What are URL shorteners and why you should use them?

Chances are you click on at least a few shortened links every day. Probably even without knowing it. What are URL shorteners, why you should use them, some thoughts on them and of course our list of recommended URL shorteners. Let’s dig in.

What are URL shorteners?

A URL shortener takes a long url (e.g. http://www.goodwebsites.nz/domain-names-how-to-protect-your-company-brand) and makes it shorter (e.g. http://bit.ly/1vZN3sM).

The Links produced by URL shorteners might look a bit strange. They often make use of country specific TLDs and have a random string of numbers and letters after them.

bit.ly, owl.li, goo.gl, is.gd. – each URL shortener ends with the country where the domain name is registered (.li is for Liechtenstein, .ly is for Libya and .gl is for Greenland). Reason for these ‘strange’ country extensions is the still availability of the shorter domain name.

Why should I shorten my URLs?

Make links more manageable

What is easier to share?

http://www.alsco.co.nz/products/tork-industrial-heavy-duty-wiping-paper-combi-roll-w1w2/

or

http://bit.ly/1vcNj5O

And it’s not only for sharing online. When you need to print your URL, the longer the link, the harder it is to remember or to re-type. Or think of mobile phones, texting, etc – it’s far easier to text a short URL than a long one.

Track click data

Another reason is to track how many clicks you receive on a URL. For example use it to measure how well a post is performing based on how many clicks the link in the post received. Or how many clicks your tweet link received.

If 500 people click on a link in a funny Tweet promoting your new product but only 200 people click on a link in a more serious Tweet, you can use this information in future posts.

Just for fun

Some services allow you choose a keyword for the link (eg. http://Bit.ly/goodwebsites).
Or go fancy and create a vanity URL shortener. A vanity URL is a custom URL that uses a company’s branding. Like MasterCard’s vanity URL ‘mstr.cd’ or Modern Tribe’s vanity URL ‘m.tri.be’.

Some thoughts on URL Shorteners

So is it all happy days with shorteners?
Not always. Some thoughts.

One of the most popular reasons to shorten a URL was to avoid exceeding Twitter’s 140 character limit. However Twitter implemented their own URL shortener. Therefore, URL shorteners are no longer necessary to actual shorten url’s in your tweets.
What about the click data? Once again, this was true in the past, but nowadays Twitter gives detailed information on their statistics page.

If a shortener service gets hacked, every link could be destroyed or (worse) could become a potential phishing attack or turned into malware links.

Shortened links could be a disguise for spam, so you might want examining the expanded URL before you click (unfurlr.com) especially links without introductions, or from unknown people.

The long-term live of the links depends on the shortening service. If the shorteners database crashes or is erased (no backups), or the service simply disappears, the links will be gone.

URL Shortners and Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

According to Google’s Matt Cutts, using URL shorteners has no negative impact on SEO if the URL shortener treats the conversion as a so called 301 redirect. A 301 redirect tells the search engines that the short URL has ‘permanently’ moved to the long URL and thus will credit all those links to the long URL.

The URL shortners list

Bitly

Short URL example: http://bit.ly/diJf1H. Has custom link option and proper detailed statistics (account). One of the most used URL Shortener and often available as default shortener in apps. Our absolute favourite.


Goo.gl

Short URL example: http://goo.gl/MTXHsS. Google’s URL Shortener. They don’t do custom link options but do has full statistics.


tuq.in

Short URL example: http://tuq.in/jjb. Custom link option and statistics via a copy/paste your short link (not too ideal).


ow.ly

Short URL example: http://ow.ly/FbogK. More options like stats etc when done in combination with Hootsuite.


tiny arrows

Short URL example: http://➞.ws/good. One of the shortest links although the link format might put some people off to click them. They do custom link option and statistics.


tinyurl

Short URL example: http://tinyurl.com/o2y8jlr. Probably the longest on the market. Not the shortest links though. Do custom link option but no statistics.


is.gd

Short URL example: http://is.gd/fasXxN. Custom link option and statistics via a copy/paste your short link (again not ideal).

One comment so far

  1. URLofsite,

    New professional URL shortener: http://urlof.site Options: multiple long urls, custom name url, url password, expiry, limited number of url uses, save to folders, private or public url, QR code, statistics and more!

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