If you do affiliate marketing you’ll know that many affiliate links are long and ugly, containing what looks like a random mix of characters.
When a visitor comes to your site and sees a link like that appear in their browser status bar, they can find it offputting. The link may go to a site they’re not familiar with and that makes them question the wisdom of clicking such a link. And that means you might lose out on a sale or commission.
So how do you combat this? First off, this technique is known as “masking links”. It’s a perfectly legitimate way of presenting neater and more informative links to your visitors and there is nothing black-hat or underhanded about its use.
A first port of call might be to http://bit.ly or another similar URL shortening service. bit.ly links are pretty well trusted. The service will shorten long links to bit.ly followed by 7 random characters. An example is: http://bit.ly/1SMtZ6K
If you open an account at bit.ly, you’re also able to customise your links to some degree. A customized link looks like: http://bit.ly/nichesitecourse. That bit after http://bit.ly/ is the custom name you select for your link. However, that name can only be selected once in the entire bit.ly system so if you want to have a custom link naming a specific product, for example, you need to pick the name before anyone else.
Bit.ly links are certainly neater than raw affiliate links. They do allow you to shorten links without opening an account with them. Creating an account is free though and adds the benefit of being able to tracking clicks on your links.
Using Pretty Link Lite
Pretty Link Lite is a free WordPress plugin that masks your affiliate link so that they appear to be links on your own domain. A link on this site you’re currently reading would look like: http://www.topdesignblogs.com/wa
Since the link is on the domain a visitor is looking at, there’s a huge in-built trust factor in links that go other places on that same domain. There’s no question about whether they’re about to click some dodgy link.
Another benefit is that you can name your links (the bit after your domain name in a link) however you want. So I could have created the above link as:
etc. You get the idea.
Pretty Link Lite also allows you to track clicks to your links so you’ll know how many times they’re being clicked and how many people are clicking them (a visitor might click a link more than once).
You can set up variations of your links (each with its own unique name) to track the same link in different positions on your site. So using the example links above, I might hyperlink a keyword or two in a post with http://www.topdesignblogs.com/likes/wa, hyperlink an image in a post with http://www.topdesignblogs.com/wealthyaffiliate and hyperlink a sidebar ad with http://www.topdesignblogs.com/wealthyaffiliate. I can then track how each of those links performs.
This allows me to see which one is getting the most clicks. If the in-content text link gets the most clicks, that could be a good indicator that using links in my posts will get a better response than say from an image ad in the sidebar.
Another advantage is that if the affiliate program you’ve been using closes down, or a product is taken off the market, you don’t have to go back and edit everywhere you used your raw or bit.ly shortened link. You simply need to edit your link in Pretty Link Lite and replace a defunct affiliate URL with a new URL and all your links will automatically go to the new affiliate offer.
Using SEO Smart Links
Now, adding links into content is all well and good but what if you want to hyperlink some select keywords in your posts. You don’t want to have to go back and edit every post containing those keywords as that’s too time consuming. Besides, you’re going to miss some of those keywords anyway.
That’s where the SEO Smart Links plugin comes in. This plugin allows you to link keywords and phrases in your posts, pages and comments with corresponding posts, pages, categories and tags on your blog. It provides SEO benefits for your blog.
But the plugin can be used in another way. Instead of having it hyperlink a keyword to point to other posts and pages on your site, you can have it hyperlink keywords with your masked affiliate links.
What I do is first create the nice looking links in Pretty Link Lite and then set some keywords and the link to point to in SEO Smart Links. The plugin uses the pipe (|) character to separate keywords from links. Using the above example links, I’d add something like:
to the “Custom Keywords” section of the plugin. Once I save the change, ALL occurrences of “Wealthy Affiliate”, ANYWHERE in my posts, pages or comments, will be automatically hyperlinked with the http://www.topdesignblogs.com/wealthyaffiliate link.
Let’s say I want other keywords to be hyperlinked to the same link. I’d add them,separated by commas, before the pipe character. For example:
make money online,website building course,Wealthy Affiliate|http://www.topdesignblogs.com/s/wealthyaffiliate
On the other hand, say I wanted to test three products on the same keyword to see which one got the most sales. I’d use one keyword but multiple URLs:
make money online|http://www.topdesignblogs.com/s/wealthyaffiliate, http://www.topdesignblogs.com/affilorama, http://www.topdesignblogs.com/bringthefresh
These keyword/URL pairings all go on one line.
The plugin will randomly select one of the URLs to hyperlink the “make money online” keyword when the post or page is displayed. I can track which of the 3 links is clicked the most in Pretty Link Lite and my affiliate network will tell me which product got the most sales. Once I know that, I can remove the badly performing links and only present my visitors with the product that gets the most sales.
Going A Step Further
All of the above can be achieved with the use of free services or free plugins. If you want to take things up a notch, Pretty Link Pro allows you to automate repetitive tasks, optimize your site with testing, see the results of your campaigns immediately and virally spread your links — including all your affiliate links within minutes. You can also and hyperlink keywords from within the plugin.
As you can see, masking affiliate links and tracking how your links perform is a simple enough task using free resources. Links on your blog will look better to visitors and you’ll have a far better idea of where to place links on your site to get the best conversions from your visitors.
Filed under: Affiliate Marketing