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Should I use a URL shortener to share links from my own website?

Jul 272017

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The answer is almost always yes, specifically because of the wording of the question. Link shorteners are best used when sharing links.

That being said, the wide variety of link-shortening options out there and the subtle differences between what they bring to the table means that the exact reason why can be different from application to application and from marketing strategy to marketing strategy.

The short summary is that links to your site don’t have to be shortened at all. Links to your site that are shared often should be shortened because it keeps them neat and concise, as well as adds a layer of tracking feedback.

Below is a longer summary of why tracking links may be applicable for link sharing (including sharing links to your own site).

Tracking Links

Many link shortening services add tracking information into a redirect within the shortened link. This tracking information gathers click information and meta data regarding basic demographic and geographic characteristics of users who click the shortened links.

Going back to the wording of the question, this is specifically helpful when sharing links via social media or other channels.

The most popular social platforms offer analytic information regarding user interaction with your posts and links. The tracking information included in many link shortening services adds another layer to link interaction reporting.

Using shortened links with embedded tracking information:

A) Keep posts neat and concise while shaving characters off to better adhere to character limits (like the infamous Twitter character caps).

B) Add another layer of analytical information to reach and ROI measurement. Bitly, for example, aggregates all of the clicks from a single link into one dashboard so you can compare ‘referrers’ directly and from the same place.

In this instance, Bitly referrers are the different places where the link was clicked (Facebook, Twitter, and of course the terrible ‘dark traffic’).

If you are using a social media management system like Hootsuite, their Owly link shortener is a key component of the software’s reporting mechanisms; the tracking information that is embedded in Owly shortened links contributes to engagement reports generated by the software suite.

Here, link shortening services that include tracking information fit into a wide variety of digital and social marketing strategies. It is the rare digital marketer who is looking for less insight into the reach of his or her messaging across the web.

Affiliate Links

Affiliate links, for those who may not know, are a specific type of tracking link that includes a token in the link string. This token travels with users who click and reports on a purchase they make. This reporting then contributes to an affiliate marketer’s commission for sales that include the affiliate token.

Affiliate tokens are long alphanumeric strings. An Amazon affiliate link could be as long as three lines of text on a phone screen if it is shown as ‘naked’ URL. A naked URL is one that is not hidden with anchor text.

Shortening this link could reduce it to less than a dozen characters, making it much cleaner experience for your users. There are some link shortening services that attach affiliate link tokens to all shortened links regardless of the link destination to maximize affiliate marketer commissions.

Link Organization

This is not a technical feature or a marketing feature of using shortened links, but using a link shortening service puts all of your links within easy reach of a single dashboard.

Being able to search through a backlog of your own links as needed simplifies the link sharing process while saving valuable time and reducing potential instances of human error.

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