A URL Shortener: How come I Need One?

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

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

In future articles Let me cover, in addition to the provider reviews, a glance at Free vs Paid for services; how to check and validate a shortened link after which on to some tracking information.

Exactly what is a URL Shortener?

A URL Shortener is just a technique on the Internet for taking a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and rendering it substantially shorter long whilst still directing towards the required Internet page.

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

Do you know the Advantages of Using a URL Shortener?

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

Disguise
Shortening the URL enables the originating web address to get disguised. This has some disadvantages that we will cover later but, from your positive perspective, it can allow an address to be made 'more presentable' i.e. by removing all of the seemingly random characters and to hide the originating domain name that, for whatever reason, people may not choose to click on.

Readability
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.

Memorable
Different color leaves as readability the shortened URL is much more memorable. In many cases it's possible 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/ as an alternative to brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_motivational5.html?vm=l

Accumulate Statistics
For Internet or Online marketers URL Shorteners provide a mechanism to trace when, where and how often a URL is clicked upon. Knowing these statistics is crucial to the success of anyone working on-line as you've to know your audience and when they are likely to be online and what types of product they are likely to purchase. I'll come back to tracking and statistics in the future post.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)
A good URL shortening service will pass information to the target page by using something called a 301 redirect. I cannot go into the technical details in this posting but this will help your page to position with sites like Google.

Free Service
A lot of the URL services are free of charge of charge. For most uses e.g. Social Media, a free service is absolutely fine. I'll discuss in a future post the advantages and disadvantages of free vs paid for URL Shorteners.

What are the Disadvantages of utilizing a URL Shortener?

Like the majority of things in life there is normally a balance between benefits and drawbacks. The same is true of URL Shorteners.

Spamming
Since you cannot see the information on the link is used by spammers as an easy way of getting people to open links that they can might otherwise ignore.

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

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

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

Redirection Could Result in Performance Issues
To resolve a shortened URL requires another translation between the shortened URL along with the target URL. Whilst this needs to be negligible it will also be determined by the provider you use to shorten your URL's.

Are URL Shorteners Good or Bad?
In my opinion URL Shorteners have a very valid role to try out, particularly where the life expectancy or a URL is not long... which is particularly true of Social Media.

A number of the disadvantages around spam and phishing can be true of any URL, not just shortened ones... the same is true with all links, take care what you click on!

My general guideline is that I use a URL Shortener for Social media marketing and for short term affiliate campaigns. If I write articles or e-books i expect to live for a longer time of time then I will use the domain name... and mask this if it's too long.

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