URL Shorteners – Should You Really Be Using Them?

2018/07/30 08:00

Pros and cons of using url shorteners

Understanding the pros and cons of shortening your URLs.

Marketers have been using URL shorteners for several years now but there has always been some debate around whether we should really be using them or not.

URL shortening tools such as Tiny URL have been around since the early 2000s with many new tools joining the ranks over the last decade.

Tools such as Tiny URL were first created in order to prevent email clients from fragmenting URLs since text wrapping was still a concern during that time. Today, URL shortening tools are mostly used for social media campaigns and to make URLs look more aesthetically pleasing in general.

So should you still be shortening your URLs? Let’s look at some of the pros and cons.

Pros of shortened URLs

  • Access additional analytics. Most URL shortening tools will provide you with stats on each of your shortened URLs, giving you access to additional campaign data. Some tools will even go as far as giving you demographic details as well as information on the date and time that a link was clicked.
  • Affiliate codes are safe. When a URL is shortened, affiliate codes can’t be removed, which means you will still be able to earn a commission.
  • URLs become customizable. There are a number of tools such as Bit.ly that allow brands to customize their URLs, making them more eye-catching and easier for users to remember.
  • More visually appealing. Shortened URLs are automatically more visually appealing and look better when paired with content and social media posts.
  • Track dark social stats. A report by RadiumOne showed that 84% of consumers’ outbound sharing from publishers’ and marketers’ websites now take place via private, dark social channels such as email and instant messaging. URL shortening tools are one of the few solutions that marketers have for tracking dark social stats.

Cons of shortened URLs

  • Short URLs can create trust issues. When a user isn’t 100% sure where a link is going to take them, it could deter them from clicking on it at all.
  • Online tools aren’t always reliable. If a URL shortening service is down, people won’t be able to access your links, which could hurt your online campaigns. Also, you never know when a tool might disappear, especially if it’s free.
  • They’re used by spammers. URL shortening tools are constantly used by spammers, a fact that many online users have become aware of. Once again, this makes people more reluctant to click on a URL that doesn’t show the destination site.
  • You are no longer saving social media characters. Platforms such as Twitter no longer count URLs as characters, which means there’s no longer a reason to use them on social media.
  • It’s one extra step. Shortening each of your URLs just adds one extra step to your marketing to-do list.

Popular URL shortening tools

Below is a list of some of the most popular URL shortening tools available today.

  1. Bit.ly. This one of the most popular tools available today, particularly because it’s integrated with several other platforms and services such as TweetDeck.
  2. TinyURL. Even though this is one of the older URL shortening tools, it is still used by a number of marketers. The only downside is that it adds slightly more characters to each URL than most other tools.
  3. Owl.ly. This is Hootsuite’s official URL shortening tool and you will need to be a HootSuite user to utilize it.
  4. Tiny.ie. This unique tool also allows you to A/B test and track conversions.
  5. Branch.io. This URL shortening tool places an emphasis on mobile, helping brands better measure campaign success across multiple devices.

So, should you be using URL shortening tools? The answer is that it’s really entirely up to you. A good suggestion would be to try shortened URLs as well as longer URLs on your target audience to see what generates the best results.