Link Management

In this guide I’ll explain how to manage cloaked links and how to use the basic built-in click tracker. Most of the relevant controls are located in the Tools -> Cloaked Links tab of your admin panel (here’s a screenshot).

Types of Cloaked Links

As I already mentioned in the Configuration Tutorial, you can specify which links will get cloaked by setting the appropriate cloaking mode (“selective cloaking” or “cloak all links”) and then using the <!–cloak–> and <!–nocloak–> tags to allow or prevent some links from getting cloaked, respectively. There are also the inclusion and exception lists that let you cloak/uncloak a whole bunch of links based on their domain name (more info).

Most cloaked links will have an automatically generated cloaked URL similar to this – http://example.com/goto/the_anchor_text_you_used/123. This is what I call an “unnamed” link, an it’s perfectly fine for cloaking links en-masse. But if you have some “special” affiliate links that you want to use in an email or otherwise pass around, it might be a good idea to give it a better-looking, descriptive name (and get rid of that tacked on number, too). This is where “named links” come in.

A “named” link is simply a cloaked link that’s been assigned a unique name. The cloaked URL of a named link will look similar to this : http://example.com/goto/MyLinkName/. You can use any combination of letters, numbers and underscores in the name, and it’s not case-sensitive. In addition to their dashing good looks, named links also have another advantage – you can edit their target URL while keeping the cloaked URL the same. For example, imagine you create a cloaked link http://example.com/goto/BasketWeaving/ that leads to your favourite basket weaving affiliate offer. What if the affiliate offer suddenly goes offline, or you find a better one? With a named cloaked link, you can just modify the destination URL in one place and instantly point all the cloaked links to a new site.

Managing Your (Un)Named Links

All of your cloaked link, either named or not, will show up in the Tools -> Cloaked Links tab of the Dashboard. This is the place where you can review all of your cloaked links, add/remove/edit named links, convert unnamed links into named ones, and view their hit statistics. Lets discuss all of these in order.

Viewing Cloaked Links

The “Cloaked Links” tab is usually dominated by a table listing your cloaked links (well, unless you haven’t cloaked any yet). The table has five columns –

  • Name – the unique name assigned to the link, if any
  • Destination URL - the original, uncloaked URL of the link
  • Keywords – the link’s keywords
  • Hits – the total number of times the link has been clicked
  • Conv. (optional) – the total number of conversions. This column is only visible if conversion tracking is enabled.

You can sort the table by clicking one of the column headers. You can also hover your mouse pointer over any of the table rows to see the available actions (in the Name column) and the respective link’s cloaked URL (in the Destination URL column).

You can switch between viewing named links,  unnamed links, links with keywords or all links by clicking the appropriate filter link at the top of the page.

Adding Links

Click the “Add New” button to display the “Add Cloaked Link” form (this form will also be automatically displayed if there are currently no cloaked links in the database). Using the form is very simple – just fill in the “Name” and “URL” fields and hit “Add Link”. The only constraints are that the name must be unique (i.e. you can’t have two links with the same name) and it mustn’t contain any spaces or special symbols. You will get an error message if you try to add a link with an invalid name.

Optionally, you can also enter one or more keywords in the “Keyword(s)” field. This will make the plugin scan every post on your blog and link up to “Max. links” instances of the keyword(s) you entered to the specified URL. If you don’t set the maximum number of links, the plugin will use the values set in Settings -> Link Cloaker -> Keyword Autolinking.

Any links that have a name will “Named” sub-tab of the Tools -> Cloaked Links tab. Links that have keywords will also show up in the “With keywords” sub-tab.

Modifying Cloaked Links

To edit a link, hover your mouse over the appropriate row and click the “Edit”  link to bring up the inline editor. This editor is almost the same as the “Add Cloaked Link” form above, so I won’t explain it in detail.

Note that you can’t edit the URL of an unnamed link, but you can use the inline editor to assign a unique name to an existing unnamed link.

Deleting Cloaked Links

To delete a cloaked link, click the appropriate “Delete” link. Once you’ve deleted a link anyone who tries to access it’s old cloaked URL will get an error page. However, any links that used the original, uncloaked URL will still work fine.

For example, if you post an article referring to http://example.com/, cloak that link using the <!–cloak–> tag, and then delete the matching cloaked link from the Tools -> Cloaked Links table, the http://example.com/ link in your post will still work fine. And not only that, but, unless you remove the <!–cloak–> tag from link or change the plugin’s configuration, the plugin will automatically cloak that link again the next time someone views the article.

On the other hand, if you assign a unique name (e.g. “CoolProduct” ) to a site (e.g. “http://someproduct.com/?aff=456″), post the cloaked URL in a forum somewhere and then delete this named link in the Cloaked Links tab, any forum-dweller who clicks the link will get an “Invalid Link” error page.

Click Statistics

The Eclipse Link Cloaker includes a basic click statistics tracker. It keeps count of the total number of times a cloaked link has been clicked (the aforementioned “Hits” column of the link table) and can display a graph of how often they’ve been clicked during the last 30 days. If conversion tracking is enabled, the chart will also include daily conversion statistics. Click the “Stats” link or the number of hits to display the graph.

If you desire more detailed statistics, I recommend tracking the clicks with Google Analytics.

That’s all for this tutorial. I hope you found it useful :)