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Generally speaking, when you grab an affiliate link to use on your blog you’re going to get a long ugly piece of code like this:
I just wrote a blog post about the 5 Best U.S. Cities to Visit on a Budget and included a bunch of links to hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, including the link above, which goes to my favorite hotel in Houston. Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that link. My main concern is that it works and will (hopefully) earn me some money.
There are three things that are not ideal about this link, however.
- People who don’t know about affiliate links and catch site of the link may think it looks sketchy and choose not to click on it.
- It’s super long and I’d never ever be able to remember that code off the top of my head if I wanted to quickly insert the link into another post. Every time I wrote about that particular hotel I would need to regenerate the same code, which is time-consuming.
- If the link ever expires then I’m going to have to go back to that post and replace the code manually, which could be a huge pain if there are a bunch of different posts on my blog where I use this code. Link expiration is not uncommon, especially if a merchant switches affiliate programs.
The easiest way to solve all of these problems is to use an affiliate link cloaker. With an affiliate link cloaker you can quickly turn that ugly link into something like this:
Not only is this link now on-brand for you (and less sketchy looking), but it’s also short and memorable so you can recall it if necessary. Most importantly, though, is that you can easily go into your dashboard and switch out the affiliate code when necessary without needing to change the link itself.
If you’re using WordPress as your blogging platform and you’re not yet using an affiliate link cloaker, I highly recommend that you install one on your site.
There are a few different affiliate link cloaker plugins available, though just two that I personally use and recommend.
There are some key differences between the two, but by and large, most of you will likely be just fine using the free version.
The main dashboard looks the same regardless of which version of Pretty Link you use, and you set up links in the same way, too.
When you want to cloak a new link, you need to click on “Add New Link” from your WordPress dashboard and a screen like the one above will appear. All you really need to do is enter your Target URL (your affiliate link) and what you’d like your Pretty Link slug to be (in this instance, mine is “JWMarriottHouston”). I always add a title, too, because it makes it easier to search for the links. From here you can hit the “create” button and that’s it – you’ve created your first cloaked link.
There are lots of bells and whistles that come with each version of Pretty Link, and I’ll do a full review soon, but for now, this is all you need to get started with this particular affiliate link cloaker.
I am a long-time Pretty Link user, but when I started this site I wanted to try out a different affiliate link cloaker. ThirstyAffiliates got stellar reviews so I decided to give it a try.
If you’re looking for a free affiliate link cloaker, you can’t go wrong with ThirstyAffiliates. The core is always free, meaning that you can download the plugin from the WordPress repository and get started immediately.
Before using ThirstyAffiliates you’ll need to set up your Link Prefix. This is one key difference between Pretty Link and ThirstyAffiliates. Pretty Link will let you make a link such as “shopgirldaily.com/JWMarriottHouston,” but with ThirstyAffiliates you need to set a Link Prefix so the same link would read “shopgirldaily.com/recommends/JWMarriottHouston,” or whichever word you chose for your prefix. This isn’t a big deal, but it’s a little bulkier.
The ThirstyAffiliates link creation screen is easy to use. You need to name your link (this is your link slug, so be sure to watch out for spaces) and you need to enter your affiliate URL. After that, just save the link and you’re good to go.
While ThirstyAffiliates is free, there are a few different add-ons that you can purchase.
The ThirstyAffiliate Add-Ons are 100 percent optional, and thank goodness since they’re pretty pricey! (Although, unlike Pretty Link Pro, these are one-time and not yearly fees.) The add-ons can be purchased as packs or individually. When I began this site I did purchase the stats package and it works OK, though I definitely prefer the (free) stats that come with Pretty Link. The ThirstyAffiliates stats are pretty clunky.
An Affiliate Link Cloaker is a Must-Have Tool
Whether you want to use a free affiliate link cloaker or pay for an upgraded version, an affiliate link cloaker is a must-have tool for bloggers using the WordPress platform. It’ll make your life so much easier if links expire, but the number one reason I recommend using a link cloaking service is because they make it simple to quickly recall a link without needing to constantly go into your affiliate dashboard to pull the same ones over and over again.
You can’t go wrong with either Pretty Link or ThirstyAffiliates, but I do recommend taking a look at each platform before committing to one or the other. It can be very hard to switch once you start using a program.
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