A URL Shortener: So why do I Need One?

url site shortener short website small
Within the coming weeks I am writing a number of articles on URL Shorteners. I have already been using Shortened URL's for quite a while and it wasn't until people started asking me with that I realised actually only really understood by people engaged in On-line Business. Which means this series of articles aims to provde something for your beginner and, hopefully, something for your more seasoned Online Professional.

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

In future articles I am going to cover, in addition to the provider reviews, a review of Free vs Taken care of services; how to check and validate a shortened link then on to some tracking information.

Just what is a URL Shortener?

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

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

Which are the Advantages of Using a URL Shortener?

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

Shortening the URL allows the originating web address being disguised. This has some disadvantages that i will cover later but, from your positive perspective, it will allow an address to be made 'more presentable' i.e. by removing those seemingly random characters and also to hide the originating website name that, for whatever reason, people may not choose to click on.

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

In the same vein as readability the shortened URL is way more memorable. In many cases you'll be able to format the URL which has a description of your own choosing. Making URL's memorable has obvious advantages from a marketing perspective. It is 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 often a URL is clicked upon. Knowing these statistics is important to the success of anyone working on-line as you have to know your target market and when they are apt to be online and what types of product they may be likely to purchase. I will come back to tracking and statistics inside a future post.

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

Free Service
A lot of the URL services have the freedom of charge. For most uses e.g. Social media marketing, a free service is absolutely fine. I'll discuss in a future post the advantages and disadvantages of free vs purchased URL Shorteners.

What are the Disadvantages of employing a URL Shortener?

Like most things in life there is usually a balance between pros and cons. The same is true of URL Shorteners.

That you cannot see the information on the link is used by spammers as a way of getting people to open links that they might otherwise ignore.

URL Shorteners Get Closed
Some URL Shorteners get closed down precisely because they don't control the degree of spam that hails from their service. In such a circumstance and you have been using the service then your entire links become useless.

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

Some Sites Do not allow Shortened URL's
Due to the a higher level 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 won't allow shortended links that refer to affiliate products, as they class this as spam!

Redirection Could cause Performance Issues
To resolve a shortened URL requires an additional translation between the shortened URL and also the target URL. Whilst this ought to be negligible it will also depend on the provider you use to shorten your URL's.

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

A few of the disadvantages around spam and phishing could be true of any URL, not simply shortened ones... the same holds true with all links, be careful what you click on!

My rule of thumb is that I use a URL Shortener for Social networking and for short term affiliate campaigns. Only write articles or e-books that we expect to live for a longer period of time then I uses the domain name... and mask this if it is too long.