You Might Need to Uncloak Your Links – By Josh Kohlbach

by Jenae Reid on May 9, 2018

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If you’re in the product and services space in affiliate marketing, chances are good that you’re using link cloaking in some form.

It’s a very common practice to disguise the affiliate link code from users browsing their page, which reduces the chance of commission hijacking.

Cloaked links are just fancy link redirects, but here are some other reasons why you might want to use a link cloaker tool:

  1. It makes the link more visually acceptable to visitors and therefore more likely to be clicked. (eg. yoursite.com/recommends/some-product)
  2. It can give you click statistics
  3. It can help you manage and categorize your links

Sounds great right? For years we’ve enjoyed the many benefits of link cloaking. Most affiliate programs don’t mind because it means more visitors through the links. This in turn, leads to more commissions paid out.

But the popular Amazon Associates program managers have recently begun cracking down on link cloaking, deploying a dedicated team of website reviewers – your site could be in their crosshairs.

 

WHY DOES AMAZON HATE LINK CLOAKING?

 After speaking with Amazon representatives, I found their primary reason for this clause in their program terms. They want to see exactly which page the visitor is coming from. Cloaked affiliate links mask this on the HTTP headers. It’s a fine distinction, but one Amazon is paying attention to.

 

OTHER AFFILIATE PROGRAMS

 So far, the main program that is enforcing specific conditions regarding link redirects is Amazon.

But due to their sheer size and weight in the industry, it’s just a matter of time before someone else jumps on the same bandwagon.

 

WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF YOU IGNORE

As mentioned, Amazon Associates now have a dedicated team whose job it is to review websites for compliance with their terms and conditions.

With the use of backend tools, this team manually reviews websites. If they are found not to be compliant, you can be banned from their program altogether.

 

HOW TO BE COMPLIANT

Getting compliant is easy – Amazon just wants to see that the Amazon links on your site are direct links, not cloaked links.

Most link cloaking solutions, including sites like bit.ly or goo.gl link shorteners, don’t have the option to uncloak links. The only option there is to not use those services at all for Amazon affiliate links.

However, some modern link cloakers support selective “uncloaking”. This can be used to give you the benefits of link cloaking while also satisfying stricter affiliate programs that require you to have no intermediate link redirects.

Your best bet is to deploy a link cloaker on your site that can handle this uncloaking stuff for you, or failing that, manually update all of your Amazon affiliate links so they aren’t cloaked. Do this and you will stay safe from Amazon’s ban hammer.

 

 

 

Josh Kohlbach is the founder of ThirstyAffiliates.com, a link cloaking tool for WordPress.

This article appeared in issue 42 of FeedFront Magazine, which was published in April 2018. https://issuu.com/affiliatesummit/docs/feedfront-42

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