There are several ways to cloak affiliate links in WordPress. In fact, there are several affiliate link cloaking plugins out there that you can use.
The most popular ones are Pretty Links and ThirstyAffiliates. I personally use the ThirstyAffiliates plugin and I love it.
Here is what I’m going to be covering:
What is ThirstyAffiliates?
ThirstyAffiliates is a WordPress affiliate link management plugin. It allows you to add, organize and manage your affiliate links in a very efficient manner.
It also helps you brand your affiliate URLs and replace specific keywords with affiliate links. Most affiliate links look like this:
This is hard to remember, and it also looks pretty ugly. Using ThirstyAffiliates, this can be branded or cloaked into:
*Disclosure: Any affiliate links earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you choose to buy after clicking.
Cloaking your link using ThirstyAffiliates, couldn’t be easier. Go to ThirstyAffilliates site and choose a plan. There is a free and paid version of this tool.
I purchased the Pro version since it has features that I can’t live without. That feature is the automatic keyword linking add on.
Once you have purchased and downloaded the plugin, you’ll need to install and activate it. Here’s the step-by-step guide:
- In your WordPress dashboard and go to Plugins >> Add New
- At the top of the screen, click on Upload a Plugin button
- Search the ThirstyAffiliates plugin on your computer and click Install now
- On the next screen, click on Activate
- Look for the ThirstyAffiliates tab on the left menu and go to Settings >> License
Note: If you have installed the free version, you won’t need to enter a license key. You can enjoy their basic features without any hassle.
How to setup ThirstyAffiliates Pro?
Not much to change here. Just make sure that you set the default link insertion type to link. 🙂
Link Appearance Tab
- Link prefix – Decide how you want your links to appear. There are different options you can choose from. Some of the most common prefixes that bloggers use are: goto, recommends, suggests, etc. For this blog, I’m using “recommends” as my affiliate link prefix.
- Link in the category – Choose this option if you want to include the category in your affiliate link. I chose to leave this box unchecked. I feel like using this option will only make my links longer.
- Example: https://valeriedeveza.com/recommends/link-category/your-affiliate-link-name (too long right?)
- Link Redirect Type – 302 Temporary Redirect (302 is recommended redirect for Cloaked URLs)
- Use no follow on links – Yes, I highly recommend that you check this box and add nofollow to all your affiliate links.
- Open link in a new window – Yes, I suggest checking this one too!
One of the benefits of using the Pro version is the ability to automatically add affiliate links to your blog posts based on keywords. This is a great way to monetize your past content effectively. This will also save you a lot of time when writing on your blog.
But a bit of caution, make sure to limit the number of links placed. You don’t want your blog post to look spammy.
This is where you control how you want to automatically link in your blog posts.
- Keyword Limit: This is where you enter the number of times you want the keyword to be auto-linked into your blog posts. I chose two, but you can change this on an individual basis inside of your blog posts later on if you choose to.
- Random Autolink Placement: I chose to check this.
- Link inside of heading tags: I left this unchecked. I don’t want my headings to have links.
- Disable auto linking on archive pages: I left this unchecked
- Disable auto linking on the home page: Yes. I don’t want affiliate links on my homepage.
- Enable auto-linking in feeds: I chose to check this.
Another reason why I love the Pro version is that it automatically checks your links for 404 errors or broken links. Every time ThirstyAffiliates detects a problem, it will give you a warning.
I do find broken affiliate links from time to time thanks to the link health checker.
I chose to keep the default settings to run the cron job every 7 days.
This feature is really handy If you have more than one blog and you are using the plugin on both sites. You can easily import and export all your affiliate links via CSV.
How to prevent Google from crawling your affiliate Links?
If you followed my instructions above this plugin is already set up to prevent Google from crawling your affiliate links. However, if you noticed that Google still tried to crawl your affiliate links, this is how you fix it:
If you are using YOAST SEO
- Look for the SEO tab in the left menu and go to Tools >> File Editor
- If you don’t already have a robots.txt file, you can easily create one with this plugin
- Once you’ve got your robots.txt file open, add the following code to it. Replace /recommends/ with whatever link prefix you chose in your settings.
- Replace /recommends/ with whatever link prefix you chose in your settings. (I chose recommends as my link prefix earlier remember?)
- Click Save changes to robots.txt
If you are not using YOAST SEO, you can check the instructions for creating and editing a robots.txt file here.
Now that we have all the settings set up, let’s start cloaking affiliate links.
- Go to ThirstyAffiliates tab >> Click New Affiliate Link
- Set a name (for internal reference, eg. Bluehost)
- Set the destination URL (your unique affiliate link as provided by the affiliate program)
- Select a category or add a new category (I highly suggest that you categorize your affiliate links)
- (Pro Version) Enter a list of keywords you wish to automatically link with this affiliate link
- Hit the Save Link button
- Select the text that you want to link
- Click the TA button in your Visual editor
- Search for the link by name that you just inserted
- (Optional) Click the Cog icon for a more advanced link picker if you want to browse your links or insert via shortcode/image
So what happens when you need to change the destination of the link, but you have inserted it into several posts? That’s where the power of ThirstyAffiliates comes in.
To change the destination of a cloaked link, you only need to edit the link in ThirstyAffiliates, not all of the posts you have inserted it into.
This is so helpful because some product owners change their platform from time to time (this is inevitable).
When this happens, you have to update your affiliate link. Without this feature, you have to manually update each link on each post. Yikes!
In case you don’t want to use the auto-link feature, there is an option to disable ThirstyAffilates auto linker on a post per post basis.
Just check your right sidebar and you will see the option to disable the auto linker.
Check that box and then update your blog post. None of your affiliate links will be linked automatically.
Their link categorization is one of the reasons why I love ThirstyAffiliates. Even when I was still using their free version.
I love that I can organize my affiliate links into categories and subcategories.
I have about 30+ affiliate programs listed on my blog now and not having categories makes it a mess.
When I was still using the free version, I used to find ThirstyAffiliates’ reports really annoying. You see, I have to type in every single Affiliate name first in order to see how many clicks I get on a monthly basis. This is how the free report looks like:
The Pro version is a game-changer for me. I don’t need to type in every affiliate programs anymore. I just need to pick a category and I’ll see the best-performing affiliates on my site. Check out the image below:
This gives me an idea which programs and categories are performing better and which affiliates are getting fewer clicks.
I hope you find this article helpful.
As you can see, it’s so easy to cloak your affiliate links with the ThirstyAffiliate Plugin. Hopefully, this quick guide helped you learn how to cloak your affiliate links in WordPress using ThirstyAffiliates.