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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.

See it in Action Hey, we can see it and enjoy the best marketing strategies for our business by KBit.

Should we use shortened URLs or long ones?

Jul 272017

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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.

An example:

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.

Source: Quora

Sponcered: https://kbit.co

Why Long URLs Are Bad

Jul 272017

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Other than the obvious reasons, there are some deeper justifications. Let’s jump right in..

Aesthetics
I (and probably many other computer users) are annoyed by long and incomprehensible URLs. Instead, they should look good by being simple and short.

Readability
By reading your site’s URLs, I should be able to understand what would happen if I visited that page. This is a bad example of URL readability:

http://example.com/actions/?1

I am able to understand by reading the URL that some sort of action will be performed, but the ?1 gives no clue as to what it is. This is a much better URL:

http://example.com/actions/send/

Now it is perceptible that something will be sent. But still, there is no hint of what will be sent. This is an even-better URL:

http://example.com/mail/send/

The user can now understand that by visiting this URL, mail will be sent.

Memorable URLs
The average person could never memorize a URL like the one at the top of this page—that is what the Clipboard is for. Your URLs need to be short and sweet—short enough so that it is easy to remember.

Now, that doesn’t mean you can’t have URLs that are a bit long. Even when using folders for URLs as in the examples above, these links can get a bit long. But so long as the URL makes sense, it will still be memorable. For instance, this long URL is, well, long—but it is still easy to remember because the link is hierarchically sorted.

http://example.com/mail/send/somecompany/jerry/

Solutions for Shorter URLs
Despite the problematic natures of long, hard-to-remember URLs, they can always be easily shortened. Here are some solutions and methods of doing so.

You can use any service to shorten your long URL. Just try this to see it practical: https://kbit.co

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