Keeping it Short with URLs

Have you unleashed the power of the common hyperlink? If not, try a URL shortener. URL shortening services have many applications for social media and related tracking. Link shorteners were originally created to address strict email systems that character-wrapped an email after 80 characters and broke any long URLs that might have been in the message. Twitter users can relate to this; your 140 characters are precious. Nobody wants to waste valuable Twitter type on extra-long hyperlinks; that’s why short link generators are indispensable to tweeters.

Some examples of URL shortener services are:

So what can you do with URL shortening services; what does it all mean? 

Short list of uses: 

  • Meeting communication length constraints
  • Accelerated communication
  • Meeting hardware size constraints
  • Beautifying a link
  • Branding
  • Organizing multiple links
  • Tracking clicks
  • Ease of memorization
  • Disguising links
  • Temporary links or samples of files
  • Security
  • QR Code size reduction (Those small black and white squares that resemble a grocery UPC code).As a blog post from the popular social media tool “Hootsuite” puts it:
If 800 people click on a URL in a funny Tweet promoting your new shopping app but only 200 people click on a URL in a more serious Tweet, this knowledge can be applied in future posts. In other words, URL click data can be used to increase the chances of your followers clicking a link.
— Hootsuite

Let’s analyze your social media progress and start tracking. Yes, in addition to using specialized web analytics tools, some URL shortening services have their own link tracking tools. Take “Bitly” for example. Bitly’s analytics provides the following statistics: 

  • Total number of clicks on the bitlink
  • Where the bitlink has been shared
  • Number of clicks graphed over time
  • Country of origin
  • Users who have shared the bitlink

The small print: 

All of these shortened URLs have to be stored somewhere and redirected to their intended destination, but inquisitive minds want to know: “What happens if the service ever disappears?” Generally speaking, URL services claim they will never expire, but should a company ever discontinue a free service like this there’s no guarantee. So far, it’s likely that short URLs will outlive their destinations. Some URL shorteners purposely offer a time-limited service, where URLs expire after a specified period. Time-limited services can include features such as a short custom hyperlink with an uptime from five minutes to 24 hours. They also include expiry-dated URLs, five-character URLs for smartphones, and password protection.

In order to address the fear of “linkrot” happening when a link shortening service shuts down, the Internet Archive started the 301 Works project in an attempt to preserve the link shortening databases should participating services shut down.
— Julie Neidlinger, CoSchedule Blog

So, if you’re worried about shortened links hurting your SEO strategy, think again. As long as the URL shortener is using a 301 Works sanctioned redirect, there should be no impact on your SEO. 

With all of this information in tow, you can quickly create shortened URLs for a variety of devices and situations and determine how successful the link has been over time. 

Short and sweet!