What Is Link Cloaking? Why It Matters + Plugins

June 8, 2023


Link cloaking is a practice used in online marketing to disguise the actual destination of a URL. It involves presenting a different URL to users than the one ultimately reached when clicked. This technique is commonly employed in various marketing strategies, including affiliate marketing, to improve click-through rates (CTR) and protect against commission theft. In this article, we will explore link cloaking, its importance in online marketing, and popular plugins and tools that can assist in link cloaking.

In the vast online landscape, where URLs can be long and complex, link cloaking offers a solution to present cleaner and more user-friendly links. It involves creating a redirect from a shortened or more descriptive URL to the actual destination URL. This redirect helps hide the complex or affiliate-specific links and provides users a more aesthetically pleasing and trustworthy appearance.

Link cloaking holds significant importance in online marketing, primarily for affiliate marketers who rely on commissions earned through referral traffic. By cloaking their affiliate links, marketers can increase the likelihood of users clicking on them, thus improving conversion rates.

Understanding Link Cloaking Techniques

There are various techniques used for link cloaking, each with its own advantages and considerations. Some common techniques include:

1- Redirecting Links:

This involves creating a redirect from a user-friendly and easy-to-remember URL to the destination URL. When the user clicks on the cloaked link, they are automatically redirected to the actual destination.

2- URL Shortening: 

This technique shortens lengthy URLs by using a service or plugin that generates a compact and memorable link. The shortened URL then redirects to the destination URL.

3- JavaScript Redirects: 

JavaScript can be used to dynamically change the displayed URL while still sending users to the intended destination. This technique can be effective when users scrutinize the URL before clicking.

Reasons for Link Cloaking

We have explained the following reasons for link cloaking

1- Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketers often rely on link cloaking to hide lengthy and complex affiliate links. By cloaking these links, marketers can present cleaner and more user-friendly URLs that are easier to remember and share. This improves the overall user experience and can lead to higher click-through rates and conversions.

2- Protecting Against Link Theft

Cloaking links can also help protect against link theft. When a URL is openly displayed, it becomes easier for others to replace the affiliate code with their own, redirecting the commission to themselves. Link cloaking adds a layer of protection by hiding the affiliate code and making it more difficult for others to tamper with the links.

3- Improving Click-Through Rates (CTR)

Long and convoluted URLs can be off-putting to users, leading to lower click-through rates. By using link cloaking techniques, marketers can create cleaner and more visually appealing links that are more likely to be clicked on by users.

4- Enhancing Brand Visibility

Cloaked links can be customized to include a brand or company name, reinforcing brand visibility and recognition. This creates a consistent branding experience for users and helps establish trust and credibility.

Benefits of Link Cloaking

Implementing link-cloaking strategies can provide several benefits to marketers and online businesses:

1- Increased Conversion Rates

By presenting cleaner and more trustworthy links, link cloaking can help improve conversion rates. When users feel confident in the link they are clicking on, they are more likely to follow through with their intended action, whether it’s making a purchase or signing up for a service.

2- Better Control Over Affiliate Links

Link cloaking gives marketers more control over their affiliate links. They can easily update or change the destination URLs without needing to modify the cloaked links used in their marketing materials. This flexibility allows for easier A/B testing, tracking, and optimization.

3- Protection Against Commission Theft

Affiliate marketers often face the risk of commission theft when their links are openly displayed. Cloaking these links provides an added layer of protection, making it more difficult for unscrupulous individuals to hijack the commissions rightfully earned by the marketer.

4- Improved Analytics and Tracking

Many link-cloaking plugins and tools come with built-in analytics features. These features provide valuable insights into link performance, including the number of clicks, conversions, and other relevant metrics. By leveraging these analytics, marketers can make data-driven decisions and optimize their marketing campaigns.

Popular Link Cloaking Plugins and Tools

Several plugins and tools are available that simplify the process of link cloaking. Some popular options include:

1- Pretty Links: 

Pretty Links is a WordPress plugin that allows users to create clean, memorable, and trackable links. It provides an intuitive interface for managing and organizing cloaked links and offers detailed click analytics.

2- ThirstyAffiliates: 

ThirstyAffiliates is another WordPress plugin specifically designed for affiliate marketers. It provides advanced link management features, including automated link replacement, customizable link prefixes, and geolocation targeting.

3- Easy Affiliate Links: 

Easy Affiliate Links is a lightweight WordPress plugin that enables marketers to create cloaked links and manage them efficiently. It offers comprehensive click tracking and supports both manual and automatic linking.

4- LinkTrackr: 

LinkTrackr is a web-based link tracking and management tool. It allows users to cloak links, monitor click activity, and track conversions. LinkTrackr also provides features such as split testing, conversion tracking, and detailed reporting.

Best Practices for Link Cloaking

To make the most of link cloaking, it is important to follow these best practices:

1- Use descriptive and meaningful URLs: 

Cloaked links should provide a clear indication of the destination or content being linked. This helps users understand where the link leads and can improve click-through rates.

2- Regularly test and update links: 

As websites and content evolve, it is crucial to ensure that the cloaked links remain up to date. Broken or outdated links can harm user experience and hinder conversions.

3- Avoid excessive redirection: 

While link cloaking involves redirection, it is important to strike a balance. Excessive redirection can slow down the user experience and potentially impact SEO.

4- Monitor analytics and track performance: 

Take advantage of the analytics features provided by link cloaking plugins and tools. Regularly review click-through rates, conversion rates, and other relevant metrics to identify areas for improvement and optimize your marketing campaigns.

Link Cloaking and SEO

Link cloaking can have an impact on search engine optimization (SEO) efforts. It is important to consider the following aspects:

1- Impact on search engine rankings:

Search engines may view link cloaking techniques differently. While some forms of cloaking may be considered acceptable, others may be seen as manipulative and could lead to penalties. It is crucial to understand the guidelines and policies set by search engines to avoid any negative impact on SEO rankings.

2- Balancing user experience and search visibility: 

When implementing link cloaking, it is essential to strike a balance between providing a positive user experience and maintaining search engine visibility. Ensure that the cloaked links are relevant, trustworthy, and add value to the user.

3- Using nofollow attributes for affiliate links: 

To avoid potential penalties from search engines, it is recommended to add a “nofollow” attribute to affiliate links. This informs search engines not to pass PageRank through those links, mitigating the risk of being perceived as manipulative.

Potential Risks and Considerations

While link cloaking can offer various benefits, it is important to be aware of potential risks and considerations:

1- Cloaking-related penalties from search engines: 

As mentioned earlier, certain link cloaking techniques can be seen as manipulative by search engines. This could lead to penalties, including a loss in search rankings or removal from search engine results altogether. It is essential to adhere to search engine guidelines and employ ethical practices when cloaking links.

2- Compliance with advertising regulations:

Depending on the jurisdiction and industry, there may be specific regulations governing the disclosure of affiliate relationships or sponsored content. Ensure compliance with these regulations to maintain transparency and avoid legal issues.


In the ever-evolving world of online marketing, link cloaking plays a significant role in improving user experience, protecting against commission theft, and enhancing brand visibility. By cloaking links, marketers can create cleaner and more trustworthy URLs, leading to higher click-through rates and improved conversion rates. However, it is important to follow best practices, monitor performance, and be mindful of potential risks associated with link cloaking. With the right approach and tools, link cloaking can be a valuable asset for marketers looking to maximize their online marketing efforts.