Should we use shortened URLs or long ones?Jul 272017
It depends on what you are using them for.
If you want something that is immediately memorable, then use a short URL. That could be a single-level directory (mydomain.com/thisfolder) or a subdomain (subdomain.mydomain.com). This could itself be where the page is, or it could redirect to a longer URL, depending on how you manage your content.
If you want something that looks pretty for social media, use a domain hack. http://kbit.co, Virg.in, etc. immediately show which company owns which domain, but these are short vanity URLs, and really only good for sharing links to other people.
Long URLs are fine but they’re not memorable. If you’re just looking to get the page up there, there’s nothing to stop you from using a long URL.
I have a company called Awesome Design. It’s not called that, but let’s pretend it is. My website is found at awesomedesign.com. (By the way, there is really a website with that URL, so any links that will appear in this post have been automatically generated by Quora and I apologise to the owners of the domain for any 404 requests they may receive.) As the CEO of this company, I have decided that I want to host an event in London.
My event is listed at awesomedesign.com/events/conferences/london-design-expo-2017. Long. Not necessarily easy to remember.
Easier, however, is awesomedesign.com/london2017. I can put that on any marketing material and have the short URL redirect to the longer URL. Posters, billboards, emails, what have you, would all contain that URL.
I could also have that URL posted on social media, or I could use aweso.me/ldn17. This could be redirected to the same long URL.
This would be useful if I want to track where my visitors are coming from too. Using tools such as YOUrls or http://kbit.co (personally, I recommend YOUrls or another self-hosted URL shortener) can allow you analytic data for the short URLs you generate. Using the short URL on your domain could also provide you with analytics data. You could also set up a specific campaign, including Google Adwords or Social Media Marketing (paid for, targeted advert, not your organic posts) to promote the event. Again, you can use the data you get to see where people are hearing about your event and tailor future promotions to incorporate this information.
But whichever URL structure you use should take into consideration the type of system you have (CMS (WordPress, Joomla, etc.), flat HTML, etc.) and what you want to do with the URL.
For me, a lot of my URLs would be long URLs. As I create more and more content, the number of short URLs that I can use would grow smaller and smaller before I have to make them longer and longer. So I cut out the middle man and have long URLs, generated by my site. But if I need to draw attention to something, like an annual report or an event, I will create a short URL for promotional purposes, and a vanity URL for social media. This reserves my short URLs for specific purposes and ensures that I have a constant pool for them.
That’s my system anyway.
Whatever system you choose, be consistent in how you implement it. Obviously, there will be exceptions. I mean, you don’t need a long URL for an About Us page, just mycompany.com/about or /about-us. You don’t need anything long for that. But just be as consistent as you can about where you have short URLs and long URLs and, if you have them, vanity URLs.