Link Shorteners

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What are URL or Link Shorteners?

Have you ever read a long URL someone sent you? Nope, not me. Not to mention unsightly, it takes too much unnecessary space and time in a message, losing a reader’s short attention span. The solution to using elongated URL’s is to use a URL shortener.

A URL shortener is an online application that converts a regular long URL  into a shorter, condensed link that redirects to the same webpage.

They change a regular URL such as:

https://example.com/short-links3629.8fiqroioqjj/duaidow?

To something shorter and more friendly links like:

https://bit.ly/2lGsIum

Why you should use URL shorteners

  1. They save space: It all started with the famous social media platform: Twitter. Having a 140 character limit forces people to get creative and condense the same content into a smaller package.Another reason why we’ve shifted to quality over quantity is that studies have shown that the average human attention span has decreased from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2019! With that in mind, you only have a few precious seconds to capture the reader’s attention. So, if you add an enormous link in the middle of your short, concise, and effective message, the reader is bound to just scroll through.
  2. They’re more memorable: Long URL’s are difficult to read out, let alone remember, and later, recall a specific site you like. Branded URL’s help shorten and customize any link to your specific brand into something like mydomain.com/keyword. 
  3. They provide insights and analytics: In today’s day and age, it is a marketing best practice to track all your links so you know how your campaigns are performing. This helps to alter any campaigns falling behind the others. But until now, the only tracking we’ve been able to do with our links involved manually adding UTM parameters and extracting the data from Google Analytics.Luckily, most free URL shorteners will now provide you with click analytics. At the most basic level, they can show you the number of clicks your links get. The more advanced URL shorteners can offer more detailed click data, such as the source of the clicks, times and dates the link was clicked, countries of origin, and much more.However, also keep in mind that a lot of the free URL shorteners provide public stats- which means that you won’t be the only person who has access to them. All you have to do is take a generic short URL (like https://bit.ly/2lGsIum) and add a plus sign (+) at the end. If it opens a public stats page, it means your competitors can see exactly how your links are performing.
  4. They’re trustworthy: Seeing a long, intimidating link on social media can be very unappealing to potential customers. Whether it’s because of the length of the link, or the included tracking parameters that are gibberish to the average person, no one is likely to click a link that they suspect might be spam.A shortened, branded link will help alleviate any confusion by only showing the customer what you want them to see. Your brand.Beware, there are limitations here. Most popular generic URL shorteners have been blacklisted and a lot of people are hesitant to click on any links from them for fear of being spammed. This results in a major loss of potential customers.

How do I use a URL shortener?

There are many different URL shorteners. We recommend using an application such as Rebrandly.com to shorten your long URL’s into branded short links. It’s as simple as copying and pasting your long URL into a box and turning it into whatever you want it to be.

Note: Bit.ly used to be a widely used URL shortener until it was blacklisted causing many business owners to be classified as spam.

Other URL shorteners

  1. Goo.glGoogle’s link tracker, Goo.gl was linked to your Google account to ensure that your link management conveniently stayed in one place. The click tracking also worked very well. However, as of March 2019, Google discontinued it’s link shortener, retracting access to the Goo.gl console.
  2. TinyURLWe recommend that you don’t use TinyURL. The only pro to it is that you can easily shorten a long URL without having to log in or give away your email. They also run ads on their homepage that can be quite annoying and they don’t offer tracking or ease of sharing as Bitly does.
  3. YOURLSYourls (which stands for “Your Own URL Shortener”) is slightly different from the rest of the tools on this list. Basically, with Yourls you can install PHP scripts on your own server and use them to power your own URL shortenerThe downside to doing this is that it’s not scalable, and chances are you’ll need an entire team of engineers to be able to maintain it. But if you’re looking to set up your own shortening service, Yourls is a good place to start.
  4. Snip.lySnip.ly is a simple URL shortener that lets you use content curation to bring traffic to your website, also, allowing you to put web content where you normally put your CTA. It permits you to overlay your own custom message onto any piece of web content such as an article from TechCrunch. Snip.ly creates an opportunity for you to include a call-to-action in the form of a button that links back to your website.The negative aspect of Snip.ly is that at first glance, it may look like you are trying to steal someone else’s hard work to bring traffic to your website. It may also confuse some readers who aren’t familiar with Snip.ly to see your CTA on another publisher’s page.Users can also think that the publishers approved the ad, while in fact, they know nothing about it and they don’t even endorse the usage of their content in this manner.

How do short links affect email deliverability?

Many of the publicly available link shorteners’ domains are not recommended for email marketing because they are often listed on blacklists due to overuse by spammers.

Link shortening is a popular tool with spammers because it hides the true identity of the landing page URL. When a subscriber clicks on a shortened link, they are navigated to a fraudulent web page that may contain malware, or to a site used to steal information for identity theft.

You might often have deliverability problems if you use URL or link shorteners in your email content.

Mail servers do not publicly declare that email will be blocked if it contains link shorteners, however, they do say they sometimes block email that appears to hide a sender’s identity. Since link shorteners mask the URL of the landing page, many mailbox providers are likely to block emails that contain shortened links.

How to fix problems with link shorteners:

  • Shorten your own links instead of using third-party link shorteners. Doing this can help you control how those links will reflect your brand and match your sending domain.
  • If you send a plain text email, switch to HTML. Long URLs found in HTML code do not impact formatting.

Additional Resources

  1. What are URL or Link Shorteners and how can they be harmful?-ReturnPath
  2. Are Blacklisted Link Shorteners Getting Your Emails Blocked?-AWeber
  3. Blacklisted Short Links? Stop Using them in Emails!- Rebrandly
  4. What is a URL Shortener?- Rebrandly
  5. Choosing a free URL shortener for your business- Rebrandly

This article is about:

  • Free URL shorteners
  • Custom short URLs
  • Generic short URLs
  • Benefits of using a free URL shortener
  • How to choose the right free URL shortener