Internet Business

Short URLs – Helpful or Hindrance?

by doug on 5 May, 2009

Short URLs – tinyurl, etc., are a handy way to turn a long and ugly URL, into a short, handy one.  They are very popular in Twitter posts to keep links from wasting too much of your precious 140 character message.

Shortened URLs have a number of other uses.  They are perfect for cloaking affiliate links.  For some reason, some people don’t like affiliate links, and bypass them.  By giving them a short URL, the destination and affiliate link are hidden.

Many URL shorteners also provide click-through statistics, which is extremely useful, especially for affiliate marketing that does not give you all the conversion information you need to find out how well it is working and where people are dropping out of the conversion chain.

Marketers often use shortened URLs in their emails to add a mystery factor.  You just never know where you might end up when you click a shortened link!  By training people to click the links by providing great, high-quality information in your emails, you can also slip in some offers, and not give people a clue when they see the URL.

But shortened URLs do have their problems.

When you use a shortened URL to send people to your website, you have no idea where the visit originated from.  To Google Analytics or your server logs, they came from the link shortening software, not from wherever the visitor clicked from.

This eliminates valuable statistics about where your traffic is coming from.

Shortened URLs also strip page rank from incoming links.

The more links to your website, the better, it tells Google that your website is important.  With a shortened URL, the incoming link is to the link shortener, not to  your website.

Does this mean that you should not use shortened URLs?

They have their uses.  The benefits outweigh the costs when used with twitter.  Cloaking an affiliate link is very useful, and provides you with statistics you might not otherwise have.  When it comes to affiliate marketing, building PR for someone else’s website is not your concern.

The key is to be careful in how you use shortened links.

You want as many links to your website as possible, so avoid using shortened URLs in situations where you want to build links from other sites.  For example, don’t put shortened URLs from an article posted in an article website to your website – use a direct link instead.

Realize that you will be obscuring information about how people arrive on your site.  Don’t use shortened ULRs in pay per click advertising.

On the whole, shortened URLs are very useful.  Just don’t use them for everything.

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