’. Even Google points ‘?' as a sign of cloaking and could still slam you with penalties. You can hide the address by modifying .htaccess file that is part of Apache web servers. The file will be located in the root directory together with redirects.txt and robots.txt. The .htaccess changes the display when created by clearing the “?” and presenting them differently. For example, .com/out/?id=IDNAME is changed to .com/out/IDNAME.
Using WordPress Plugins
If the outlined process appears complicated to follow, you can opt to use WordPress plugins. The commonest of all is the ThirstyAffiliates that allows the user to manage all affiliate links from a single dashboard. You only need inserting the affiliate links in your WordPress pages or replace them automatically to remain cloaked.
Other top WordPress plugins to help cloak your affiliate links include Pretty Link Lite that allows users manage their links auto add Nofollow tags, shorten links, redirect the links properly. It is also used for analytics to help purge older hits from your website database. You can also use Easy Affiliate Links Plugin, WP Wizard Cloak, or links auto replacer among others.
Hiding affiliate links helps to prevent hefty penalties from Google and to get into conflict with international financial regulations. However, because of their importance in online marketing, users can use the two methods outlined above to make it difficult for Google and other players to get them. Make sure to apply them with care to enjoy top benefits from affiliates without getting into trouble with Google and other players.