A URL Shortener: So why do I Need One?

url site shortener short website small
In the coming weeks I am writing a number of articles on URL Shorteners. I have already been using Shortened URL's for a long time and it wasn't until people started asking me about that I realised that they are only really understood by individuals engaged in On-line Business. So this series of articles aims to provde something for that beginner and, hopefully, something for that more seasoned Online Professional.

url site shortener short website small
On this first article Let me cover What is a URL Shortener and just what are the advantages and disadvantages of one. I will also provide an 'Initial' list of URL Shortening Providers (you'll find over 200 offered to!) which, over time, I'll provide further information on... so check back if you want more information... or let me know if you prefer a particular provider reviewed a bit quicker.

In future articles I'll cover, in addition to the provider reviews, a glance at Free vs Purchased services; how to check and validate a shortened link and after that on to some tracking information.

Exactly what is a URL Shortener?

A URL Shortener is simply a technique on the Internet when deciding to take a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and which makes it substantially shorter in size whilst still directing for the required Internet page.

This can be done by using an HTTP Redirect with a domain name that is short, which links online page that has a long URL.

Do you know the Advantages of Using a URL Shortener?

Social networking
With the advent of Social networking sites like Twitter and Identi.ca that only allow a relatively few characters in a message, using long URL's resulted in there was little or no space to the actual message. Shortening the URL allows longer messages to become included alongside the URL.

Shortening the URL permits the originating web address to be disguised. This has some disadvantages which I will cover later but, from the positive perspective, it does allow an address to be made 'more presentable' i.e. by removing all of the seemingly random characters as well as hide the originating domain name that, for whatever reason, people may well not choose to click on.

Long URL's are sometime hard to read and if you need to write one down then a chances or recording the URL incorrectly are high.

In the same vein as readability the shortened URL is much more memorable. In many cases it is possible to format the URL having a description of your own choosing. Making URL's memorable has obvious advantages from your marketing perspective. It's much easier to remember bbc.co.uk/ instead of brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_motivational5.html?vm=l

Accumulate Statistics
For Internet or Affiliates URL Shorteners provide a mechanism to trace when, where and how more often than not a URL is clicked upon. Knowing these statistics is essential to the success of anyone working on-line because you have to know your audience and when they are likely to end up online and what types of product they may be likely to purchase. I will come back to tracking and statistics in a future post.

Search engine optimization (SEO)
A good URL shortening service will pass on information to the target page through the use of something called a 301 redirect. I cannot go into the technical details in this posting but this will help your page to rank with sites like Google.

Free Service
Lots of the URL services are free of charge. For most uses e.g. Social media marketing, a free service is absolutely fine. Let me discuss in a future post the advantages and disadvantages of free vs purchased URL Shorteners.

What are the Disadvantages of Using a URL Shortener?

Similar to most things in life there is commonly a balance between advantages and disadvantages. The same is true of URL Shorteners.

Since you cannot see the details of the link is used by spammers as a method of getting people to open links that they might otherwise ignore.

URL Shorteners Get Closed
Some URL Shorteners get not open precisely because they don't control how much spam that hails from their service. Should this happen and you have been using the service then all of your links become useless.

Using a Third Party Provider
The URL Shortener is effectively another third party in the process between you making a URL and sending it for your audience. You should therefore choose your provider carefully.

Some Sites Don't let Shortened URL's
Due to the degree of spam associated with some URL Shorteners, some sites will not likely accept shortened URL's. This will be relevant for Affiliate Marketers as some providers will not allow shortended links that refer to affiliate products, as they class this as spam!

Redirection You could end up Performance Issues
To resolve a shortened URL requires another translation between the shortened URL and the target URL. Whilst this should be negligible it will also depend upon the provider you use to shorten your URL's.

Are URL Shorteners Positive or negative?
In my opinion URL Shorteners have a very valid role to experience, particularly where the life-span or a URL just isn't long... which is very true of Social Media.

A number of the disadvantages around spam and phishing might be true of any URL, not merely shortened ones... does with all links, be mindful what you click on!

My rule of thumb is that I use a URL Shortener for Social Media and for short term affiliate campaigns. Easily write articles or e-books which i expect to live for a longer period of time then I will use the domain name... and mask this when it is too long.

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