From a marketing point of view, it’s important to cloak your links. Cloaking links is a little deceiving in some ways as the URL is hiding the true destination of the link. Unfortunately, many spammers use this technique to mislead visitors into where they are going. Though there are good reasons why legitimate bloggers and marketers use cloaking.
The most obvious one being presentation. The link www.bloggingtips.com/go/websitename looks much better than something like www.websitename.com/4567hgf&id=bloggingtips&bnad=5. Some URL cloaking scripts also allow you to track the number of impressions and click thrus.
The best URL cloaking scripts are written in PHP or CGI or another general purpose scripting language like that. Though I prefer to keep things simple and use a plugin when cloaking links on a WordPress blog.
You can of course use a url shortening service such as TinyURL but your readers may not be aware of the service and may think the link looks spammy, so I tend to avoid using them. Plus, it’s always better to control how links redirect yourself rather than using an external site.
Simple Link Cloaker
I started a new WordPress powered site the other day and was on the lookout for a good cloaking script. In the past I have used the Cute Links plugin which came packaged with Super Affiliate Blogger. Unfortunately, that plugin suffers from a problem which most WordPress cloaking plugins suffer from. That is, they clash with the permalinks structure.
Because these plugins use htaccess to redirect links, they often clash with WordPress if you are using SEO friendly URL’s. For example, if I cloaked an affiliate link to promote Coca Cola and set it to www.bloggingtips.com/go/cocacola and then wrote a page about the product at www.bloggingtips.com/cocacola, then the cloaking would not work. The cloaked link, i.e. www.bloggingtips.com/go/cocacola, would simply redirect to the article. Clearly this isn’t what you want.
For some reason I was having more problems with this than usual with the cloaking plugins I usually use. Fortunately, I found a plugin called Simple Link Cloaker. I don’t know what this does differently from other cloaking plugins but I have had none of the problems stated above when using it.
The script doesn’t track hits or impressions but it is perfect for cloaking links and is very easy to add, edit and delete links. Best of all, the plugin is free!
If your cloaking plugin is not clashing with your permalink structure then you might want to check out more advanced link cloaking plugins which have more tracking options. However, if you find that your affiliate links are redirecting to your blog posts because the linkname is the same as the post name, I strongly recommend you to try this plugin out.
I can’t guarantee that it will work for all of you. All I will say is that out of the several cloaking plugins I installed, this was the only one which didn’t clash with the WordPress permalink structure.
Info: Simple Link Cloaker
Download: ILWP Link Cloaker