It's generally believed that cloaking your affiliate links is a good idea, as this can prevent your affiliate link code from being abused from website scrapers who may scrape your contents and have it displayed on their website, which may violate the affiliate program you're using.
Some even say it can improve your website ranking within Google, as Google takes a pretty dim view of affiliate websites because so many of them are of a low quality. Google doesn't really say whether it penalises affiliate websites, but makes it clear that they should be of the highest quality and offer something unique to the visitor.
If you want to cloak your affiliate links using a program such as WordPress, then the process is fairly straightforward as there are countless plug-ins available which will do the job for you. However, if you use a desktop web design software, one which essentially allows you to build your website on your computer and then publish it to the Internet, then you're probably wondering how this is achieved?
Do a Google search for "how to cloak your affiliate links on a normal HTML website" and the search results are predominantly how to do it on a WordPress blog, not a normal website, even though we haven't actually mentioned the word WordPress. When you actually do find a website that isn't about WordPress, the process of cloaking your links is usually both confusing and way too complicated.
Actually, the process is extremely simple. If you're using any modern web design software that was made within the last 10 years, then it will most likely give you the option to add a file, usually by the "insert a link" option. For example, you can highlight a piece of text or even a image on your website and then select "insert a link" which should then give you the option to insert a link or file. Obviously, every piece of software will vary slightly, and if you don't know where the add link/file option is then simply visit the manufacturer's website for more info.
For this were going to use a website called acloaker.com, which allows you to paste in your affiliate or any general URL into a search box which is then turned into a file that you can download onto your computer and insert it into your website which will then get uploaded to the Internet, once published.
Once your file has been downloaded to your PC, which should take a matter of seconds as the file itself will be tiny in size, you simply need to highlight the desired text or image with the web design software that you are using and add that file which is usually done by selecting the insert a link option with many software programs.
Once the file has been added it will be stored by your web design software program and uploaded to the Internet once you select the publish option. It really is as easy as that, and the whole process probably only takes 30 seconds more than adding a normal affiliate link to your website. Naturally, if you have a website that has hundreds or even thousands of affiliate links already published, and you want to cloak everyone using this method, then it's not going to be quick process, but it may be your best or only option.
Always remember to check your affiliate link, once you've published your website to make sure it is working correctly. You may also want to check the terms and conditions of the affiliate program you are using as some may not allow you to cloak your links, though generally it shouldn't be a problem with 99% of them.
You may find that when you add your affiliate link file that it gets indexed and listed on search engine such as Google. This will totally depend on the affiliate program you're using and the page you are linking to. For example, if you link directly to a Amazon product page, this will most likely get indexed. If your affiliate links do start getting indexed, this could have a negative effect on your site search engine performance, and therefore its a good idea to stop this.
This should be easily achievable by using the robots.txt file, which in most cases is created automatically by your web design software. If it isn't, you can easily create one yourself by following this guide.
As previously stated when you create your affiliate cloaking file and add it to your site, it will be stored somewhere within your web design software. Some web design programs allow you to choose or create a folder where these will be stored, and some do not, as in my case.
If the web design software allows you to choose a destination where the affiliate cloaking files will be stored, then all you have to do is add the name of the folder where they are stored to your robots.txt file using an FTP program.
For example, if your web design software uses a simple URL structure you probably just have to add the line Disallow: /files to your robots.txt file, or whatever the name of the folder is.
You may find that your software already automatically blocks files from being indexed, but you should double check just to make sure.
If you don't have the option to store your affiliate cloaking files in a designated folder, then you need to save the file by using a first dedicated word. For example, I save all my files by using the word "redirect" followed by a space and then the name of the file.
Example: redirect samsungtvs101.
It's very important that you leave a space between your chosen word, followed by the file name.
I then add Disallow: /contents/en-uk/redirect to my robots.txt file, which will then block all files starting with the word "redirect".
I have to add /contents/en-uk/ because the software I'm using doesn't use a simple URL structure, but if yours does, then you probably just have to add /redirect to the robots.txt file.
As always, if you not familiar with the robots.txt file with your particular software, then visit the manufacturer's websites or a dedicated forum where other users will be able to advise you.
If you don't want to fiddle around with your robots.txt file, then you can insert a piece of code into your affiliate cloaking file that you've downloaded telling search engines you don't want it to be followed or indexed.
For example, once you've downloaded your file from acloaker.com, you can open and edit it using notepad. To do this, you simply right click on the file which is saved on your computer and select Open with > Notepad.
Once the file is opened, it will look something like this.
You need to add the following line <meta name="robots" content="none" /> just below the <HEAD>. Once you've added it select Save from the File option in the top left-hand corner and close it.
You can now add that file to your website and once published search engine robots will be instructed not to follow or indexed any links within that file.