Why (AND HOW) You Should Uncloak Your Amazon Affiliate Links

Uncloak Your Amazon Affiliate Links

A while back I wrote an article for FeedFront magazine in Jan 2018 talking about some cases where you might want to uncloak your affiliate links.

The primary reason is because of Amazon. I wrote it because I personally experienced the pain of their moderation team myself.

Amazon’s Associates program has a pretty clear ruling now in their terms that 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, uncloaking my Amazon links.

And because I run one of the biggest affiliate plugins for WordPress I felt it was my duty to make sure others could have that flexibility to uncloak their affiliate links too as needed when they received the dreaded warning letter from the Amazon review team.

To answer this, we build 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 you use it specifically for compatibility with Amazon Associates or not. We built it in ThirstyAffiliates 3.0 and it has proved to be a very popular addition to the plugin.

What it does is it removes the cloaking on just that single link and just shows the destination URL on the page. This happens on page load and the beauty is, it’s seamless to the user.

After your page loads for the user, instead of seeing your cloaked link that 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 want to just see the URL 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 compatible?

Technically speaking, yes. But the benefit of using the Uncloaking feature in ThirstyAffiliates instead of just putting the affiliate link directly on the page yourself is that you still get all of the benefits of the ThirstyAffiliates tool like stats, auto-linking, geolocation links and more.

It also makes staying compatible really easy without sacrificing any capabilities.

What I like is that you can just specify that you want that link uncloaked and it will just handle it. No fuss and no risk of being banned from promoting Amazon products.

Link Cloaker Uncloak Amazon Affiliate Links

We even built it so you can make a special category (I make one called Amazon myself on my sites) and then in the ThirstyAffiliates->Settings, Link Appearance, down the bottom you will see uncloaking category. Select your new category there and anytime a link with that category is shown, it will be uncloaked.

Uncloak Amazon Associates Links
(Find this setting under ThirstyAffiliates->Settings, Link Appearance, then scroll to the bottom)

And bang, now you don’t have to think about it anymore.

Do you still get stats?

That’s the good thing about ThirstyAffiliate’s uncloaking vs. just manually uncloaking your Amazon links.

By using the uncloaking feature in ThirstyAffiliates you links stay cloaked in your blog post, but are uncloaked on the front end. This means we 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?

Very seriously.

As I mentioned briefly above, I received a message from Amazon myself.

In fact, I only received it because I submitted a support request with them asking a question about the policy, and they automatically sent my site (that I had to specify for the request) for review. How rude!

They didn’t respond to my support request straight away, but they sure as shit put my site up for review quick smart!

Within a day of sending that support request I received a letter something along the lines of this:

Dear Josh,

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.

Sincerely,

Karen “The Unfeeling Borg” Bot
Amazon Associates Program Review Team

So since I didn’t want to lose my account I complied as requested. And they re-reviewed and found it was OK 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 cheque from Amazon.

I suggest you take it very seriously because they can and will hit you with their mighty ban hammer.

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17 thoughts on “Why (AND HOW) You Should Uncloak Your Amazon Affiliate Links

  1. 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?

    1. Hi Jane,

      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 😉

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

    1. Hi Martin,

      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?

  4. Hi Josh,

    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.

    1. 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.

  5. 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?

    1. Hi Ben,

      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.

  6. 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?

    1. Hey Kevin,

      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!

  7. 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?

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