URL Shorteners: Improve Click-through and Trackability of Links

 

You should be using URL shorteners in your digital marketing strategy. Let me explain why, and which ones exist. There’s a lot more options than you probably thought.

As marketers and business owners, we’re always sharing content. Product pages, blog posts, videos, your mom’s blog, etc. And the destination for each piece of content is based on its internet address: Uniform Resource Locator, or URL.

The problem with many links is that they’re often from a deep part of a website. This means they’re long, ugly, and distracting.

For example, check out how long a link can get as a user navigates Rue21:

Navigation: Rue21 Home Page > Girls > Tees > Tops > Color > Product

long link from website
That’s a long link…

Furthermore, links can get pretty nasty when we attach tracking parameters to them, such as this link created in the Google Campaign URL Builder:

Long link with UTM parameter attached to it

We have established that links can get pretty ugly, so it would be nice to shorten them and clean them up a bit. However, we also want to be able to track clicks on our links so we can analyze traffic sources. URL shorteners serve as a solution for both these obstacles.

How many people came to your website from the link you emailed them? How many people clicked on that Tweet you sent out? You’re shortened link can tell you.

Furthermore, link shorteners are free. There are premium versions available, but who needs those? For the most part, you probably won’t.

Another really useful component of URL shortener providers is that they act as a library where you can store your links and analyze the clicks they receive. This proves helpful when managing a lot of links for both your owned web content and content you share.

 

A list of available URL Shorteners:

Google URL Shortener – You can’t go wrong with Google. Not only do they have a URL shortener, but you can use the Campaign URL Builder to track clicks with Google Analytics. I highly recommend this feature. Check it out:

 

TinyURL – Launched in 2002 by Kevin Gilbertson, this tool has redirected billions of URLs for digital marketers worldwide.

Ow.ly – A URL shortener offered by the popular social media management platform Hootsuite.

Buff.ly – Another link shortener from a social media management tool, Buffer.

Adf.ly – A URL shortener that allows you to make money based on people that have clicked on your link.

bit.do – Shorten and personalize any link., and gather real-time traffic statistics.

McAf.ee – McAfee offers a secure short URL service.

Bitly – A very popular URL shortening service that allows you to customize the links to make them more appealing. It also stores all the links you have created in your account so that you can keep track of the clicks you are receiving.

Bitly Dashboard
Image source.

t.co – This is Twitter’s shortener which wraps all links from Twitter. If you see “t.co” as a referral source in Google Analytics, it simply means that the traffic came from Twitter.

Youtu.be – As you can guess, this URL shortener is for Youtube videos. According to Geek.com, this cuts video links by 15 characters:

From this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3EAE9F2Qpo

To this: http://youtu.be/Z3EAE9F2Qpo

Snip.ly – Sniply is a bit different than the others here. Much of what we share online is other people’s content.

And here’s what sets Sniply apart: When you shorten another person’s web page link through Sniply, you can create a call to action that will appear on that web page when someone clicks on the link that you shortened. To put it simply, it’s a way to drive traffic back to your website by sharing someone else’s content.

Sniply URL Shortener Example
I created a Sniply link for a SocialMediaExplorer article with a call to action for an Ebook on my website.

Qr.ae – Quora’s built-in URL shortening service.

Db.tt – Dropbox’s built-in URL shortening service.

Lnkd.in – LinkedIn’s built-in URL shortening service.

VztURL.com – Offers free URL shortening, tracking, cloaking and a system that keeps a list of all the URL addresses which you can easily add or delete at any time.

Tr.im – Trim touts itself as more than just a link shortener, with such benefits as audience discovery, custom keyword short links, and tracking/analytics.

Trim URL Shortener Dashboard

yourls.org – This isn’t an actual URL shortener. Rather it is a set of PHP scripts that will allow you to run your own URL shortening service. YOURLS stands for “Your Own URL Shortener”.

PrettyLinkPro – A plugin for WordPress that will enable you to shrink, cloak, track, organize, share, and test all of your links on your own domain and server.

Filoops.info – Shortens and tracks URLs, along with providing Domain

Ity.im – An ad network URL shortener.

u.to – A link shortening service that allows for instant shortening.

Cutt.us – Link shortening service that allows for customization.

Is.gd – A self-proclaimed ethical URL Shortener.

v.gd – Another ethical URL shortener that offers customized shortened URLs and detailed statistics.

bc.vc – Earn cash for each visitor to your shortened URL links with bc.vc.

 

Which Link Shortening Service is best for you?

Unless you want to complicate things, you’re only going to need one link shortener.

For anyone creating and sharing content online, URL shorteners are a must. When it comes to sending emails, keeping track of all your links, and measuring the performance of your social media/content marketing campaigns, you should be taking advantage of such a useful, and free, tool.

My recommendation would be Bitly, Sniply, or the Google URL shortener. They’re simple, allow you to track clicks, and, of course, free.

 

 

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Henry Foster
Henry Foster has built massive social followings, started and sold a tiny ecommerce business, and writes about social media and content marketing. If he isn't currently working on a project, he's most likely brainstorming the next.

Henry Foster

Henry Foster has built massive social followings, started and sold a tiny ecommerce business, and writes about social media and content marketing. If he isn't currently working on a project, he's most likely brainstorming the next.