Why Do I Need One? Throughout the weeks that are coming will be writing a number of articles on URL Shorteners. I have been using Shortened URL's for some time plus it wasn't until individuals started asking me about that they are only really understood by people engaged in On-line Business that I realised. Therefore this series of articles aims to provde something for the beginner and, hopefully, something for the more seasoned Online Professional.
In this first article I will cover What is a URL Shortener and what are the benefits and drawbacks of using one. I will offer an 'Initial' list of URL Shortening Providers (there are over 200 in existence today!) which, over time, I'll provide further information on... so check always back if you want more information... or let me know if you need a particular provider reviewed a bit quicker.
In future articles I covers, in addition to the provider reviews, a look at Free vs Paid for solutions; how to always check and validate a shortened link and then on to some tracking information.
What is a URL Shortener?
A URL Shortener is merely a technique on the Internet for taking a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and making it substantially shorter in length whilst still directing to the required Internet page.
This is achieved by using an HTTP Redirect on a domain name that is short, which links to the Internet page that has A url that is long.
What are the benefits of utilizing a URL Shortener?
With the advent of Social Media sites like Twitter and Identi.ca that only allow a relatively small number of characters in a note, using long URL's meant that there was little or no space for the real message. Shortening the URL allows longer messages to be included alongside the URL.
Shortening the URL allows the web that is originating to be disguised. This has some disadvantages which I will cover later but, from a positive perspective, it does allow an address to be made 'more presentable' in other words. by removing all those seemingly random characters and also to hide the originating domain name that, for whatever reason, individuals may not decide to click on.
Long URL's are sometime difficult to read and if you want to write one down then the chances or recording the URL incorrectly are high.
Memorable In the same vein as readability the shortened URL is much more memorable. In many cases you can format the URL with a description of your choosing. Making URL's memorable has advantages that are obvious a marketing perspective. It is much more straightforward to keep in mind bbc.co.uk/ rather than brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_motivational5.html?vm=l
For Internet or Affiliate Marketers URL Shorteners provide a mechanism to track when, where and how often times a URL is clicked upon. Once you understand these statistics is essential towards the success of anyone working on-line they are likely to be online and what types of product they are likely to purchase as you have to know your target market and when. We will come back to tracking and statistics in a post that is future.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
A url that is good shortening will pass along information to the mark page by using something called a 301 redirect. I won't go into the details that are technical this post but this may help your page to rank with sites such as Google.
Many of the URL services are free of charge. For most uses e.g. Social Media, a service that is free absolutely fine. We will discuss in a future post the advantages and disadvantages of free vs paid for URL Shorteners. What are the Disadvantages of Using a URL Shortener?
Like most things in life there is normally a balance between benefits and drawbacks. The same is true of URL Shorteners.
Spamming The fact that you cannot see the details of the web link is used by spammers as a means of getting visitors to open links that they might otherwise ignore.
URL Shorteners Get Closed
Some URL Shorteners get closed down precisely because they don't get a handle on the level of spam that emanates from their service. Then all of your links become useless if this happens and you have been using the service.
Using a Third Party Provider
The URL Shortener is effortlessly another alternative party within the process between you creating a URL and sending it to your audience. You should therefore select your provider carefully.
Some Sites Do not allow Shortened URL's
Due to the known level of spam associated with some URL Shorteners, some sites will not accept shortened URL's. This is important for Affiliate Marketers as some providers will perhaps not allow shortended links that refer to affiliate products, because they class this as spam!
Redirection Could Cause Performance Issues
To resolve a shortened URL requires an extra translation between the shortened URL and the target URL. Whilst this ought to be negligible it shall also depend on the provider you use to shorten your URL's.
Are URL Shorteners Good or Bad?
In my viewpoint URL Shorteners have a valid role to play, particularly where the life expectancy or a URL is not long... which will be particularly true of Social Media. Some of the drawbacks around phishing and spam can be true of any URL, not just shortened ones... the same is true with all links, be careful what you click on!
My rule of thumb is that I use a URL Shortener for Social Media and for short-term affiliate campaigns. Then i will use the domain name... and mask this if it is too long if i write articles or e-books that I expect to live for a longer period of time.