Do you know your bit.lys from your ow.lys? Link shorteners are used all across the web. But are they helpful? We’ve explained a bit about them, when it’s best to use them and when to steer clear.
A link shortener really does what it says on the tin – it provides you with a shorter vanity version of your link, which when clicked upon, will redirect to the link you want to send people to. It’s commonly used by social media scheduling tools like Hootsuite and Buffer, and LinkedIn shortens all links shared in posts on the platform as standard.
Some of the big players you may have seen before are bit.ly, TinyURL and Rebrandly, which all offer free and paid versions of their service.
There are many occasions where a link shortener might come in handy. If you use tracking parameters on your links, then your URLs normally become huge, and that doesn’t look particularly trustworthy on social media.
If your website uses a complicated URL structure and hierarchy (although it shouldn’t, because that’s bad for SEO), then you might choose to create a shorter link that’s more memorable. Also, if you’re facing a character limit on the platform you’re posting on, a shorter link lets you fit in more of the good stuff.
Most link shorteners also offer tracking, which can often be more useful than Google Analytics or similar platforms, as it is more likely to discount bots and crawlers.
If you aren’t using tracking parameters on your links, then there’s not much point in using a link shortener, as long as your URLs are fairly neat and tidy. If someone can see your domain in the link you’re providing, that’s almost always more trustworthy than a ‘hidden’ link provided by a shortener. Some shorteners allow you to use your domain within their platform, which is a great idea, but this is often a paid feature – if you’re trying to maximise your budget, you may want to focus your spend elsewhere.
Also, if you’re using advertising features, then a link shortener is also redundant, as your link won’t be on show anyway. So feel free to put all the parameters that you need on there!
Depending on the shortener you use, it may also push a user through multiple redirects – this is almost always off-putting, and may cause them to back out before they even get to your website.
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