Tons of affiliate marketers struggle with spammy links and commission theft. Some people replace your affiliate link with theirs. Or your SMTP server marks your emails containing affiliate links as spam. The good news is that there's a simple solution called link cloaking.
A lot of people ask me, “Hassan, why are my emails going to spam even if I use Amazon Simple Email Service (SES)?”. Some people also complained that they got their SES accounts blocked even if they only sent legit emails.
After investigating the issue, I found out that they used affiliate links that contained suspicious or blacklisted domains. The algorithm of email service providers may mark your emails as spam. So, how to avoid it?
Yes, cloaking your links is the solution. This guide will walk you through a step-by-step process to do it without or without a website.
But first, I'll help you understand the concept of cloaking, which is misunderstood by the masses. Let's get started without further ado.
What is Link Cloaking?
The term ‘cloaking' sounds like a sin, but it's a legit and useful practice in digital marketing. Link cloaking simplifies long and complex URLs and makes them more user-friendly. It helps you avoid your emails from going to spam and protect your affiliate commissions.
Let's define link cloaking now.
Link Cloaking VS Link Shortening
Lots of people use the terms cloaking and link shortening interchangeably. But they're different. Link shortening is shortening a link, of course. Let me give you an example of a shortened link:
Long URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQ1a7YQjqPQ&t=49s
Shortened URL: https://bit.ly/3tmz2Ei
As you can see that the shortened URL is shorter than the long URL, without a doubt. But it's not easily memorable at all. So here comes the difference between link shortening and cloaking.
The goal of cloaking is to make the links user-friendly and easily memorable for your users. While in link shortening, you only shorten the link.
But what are the benefits? Let's get to know why you would want to cloak the link.
Benefits of Link Cloaking: Why You Should Do It
There are tons of benefits of cloaking your affiliate links in addition to protecting your commissions. Let's discuss them one by one right now.
Serve User-Friendly Links
Isn't it obvious? Today, people are smart enough to understand online tactics to boost CTR (Click-Through-Rate). That's why they have learned to click the legit links only.
People are more likely to click “YourWebsite.Com/Product” than on “ARandomWebsite.Com/Products/eb45ez”
I hope it makes sense. Cloaked links attract more clicks. They're trustworthy and easily memorable by your site's users. All this makes your links more user-friendly than traditional affiliate links.
Track Your Affiliate Links More Precisely
Tracking the traffic on your affiliate links becomes easier with link cloaking. Knowing which affiliate links are getting traction is important because you can better serve relevant content then. It will substantially boost your profits without a doubt.
Let me give you an example. If your audience clicks on links about games more than links about gaming peripherals, you know to focus more on games now. That's the power of tracking your links.
Manage Your Links Seamlessly
Links cloaking offers efficient link management without a doubt. As an affiliate marketer, I don't have one or two affiliate links. I've hundreds of them, actually. So, I need to manage them effectively.
You can customize your links while cloaking them. And some link cloakers also offer customization as well. It means you can change your links as per your choice. You can divide them into categories as well.
How to Cloak A Link: The Ultimate Guide in 2021
In this guide, I'll help you set up your own link Cloaker, so you don't have to pay a high price for it. And you can do the link cloaking without any plugin. Sit back, save your bucks, and do it yourself!
To build your own link Cloaker, you need a small VPS server to host your affiliate links. You also need a domain name for cloaking your links. For VPS hosting, I recommend DigitalOcean because of its affordability and seamless functionality.
Let's have a look at the steps you need to cloak your affiliate links now.
1. Create a Droplet on DigitalOcean
1. Create your DigitalOcean account for free
2. Log into your account and click on the “Create” button given in the top-right.
3. Go to Marketplace and click see all marketplaces
4. Choose ‘LAMP,' which is a pre-configured server. And you don't need any technical knowledge to run it.
5. Create LAMP Droplet
6. Choose a $5 machine that is enough for all your cloaking needs
7. Select a data center of your choice and scroll down
8. Choose a hostname, which may be your domain name. I've entered download.h-sites.com as my hostname. Choose a domain name with substantially good standing. J
9. Create your droplet by clicking on the green button below the page now.
10. Wait for a sec so that your droplet gets configured.
11. Now copy the IP address given next to your hostname
12. Go to “Networking” given in the left bar of your DigitalOcean dashboard
13. Add your domain here or click on “More” if you've already added your domain name
14. Manage your domain and create a new record for it
2. Configure Your Droplet Now
Now that I've created a new droplet and my domain is pointed to the IP address given next to the hostname.
15. Download the PuTTY app, which is an open-source SSH and telnet client
16. Open the app and enter your hostname or your IP address and click on “Open” now. In my case, it was download.h-sites.com
17. Choose “Yes” from the dialogue box that appeared on your screen now
18. You will also see a DOS-like screen where you will write “Root” and press the “Enter” button
19. Enter the password of your DigitalOcean account by the right-click
20. Re-enter the password and choose the new one for your account
Congratulations! Your server is configured now.
21. Close the PuTTY app and create an HTML file like this using Notepad.
22. Upload the HTML file on your server using WinSCP. Enter your hostname, username, and password, and log in.
23. Go to your server's directory. And choose the VAR folder and ‘www' folder. Create the new folder and drag the HTML file into it.
Open the link you've cloaked just now to confirm if it's working. In my case, it was: download.h-sites.com/academy. If it is redirected to your desired URL, you're good to go. You can create hundreds of thousands of cloaked links this way.
How to Cloak Affiliate Link Without Website?
Can you do link cloaking without a website? Technically, yes, you can do it. But for that, you need to use the services like bit.ly or l-ink.me. But you cannot really cloak the link itself. You can neither change the destination nor manage your links easily.
Do the Link Cloaking on WordPress Using Plugins
If you are on WordPress and don't want to try the method I've told you earlier. And you really want a plugin to do the cloaking for you. You can easily do that as well. Let me share some of the best plugins for affiliate link cloaking right now.
And the list continues. You can search for such plugins on WordPress. And all of them make the cloaking easy. I don't like cloaking my affiliate links using WordPress plugins because they may not be clean.
Summarizing Affiliate Link Cloaking
Cloaking links is an extremely powerful method to boost your affiliate commissions and keep your emails from going to spam. That's why I call it link cleaning. There are many plugins to cloak a link on your WordPress site.
But I recommend using your own server to cloak your links because it's more affordable and efficient. Here's how you do it:
1. Opt for the best VPS hosting service like DigitalOcean
2. Create a new folder on your server
3. Add an HTML file containing your affiliate links
4. And upload it onto your server
Easy-peasy, right? Yeah, but do it carefully because it can bug your hosting if you do it the wrong way. Which method of link cloaking did you like the most? Let me know in the comments below.