Although there is endless opportunity to market and sell your brand's services or products online, the online world is still privy to theft and restrictions. Hackers exploit inexperienced affiliate marketers or brands daily, stealing commissions and more, while competitors study your marketing strategy to beat you at your own game.
There are, fortunately, steps you can take to protect your business. Established brands and seasoned affiliate marketers know one simple trick to protecting their links—link cloaking. Here's why you should try it too.
What Is Link Cloaking?
Link cloaking takes the URL of your page and replaces it with your chosen address. That way, when someone goes to your link, they will see the URL you chose and not the page's actual address.
Links that undergo link cloaking are called "cloaked links." Ironically, cloaked links can give the user more accurate and relevant information. For example, here's what a regular, uncloaked link would look like.
With so many random characters, most users would hesitate to click the link. The indecipherable text looks like it may lead to any site. When you use link cloaking, your links can be customized from long, random URLs to short and insightful ones like this:
While many would think link cloaking only makes your web addresses look prettier, there are several more advantages beyond that. Let's get into some of them.
Between the two example links above, which one would you click instead? Almost everyone would opt for the second customized link. And while it may be because it looks better and tells you where you're going, it's mainly because the second one is less suspicious.
We've heard of bogus sites that bring you viruses or malware. We've all clicked on a link only to be led to an annoyingly persistent ad. Even though we aren't fearful of such things, we're suspicious of random links we're encouraged to click.
This suspicion is precisely why cloaked and customized links have better ctr (click-through rate). The last thing you want is your brand to look unprofessional or suspicious and harmful. Presenting a clear and concise link will build trust with your users, increasing their likelihood of clicking.
Protects Affiliate Sales
Protecting one's affiliate sales is the biggest reason people use cloaked links. Although long URLs look like gibberish to most people, hackers and thieves use your long URL to gather essential information. Hackers take affiliate IDs and steal their traffic.
Affiliate marketers write blog posts and reviews, record videos, and post content towards a product, hoping you'll click their affiliate link. Every time a sale happens from their link, they earn money. Unfortunately, some people steal their data from those links and steal the much-needed engagement from them.
Alternatively, your competitors can study your marketing strategy using the tags in your links. Once they identify which links are most effective, they'll emulate your strategy, thus eating into your profits.
This area is where link cloaking truly shines (and where it got its name). When you cloak the link, you make it look appealing and hide critical data, ensuring that affiliate marketers keep their hard-earned sales. Their affiliate IDs are safe from their competitors.
Improves Email and SMS Marketing
Although affiliate marketers are the ones who predominantly use cloaked links, it is also perfect for email and SMS marketing.
SMS Marketing is a popular form of marketing these days. Most brands aim to be concise because people hate reading long messages. And when it's an ad, they're bound to ignore it altogether.
So, the number of characters you can place on an SMS ad is limited. Fortunately, cloaked links have the advantage of being short.
You can write one or two messages notifying them about a sale or introducing your brand before providing them with a link containing your brand's name, an item specification, or even have the linked part of the sentence.
Email marketing, one of the most prominent and effective forms of marketing, is even better paired with cloaked links. Yes, email ads should also be brief, informative, and pleasing to the eyes, but an extra element makes cloaked links essential to email marketing. It's spam mail.
Unfortunately, affiliate links are often recognized as spam. Several email ads with affiliate links don't even reach a user's inbox. When you use cloaked links, you can avoid this dilemma and increase your email deliverability.
Because they're much easier to memorize, sharing a customized link is also easier. This shareability doesn't only refer to virtual sharing. Physical copies such as flyers, business cards, and packaging can don the brand's URL.
It is also easier to talk about a site. If people like your shop or brand, they can easily share it by word of mouth. Or, if you're an affiliate marketer, you can talk about your product to your friends and family and easily dictate the link. You'll have no trouble saying it, and they'll have no trouble remembering it.
How to Cloak Your Links
The best part about link cloaking is how easy it is. You get several advantages for little effort. Some sites offer to do it for free, but you should be wary of no-name link shorteners. Plenty of these sites will cloak your links only to steal your information to sell them or steal your commission themselves.
Others may shut down or be plagued with constant ads. And most free, no-name shorteners aren't equipped to handle a massive load of links.
Choose a reputable shortener if you want a secure way to cloak your links. Short.io is a popular shortener that gives both free and paid services. They're one of the most cost-effective shorteners around today.
They give a detailed and straightforward tutorial on how to cloak links in five easy steps.
Short.io Goes Beyond Cloaking
Link Cloaking is an excellent link feature, but it's certainly far from the best. Combining it with Geo-targeting, detailed statistics, link expiration, and other impressive link features gives your brand a fighting chance to flourish.
Check all these features and more at Short.io.