There are really two irritants (well, there are many, but these are the ones I am looking at today) for the website owner who is linking to something from their site. If you are offering a paid download, it can be easy for others to use your link to gain access to your downloadable products. If you are part of an affiliate marketing program, it is easy for people to be scared off by an intimidating and unusual looking affiliate link. Either way, you are out of a sale through no fault of your own. The best way to avoid those outcomes is to cloak your links so that their real paths are harder to guess and less intimidating. There are two great plugins below that can help you to do just that and then some.
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Pretty Link* gives you the ability to redirect a link on your site to a new URL you have created. It allows for both 301 and 307 redirects (more on what that means here), so you can implement whichever type works best for your needs.
In addition to creating clean links, Pretty Link tracks each hit on your URL and provides a full, detailed report of where the hit came from, the browse type/version, operating system, remote host, and referring site. This information can then be downloaded into a .csv for easy analysis.
Since these links work anywhere, you can also track clicks from wherever you have engaged with your visitors: emails, Facebook, Twitter, RSS feeds, or anywhere else that you have shared the links. They make that even easier by allowing you to email or tweet the links directly from the Pretty Link interface. If you would like to customize some of the operations and tracking of your links, you can also create no-follow/no-index links and turn tracking off for each link. Pretty Link even comes with a bookmarklet that lets you turn the URL of any website you are viewing into a Pretty Link that you can use in the future.
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WP Wizard Cloak
WP Wizard Cloak does a good job of cloaking, shortening, and tracking your links (and a little bit more). It allows you to transform URLs into links with the following structure: yourdomain.com/link. In addition to this basic function, it can track who clicks on your links and generate reports (that can be exported to CSV) of all of your click data. Some of the information it tracks is: Date/Time, Country, IP Address, User Agent, Destination URL, and Referrer URL. WP Wizard Cloak also provides a couple of other interesting features:
Geolocation: You can send visitors who are coming to your site from different countries to different link destinations, even when they have clicked on the same link. This is incredibly useful for either the affiliate marketer who wants to promote country-specific offers or the ordinary blogger who wants to point visitors to language-specific versions of the intended site.
Keywords: WP Wizard Cloak also allows you to emulate sophisticated link insertion technology on your site. Simply specify a keyword that you would like the plugin to search your site’s content for. When the plugin finds the keyword, it will automatically add in a link to a destination that you choose (like a link to an affiliate product).
If you are looking for other plugins that do a great job of providing some of the same services as the above, take a look at the easily confused Affiliate Link Cloaker and Affiliate Link Cloaking. If you would like to cloak or anonymize links without having to go to the trouble of installing a plugin, Anonym.to and j.LetsW.com are also excellent options.