In January 2018 I wrote an article for FeedFront magazine talking about some cases where you might want to uncloak your affiliate links.
The primary reason was Amazon. I wrote the article because I personally experienced the pain of their moderation team myself.
Amazon’s Associates program has a pretty clear ruling in their terms wherein they forbid you to use a redirection of any sort. If you ignore that ruling and use cloaked URLs anyway, 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 affiliate links when they received the dreaded warning letter from the Amazon review team.
To answer this, 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.
What it does is remove the cloaking on just one single link and show the destination URL on the page. This appears on page load and is seamless for the user.
After your page loads for the user, instead of seeing the cloaked link you inserted (which normally looks like example.com/recommends/some-affiliate-product), they see the actual raw destination URL that you specified in the edit screen for that link.
Yes, 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/cloaked URLs.
And guess what?
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 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 any capabilities.
What’s great is that 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 is 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), and then in the ThirstyAffiliates > Settings, under Link Appearance down the bottom, you will 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 ThirstyAffiliate’s uncloaking versus manually uncloaking your Amazon links.
By using the uncloaking feature in ThirstyAffiliates, your 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 link raw to users, but still get stats.
How Seriously Should You Take Uncloaking Your Amazon Affiliate Links?
As I mentioned briefly 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, and 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 as requested. They re-reviewed, found that I’d complied, and restored my account.
But that was the wake-up call that 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 it very seriously, because they can and will hit you with their mighty ban hammer if you don’t.