A message from our CEO, Blair Williams:
I wrote an article for FeedFront magazine talking about some cases where you might want to uncloak your affiliate links – primarily Amazon affiliate links. I wrote the article because I had personally experienced the pain of dealing with Amazon’s moderation team.
Amazon’s Associates program has a pretty clear ruling in their terms where they forbid you to use redirection of any sort. If you ignore that ruling and still use cloaked URLs, they can and will ban you from their affiliate program.
I received a warning from them myself that scared me into action.
And because I run one of the biggest affiliate plugins for WordPress, I felt it was my duty to make sure other affiliates had the ability to uncloak their Amazon links when they received the dreaded warning letter from the Amazon review team.
To solve this dilemma, we built a feature in ThirstyAffiliates 3.0 called Uncloaking.
How To Use A Link Cloaker With Amazon Associates Program
Uncloaking is actually a really cool feature, whether or not you use it specifically for compatibility with Amazon Associates.
We built it in ThirstyAffiliates 3.0, and it has proved to be a very popular addition to the plugin. How it works is, it removes cloaking on one single link and shows the destination URL on the page. This appears on page load and is seamless for the user.
Traditionally, after your page loads for the user, they’d see the cloaked link you inserted (which would normally look like example.com/recommends/some-affiliate-product). With uncloaking, the user sees the actual raw destination URL you specified in the edit screen for that link.
That means your links are naked for all to see, but that’s what Amazon wants. They require that the URL appear directly on the page, completely raw, not hidden behind any redirects or cloaked URLs.
That makes ThirstyAffiliates the only link cloaker that is compatible with Amazon Associates’ terms of service!
The ThirstyAffiliates Uncloaking Feature
So, why use our plugin at all? Couldn’t you just place the Amazon affiliate link directly on the page and be compliant?
Technically speaking, yes. But there are benefits to using the Uncloaking feature in ThirstyAffiliates instead of just placing the affiliate link directly on the page. You still get all of the benefits of the ThirstyAffiliates tool, such as stats, auto-linking, geolocation links, and more.
It also makes maintaining compatibility really easy without sacrificing capabilities.
What’s great is, you can specify that you want a particular link uncloaked, and the tool will just handle it. No fuss and no risk of being banned from promoting Amazon products.
To turn on the uncloaking feature, make sure it’s enabled under ThirstyAffiliates > Settings > Modules tab:
We even built the feature so you can make a special category (I make one called “Amazon” on my sites). Then, in the ThirstyAffiliates > Settings, under Link Appearance down at the bottom, you’ll see the uncloaking category.
Select your new category there, and any time a link with that category is shown, it will be uncloaked:
And bang! Now you don’t have to think about it anymore.
Do You Still Get Stats?
That’s the great thing about ThirstyAffiliates’ uncloaking versus manually uncloaking your Amazon links.
By using the uncloaking feature in ThirstyAffiliates, your Amazon links stay cloaked in your blog post but are uncloaked on the front end. This means you can still track clicks on those links with statistics.
If you just paste the link in raw, you won’t get stats. With the uncloaker, you get to display the raw link to users, but still get stats.
How Seriously Should You Take Uncloaking Your Amazon Affiliate Links?
As I mentioned above, I received a warning message from Amazon myself.
I actually received the warning because I submitted a support request asking a question about the policy. They automatically sent my site (that I had to specify for the request) for review.
They didn’t respond to my support request straight away, but they sure as heck put my site up for review right quick!
Within a day of sending that support request, I received a letter something along the lines of this:
Your site has been reviewed and has been found to be in breach of our terms and conditions.
You have 5 days to comply.
Resistance is futile.
Karen “The Unfeeling Borg” Bot
Amazon Associates Program Review Team
Since I didn’t want to lose my account, I complied. They re-reviewed, found that I’d complied, and restored my account.
But that was the wake-up call I needed to make sure this feature was deployed and built properly in ThirstyAffiliates 3.0. I wanted to give other affiliates the flexibility needed to combat requests like this.
So, dear affiliate, how seriously should you take this uncloaking business? Well, that depends on how much you like your monthly check from Amazon.
I suggest you take Amazon affiliate links very seriously because they can and will hit you with their mighty ban hammer if you don’t.
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34 thoughts on “How to Uncloak Your Amazon Affiliate Links Using ThirstyAffiliates”
Hi, As simple as you have described the uncloaking method, I have Version: 3.3.5 and there is no option to uncloak a category.
Can you tell me please why it cannot be found?
Check under ThirstyAffiliates->Settings, Link Appearance tab. It will be down near the bottom of the list. If you don’t see it, make sure Uncloaking module is enabled under the Modules tab.
Hope this helps, any probs just reach out to support 😉
Why does amazon hate link cloaking? After speaking with Amazon representatives, I found their primary reason for this clause in their program terms. They want to see exactly which page the visitor is coming from. Cloaked affiliate links mask this on the HTTP headers. It’s a fine distinction, but one Amazon is paying attention to.
Thanks for the nice guide Josh!
At first, I liked your plugin. But it wasn’t long before I realized some serious shortcomings.:
Once you add links and or images to pages, and you later want to change an image or even delete the link totally, this is not possible. You have to manually go into ALL individual pages where links were created and delete them one by one. ;( Shame. There are plugins where you can disable or enable links en mass and even exchange the affiliate link an image from the backend. Cheers.
You can do this. When you place an affiliate link you’re actually linking to the cloaked link in the post content. If you need to change the link you just change the ThirstyAffiliates link, not every link in every post. Not sure what you’re experiencing but that is how its designed as a core feature, it sounds like you’ve been inserting the destination URL into your content?
Thanks for sharing that. As a user of Thirsty Affiliates myself, I found that the cloaked URLs are showing indexing errors in my Google Search Console. So I uncloaked each and every URL that was cloaked before in the TA plugin.
I believe that there’s no harm in uncloaking the URL as much as there are downsides to doing it. So every person should, by default, choose the uncloaking option.
Great solution Saad, these notices in Google Search console are due to the blocking of bots feature (which is now optional in the settings)
Many websites out here include the big one like (shoutmeloud) still used the cloaked link. What is your opinion about this?
Good question Pingsunday,
It helps to remember you can use cloaked links for anything other than Amazon.
However, if they’re cloaking Amazon links it’s only a matter of time before the Amazon review team catches up with them and gives them a warning or bans their associates account.
I am convinced that amazon treat the big affiliate accounts differently and with tolerance , for example the site of thisiswhyiambroke which is considered one of the biggests is breaching many amazon terms but is still running amazon products mainly.
Wouldn’t surprise me
Hi all, I have noticed in Amazon Associates that I am getting 0 clicks on my links since cloaking them all via TA. However when I check TA reports I see 40 clicks yesterday. I didn’t realise that TA stopped Amazon being able to report clicks.
Will this uncloaking solve this?
It shouldn’t unless something has changed on the Amazon end.
You should definitely not be cloaking your Amazon links. You need to use the uncloaking feature as described in the post above or face the risk of being banned from the program.
Great article and glad I read it.
I’m having a minor problem since I’ve uncloaked my links, though. In Google Analytics, the cloaked link made it so much easier to know what link was clicked. Now, I’m back to the undecipherable Amazon link for my analytics. Is there a way to track with the cloaked link?
If you use the Google Click Tracking module in Pro you can track clicks on your links as events. Much easier to get a full view then and I personally find its more reliable.
Hope this helps!
If I’m reading this correctly, this is also extremely valuable if a product you’re linking to sitewide comes out with a new version, and you need to update all your links. I’d be able to update the end destination url in one spot and all the links sitewide would update to the latest URL. Is that right?
You are SPOT ON.
Does this mean that Amazon Onelink works when links are uncloaked?
Don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t Alastair but if you run into issues reach out
if I understand it correctly, search engines do not want websites with affiliate links.
My main affiliate partner is Amazon. So how do I behave correctly: Link cloaking (for the search engine) or direct Amazon affiliate links (for Amazon)??
This other point is that you wrote, that cloaked links are more secure, because so the links are protected from thefts.
Hi Helene, yes cloaked links are less susceptible to commission theft, but with Amazon you don’t have a choice. It’s in their T&C upon joining their program that you will not redirect your affiliate links. I suggest making use of the uncloaking feature in ThirstyAffiliates 🙂
1. What if I place 10 Amazon in an article? It will take forever to search all of them manually and create a link for each country. There are some plugins who automatically redirect users to the store of their country, can ThirstyAffiliate do that also?
2. Let’s say I added hundreds of links which are cloaked in the posts but TA makes them look uncloaked. What happens if I remove TA? Will it change all links into the uncloaked version or do I need to change all links myself manually?
1. Yes, ThirstyAffiliates Pro has Geolocation abilities. One link, multiple destinations based on visitor’s location. See the pricing & features page for more.
2. You’ll need to correct those manually. ThirstyAffiliates is the one doing the uncloaking, so if it’s not there, it won’t uncloak.
Hope this helps!
Your feature list shows that smart uncloaking is available in the free version:
Unfortunately, I’m not seeing any uncloaking options in the free version 3.6. (As a rule I’m using the free versions of everything until I start actually earning revenue.) I’d be happy to provide screenshots upon request.
Have a look under ThirstyAffiliates->Settings, Modules tab and make sure its enabled. You’ll then see it as per the screenshots above.
I have TA Pro and have just signed up to the Amazon program. I’m just having some issues with geo localization of my links:
First few days I was using amazon US links as they came and clicks were recorded on my first ever Amazon product review properly. Then I tried to setup Onelink, linking all my other store IDs, and placing the code in my footer. I’ve read your article before and just keep coming back to it as I can’t find a solution. Even when ticking the “uncloak link” on all my amazon links, it seems that clicks are then no longer recorded by Amazon, even though they appear in TA reports. I keep checking all the other countries store and no clicks anywhere.
I’ve tried that trick I’ve read somewhere else where you change your amazon https links to http as it seems that’s what causing onelink not to work, but no success.
I’m hesitating between trying to make Onelink work even if it means not using TA for Amazon, or give up on Onelink and use either TA’s or another plugin to manage the geo localization. I keep reading online that geo localization isn’t as easy as it seems as stores don’t always have matching products etc… But it’s definitely essential to our site as we only get about 20% of US visitors.
Apart from that, very happy with TA, thanks for your work.
Hey Jim, TA’s geolocation features will let you send traffic anywhere, they could be to other Amazon stores (in which case our Amazon importer will help you import those specific store links). Amazon’s Onelink is good, but don’t use it in conjunction with TA’s geolocations. Onelink handles the transporting of people to the correct store on Amazon’s end.
As for not seeing traffic from your Onelinks, if you already have your link uncloaked (all Amazon links should be uncloaked including Onelinks) then contact Amazon and complain that traffic isn’t being tracked when you use Onelink vs. when you use direct links.
Hope this helps you and anyone else having the same issue.
Thanks for sharing this post. Amazon is really strict. Honestly, one of my friends recently got his banned from Amazon because he had a mentioned the price and as you know Amazon keeps on changing their prices so, your required to never mention price. He plans on changing his entire website’s links from amazon to another affiliate network soon. Strange how you got an email saying you had 5 days, maybe my friend didn’t read his email.
Has this feature been removed or is it pro only?
Nope, hasn’t been removed. It’s in the free version. Make sure the module is enabled under Settings->Modules.
What about leaving 1 uncloaked link so amazon could find it and let others cloaked ?
Cause as an SEO issue it’s not Affiliation itself that could be a problem it’s the number of affiliate links per page.
I haven’t tried that, but you could give it a go. From what I understand they have internal tools to help them diagnose but if you have an account you don’t mind risking and a site you don’t care about, you could test it.
Does TA allow nofollow uncloaked links? Is it OK to nofollow Amazon affiliate links in this case so that Google doesn’t penalise you?
Nofollow can be applied to uncloaked links. Using nofollow essentially says a combination of “this link is a sponsored link” and “I don’t vouch for where this link ends up so don’t count it as my sites viting for this other site”