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December 8, 2010

Should You Use URL Shorteners?

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Recently, the following happened to me, I wrote my regular weekly newsletter and posted it on my site. Since this was a longer WordPress URL, like millions of other webmasters, I used a URL shortening service to make this link more usable and manageable.

I posted this shortened URL to Twitter and placed it in my weekly email posting… immediately I started getting emails from my subscribers and followers… the link doesn’t work, you must have made a mistake.

Which can be easily done, but when I checked the link, I found that the shortening service was not working properly and giving the dreaded “Page Not Found” response. To compound the problem, I was using the Google URL shortener Goo.gl and since it was Google everyone assumed the mistake was on my part. I mean Google is Google.

In the past, I had been using bit.ly but had switched to Goo.gl, well – because it’s Google. And everything works better with Google; this was the first time something I used with Google had not worked as planned. And it just wasn’t my links, none of the links with Goo.gl were working. No big loss, unless you were linking your Black Friday & Cyber Monday traffic thru these shorteners. Ouch.

But this brings up the whole question of whether or not you should use a link shortener?

A URL link shortener works by redirecting your shorter link to the longer one you have entered into their database. If this is a permanent 301 redirect, then your SEO benefits should pass through to your longer link. No harm done. But if the shortening service uses a 302 temporary link then SEO is not passed thru to your longer link since the search engines only read this link as temporary.

All the top URL shorteners such as tinyurl, bit.ly and goo.gl uses 301 redirects so they are SEO friendly, if they’re working!

From this SEO perspective, there is no reason not to use these shortening services, besides they are great for sharing links and getting your links out there.

I only started using link shorteners because of Twitter which only gives you 140 characters to make your point. These shorteners are also good for sharing and spreading your links around the web. However, in one way using a URL shortener is not a smart marketing move because you are giving up control of your link, putting it in someone else’s hands – in this case Google’s.

If it goes down, or they decide not to link to your content for some reason, you’re in trouble. Same goes for bit.ly, they are in control of your links. Maybe it doesn’t count so much if it is a general link, but if you a have an affiliate link in there, you can’t change or alter it. Or just imagine, you have 10’s, even 100’s of thousands of these shortened links spread all around the web, bringing valuable SEO PR back to your site. Suddenly the service or company goes under and all your links disappear from the web overnight.

Web services and sites go bankrupt or change directions all the time, so the above scenario is not out of the question. If you’re using and depending on these shortening services to deliver both traffic and SEO to your site, then you should ask yourself.

Is this really a wise move?

One of the unwritten rules of Internet Marketing – always control your links and route them through your own domain which you control. Especially if you place these links into viral ebooks, articles, videos… make sure you are linking through a URL on your site. This way you can easily alter the link if anything changes.

By using these URL shorteners, even one run by Google, you really are giving up control of your links. Granted, Google and Goo.gl will probably be around for the foreseeable future and until last week I didn’t hesitate to use their shortening service. Now I am not so sure about using their service and question my usage of any of these shortening services in general, despite all the great benefits they give your online marketing.

If you do use one of these URL shorteners, make sure you completely check out the service and its history before you start using it. Actually, if you’re going to use these shorteners, it would probably be a good idea to use three or four of them so that all your eggs/links won’t all be in
the one basket. Better safe than sorry.


The author is a full time online affiliate marketer who operates numerous niche sites, as well as two sites on Internet Marketing, where you can get valuable marketing tips for free: www.marketingtoolsguide.com or try here www.bizwaremagic.com/Free_Marketing_Courses.htm Titus Hoskins. This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.

7 Responses to “Should You Use URL Shorteners?

    avatar Mark A says:

    I had used these URL shorteners before but then found broken links within my siite and had to reinstate them.

    I agree that you have to be careful which service to use as they all don’t use a 301 direct and it is important from an SEO perspective.

    Search Engine Land (SEL) had a post back in April (Google service not launched) showing the services which used a 301 Redirect.

    As far as affiliate links are concerned the fears raised are justified not only from a redirect perspective but also to protect the affiliate link from being hijacked or bypassed both of which would impact on earnings.

    There are other legitimate services out there that can be run on your own servers which you have complete control over including link stats etc which can be used either for all your shortened urls or only those ones you would like to have full control over.

    I recently, when the .co tld was made available, registered a 3-letter.co domain for that purpose and use it for a number of links in conjunction with the major shortening services.

    avatar Debbie says:

    I must admit that I don’t use the URL shortener’s for anything other than Twitter, and I have read about similar problems in the past.

    I agree with you that affiliate marketers should definitely use a mixture of shortening services.

    avatar Jerry McCoy says:

    Social media and ebooks, etc. make short URLs important to me. I do not rely on 3rd party services for my shortened links.

    I bought a short domain and a script to create short URLs I control. I’m the only user so there is no need to worry about a spammer shutting the service down. If the server goes down, both my site and the short URL are affected.

    Short URLs and control of the link are both vital.

    Jerry

    這编文章內容很好,亦非常多謝你後提供免費學習如何營銷重要資料, thank you very much

    am little confused with using these url shortners. specific question is about ow.ly and ht.ly used in hootsuite. i really like to use that tool for social networking, but not sure about the shortner services they offering now, ie ow.ly and ht.ly

    In addition to the control issues stated here by others, full links also offer another benefit.

    Even if a link is down or a typo has occured, a little detective work can often lead to the root web site- and the info you seek.

    With a shortened link, there isn’t even a clue as to where to start!

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