I recently made a slight change to one of my virtually dead WordPress websites that was possibly to do with a link cloaking or redirect issue that could affect just about any website.
An increase in commission of nearly $464 in less than a week from just one website!
Okay so that does sound a bit like the start of a sales letter but it did actually happen and I’m not promoting anything to you in this post so you might as well read on…
The subject of whether or not you should cloak your affiliate links has long been a point of controversy in some circles. To start with just the word “cloaking” sounds like there might be something dodgy going on, and it has been associated with a number of so-called black hat techniques in the past.
So what are we talking about cloaking affiliate links for?
Ironically, what it usually means is that we want to make our strange looking affiliate links appear more natural to our site visitors. When someone hovers their cursor over your link they might notice a strange looking jumble of numbers, letters, and symbols in the lower left of their computer screen.
So by having a more natural looking link instead of that jumbled up mess many people think that the visitor will have less worries about clicking on the link which helps to increase conversions.
So what you actually do is use a redirect to send the visitor on via a nice looking link, usually something such as “go” “recommends” or even just “links” is used.
The most common ways to do this are fairly simple php or html redirects where you place your affiliate links on a separate page, for example go.php or go.html.
Then instead of your affiliate link looking something like:
It would look something like:
You can also set this up so you can manage hundreds of different affiliate links from just one place. So if you’ve used a certain link in many different places on your website then you only have to change the one redirect if the affiliate link changes for some reason.
Affiliate links do change and if you don’t update them then you’ll lose your commission!
Risks of Neglecting Poor Performing Sites
The site in question hadn’t really been touched for a few months and was using a link cloaking plugin, I’d noticed a few comments about problems with plugins that had run into issues as WordPress gets updated, but not really thought much about it.
On my newer sites I always tend to use a php redirect, or occasionally an html page redirect if I don’t need many affiliate links for a small site.
The site in question was still getting a steady but relatively small amount of traffic and it was promoting some expensive items with a good commission, but it hadn’t had a sale now for a few months.
You know what it’s like when you’ve got a bunch of sites to manage, some tend to get neglected a little!
Anyway, eventually I got around to having some time to go back and have a look at why the site just wasn’t performing like it used to. I decided to change the plugin but when I checked in the wordpress plugin database to see what was available and well rated the “cloaking plugins” seemed to have disappeared.
So I just decided not to waste time on it and installed the same php script that I now use most of the time and updated every link on the website. It didn’t take long because there are only 14 pages on the site.
Within the first week it’d had five sales totalling $2318 and commission of $463.60, about £300 those of us in the UK.
So what are the lessons here?
Check and update your sites regularly – sounds obvious but it’s easy just to concentrate on the best performing sites and neglect some of the others that might have potential.
The arguments for and against cloaking your affiliate links probably continue but one thing is for certain, if you’re going to install a script or use some sort of plugin then you’d best make sure it’s set up and working correctly, or it could cost you a lot in lost commissions!
How much are people really bothered by the look of the links?
Even php redirects can look like http://yoursite.com/go.php?url=435 if you’re managing a lot of links from one file, so that’s only slightly better than the actual affiliate link.
There are plenty of sites that don’t bother to hide affiliate links and do very well.
Maybe you’ll find this helpful and be able to give your self a bit of a pay increase by checking over some of your neglected sites when you have a few minutes to spare.
It can certainly be worth doing (-;