A URL Shortener: How come I Need One?

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

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

In future articles I am going to cover, in addition to the provider reviews, a look at Free vs Paid for services; how to check and validate a shortened link and then on to some tracking information.

Just what is a URL Shortener?

A URL Shortener is only a technique on the Internet when planning on taking a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) and so that it is substantially shorter in length whilst still directing towards the required Internet page.

This can be done by using an HTTP Redirect over a domain name that is short, which links online page that has a long URL.

What are the Advantages of Using a URL Shortener?

Social websites
With the advent of Social networking sites like Twitter and Identi.ca that only allow a relatively very few 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 to become included alongside the URL.

Shortening the URL enables the originating web address to be disguised. This has some disadvantages which I will cover later but, from the positive perspective, it can allow an address to make 'more presentable' i.e. by removing those seemingly random characters as well as hide the originating website name that, for whatever reason, people might not exactly choose to click on.

Long URL's are sometime difficult to read and if you should write one down then a chances or recording the URL incorrectly are high.

Different color leaves as readability the shortened URL is way more memorable. In many cases you'll be able to format the URL with a description of your own choosing. Making URL's memorable has obvious advantages from your marketing perspective. It can be much easier to remember bbc.co.uk/ as opposed to brainyquote.com/quotes/topics/topic_motivational5.html?vm=l

Accumulate Statistics
For Internet or Online marketers URL Shorteners provide a mechanism to monitor when, where and how often a URL is clicked upon. Knowing these statistics is essential to the success of anyone working on-line as is available to know your target market and when they are apt 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 optimization (SEO)
A good URL shortening service will transfer information to the target page by using something called a 301 redirect. I can't go into the technical details in this posting but this will help your page to rank with sites such as Google.

Free Service
A lot of the URL services are free 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 covered URL Shorteners.

What are the Disadvantages of utilizing a URL Shortener?

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

The fact that you cannot see the details of the link is used by spammers as a 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 emanates from their service. Take place and you have been using the service then your links become useless.

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

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

Redirection You could end up Performance Issues
To eliminate a shortened URL requires a supplementary translation between the shortened URL as well as 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 Bad or good?
In my opinion URL Shorteners possess a valid role to experience, particularly where the life expectancy or a URL isn't long... which is very true of Social Media.

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

My 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 longer of time then I use the domain name... and mask this if it is too long.

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