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URL shorteners

Reasons Why Not To Use Free URL Shorteners – What Are The Alternatives

As the name implies, URL shorteners allow you to easily shorten a long, unsightly URL into a smaller more manageable link. Free URL shortening services have become very popular and are used extensively by blogger / marketers, some web applications and social networks. In this article I’ll show you several critical reasons why not use free URL shorteners and give you a few alternative methods to shorten your links.

Why Do People Use URL Shorteners In The First Place

  1. Long links, particularly some of the affiliate URLs are unsightly and unfriendly. Take for example, an amazon affiliate link: http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B000UVVX28/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000UVVX28&linkCode=am2&tag=YourAffiliateID”. Imagine sending this link to your email list. Do you think you will get a good CTR with this awful link?
  2. Integration with social media. The prime example is Twitter. There you can use only a short message of 140 characters. A long link will use most of the characters leaving you with very little room for your message.
  3. Tracking capabilities. Many URL shortening services offer tracking and that will allow to track performance of your links.
  4. Improve SEO with more manageable links. Search engines don’t seem to like long dragged out links. They prefer links that are short and to the point.
  5. Easier shareability. It is easier and more appealing to share a short link, particularly where space is limited. Short links are popular on Facebook, Google +, Pinterest and other social media. Using short links is particularly important on mobile devices. Long links are not user friendly on mobile devices as they are hard to read and chances of them to be shared are really low.

Critical Reasons Why You Should Not Use Free URL Shorteners

  1. You do not own the link. My primary concern about using free URL shorteners such as bit.ly, tinyurl, and others is that these links are created by third party shortening services. You have absolutely no control about the continuity and security of such links. If the service will go down or out of business all your links will be broken.
  2. Link shorteners could potentially hurt your email deliverability. The problem occurs when spammers use the same URL shortener as you do. ISPs are known to block and even blacklist certain shorteners because they want to prevent spam. If ISPs block emails that include a link shortening domain, they may block your email as well.
  3. Shortened URLs from free shortening services are not editable. Suppose you are promoting an affiliate program. You have posted the links all over, including your posts, articles, emails and social media. If something goes wrong with the affiliate program and you no longer want to promote it you will need to remove your links or change them to something else. If the link is not editable, the process would become nightmarish.
  4. Popularly used shorteners scream promotion! Most people believe that bit.ly, tinyurl.com and other popular shortening domains only refer to affiliate products. This immediately negatively influences the viewer and the clickability of the link. In addition, ISPs will often send warnings when people try to access the URL if they if they do not block the link already.
  5. Some affiliate networks will not allow you to use free shorteners. For example Clickbank will not allow bit.ly and goo.gl links. If you use them you will get a warning message. It really discourages the visitor from clicking your link.  The following warning message shows when you use bit.ly

Warning When URL Shortenere Is Used

 Alternatives To Free URL Shortening Services

There are several alternatives you can use to create your own URL shorteners. You can create them yourself or you can use the software/scripts from a number of software developers.

The scripts can be used on your own domain or you can purchase a domain specifically for the scripts. You can create links that are short enough, yet informative enough to be used even when the number of message characters are low. This will protect your links from being banned and links will be easy to share. Below is a list of software/scripts that are easy to use and ones that will provide you with the ability to edit, track, shorten your URLs and much more.

Ready made scripts

Link Supercharger. I have been using this software/script for some time because it was so easy to install and to use.You can use this script not only to shorten URLs but you can use to cloak, track, share and organize your links in categories. You upload the script to a new directory of your website. For example, the directory can be named “likes”.

Using this directory, the link you will create  will be as follows: http:yourdomain/likes/product (likes can be exchanged for any word, for example suggests, recommends and so on)

This is not a plugin and can be used for non-WordPress sites as well. Another nice feature of Link Supercharger is it ability to let you create fully customizable “Hot Pages”, a well designed list of links that can be categorized. You can share the Hot Pages with your subscribers or visitors to your website.



Pretty Link. It is a WordPress plugin that will enable you to shrink, cloak, organize, share and track your links. Because it is a WordPress plugin, you can easily upload it to your WordPress blog just as you would upload any other plugin.

Unlike Link Supercharger, because it does not require you to upload the software to another directory, your links will be shorter.

Pretty Link allows you to create links as follows: http://yourdomain/product

Because this is a plugin Pretty Link is not suitable for non – WordPress blogs.

Pretty Link comes in two versions: Lite (free) and Pro (paid version). As the name suggests, the Lite version is less robust than Pro version and although it has basic shortening and tracking, it lacks some of the important features of the Pro version, including cloaking of the links, split testing, automation and much more. You can compare the features from the main page of the plugin here…

I was not able to get the Pretty Link to work on my site


Easy Redirect Script. I have only recently come across and started to use this great script for URL shortening and redirecting. It is Jason Fladlien’s product so as you can imagine it is very sophisticated yet extremely easy to use.  As it is not a WordPress plugin it is not limited to a blog as, unfortunately Pretty Link is.

Apart from the regular features of shortening, cloaking, tracking, sharing and organizing your links it includes a multitude of functions that can make our marketing  more profitable.

This software is more powerful than both, the Link Supercharger and Pretty link are, yet it is less expensive than Pretty Link Pro.

The script is uploaded to your website and your links will look as follows: http://yourdomain.com/product

As I will be changing my links to use this script, I decided to purchase a new domain. I chose a domain name that is universal, so in other words I can use the same domain to promote affiliate products in any niche. I wanted a really short domain name and since I could not decide on a name I chose two names: gototips.com and checkthelink.com (I’d love to hear your opinion on these domain names as I am still undecided on which to use).

If you want to check the Easy Redirect Script you can do so here…


In conclusion, I honestly believe that you should not rely on third party services to shorten your URLs. Why would you put control of your blogging and affiliate marketing links into the hands of someone else you don’t even know. You definitely have to have control over your links! Please give me some feedback and let me know how you feel about this issue.

 

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12 Responses to Reasons Why Not To Use Free URL Shorteners – What Are The Alternatives

  1. Dan November 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

    Another one to the long list:

    kfc.io

    Short urls served by chickens!

  2. Winsten July 17, 2013 at 1:00 pm #

    Thank you for sharing such useful information. I did not realise the importance not to use free url shortener until I visited your blog. Thank you for the great share.
    Winsten recently posted…USD data weighed on European currencies -4th June 2013My Profile

  3. Sandy Halliday July 15, 2013 at 11:05 am #

    Good advice Dita, I used a link shortening and traking service some years ago which was free but required a membership. All was well until the marketer who set it up sold the data base and eventually the service disappeared and none of my links worked.

    I have used the free PrettyLink plugin for some time now and like it very much. I had a problem with it recently though when I changed one of my blogs to a Genesis framework. It would not allow my WP coding guy to automatically transfer my URL’s to the new blog unless I upgraded it to the Pro version.

    He installed redirection plugin instead and got one of his team to copy all my pretty links into the new plugin by hand!

    I can’t say that I like it as much as PrettyLink but it still does the job.

    Have a good week ahead.

    Sandy
    Sandy Halliday recently posted…How to Get Email Subscribers with Viral ReportsMy Profile

    • Dita Irvine July 17, 2013 at 10:33 am #

      Hi Sandy,

      Your case is the reason I don’t like to use WP plugins. They are difficult when it comes to some of the major changes to the WordPress Blog. The one thing that you could do if you like the Pretty Link (Lite or Pro), is to get a new domain name that is not niche specific (for example Sandylikes.com) and use that for all your links irrespective of your different niches.

      Take care,

      Dita
      Dita Irvine recently posted…Tips To Reduce Website Bounce Rate: What Does Bounce Rate MeanMy Profile

  4. Mark Salmon July 15, 2013 at 7:13 am #

    Hi Dita,

    I use Easy Redirect Script and really love it, so I am glad that you recommend it too. I think I prefer the domain with your name in it above because it is more personal and you are asking someone to follow your personal recommendation when you link to a product.

  5. Adrienne July 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    Interesting post Dita and thanks for educating us more on this topic.

    I use to use a link shortening tool back when I first started doing affiliate marketing but I soon learned that it’s not the best route to go so I started creating my own. I’ve been doing that for the past few years I guess and although it’s a little time consuming I believe it’s well worth it.

    I read your comment to Navid about Bit.ly and I do use that for my blog posts but let me explain. I put my blog post in different groups online so I like to know how many times they’re being clicked so I have been using Bit.ly for that purpose. If they become broken over time it’s no loss to me really because everyplace that I’ve placed them they’re actually seeing the link to the original post.

    I’m sure one of these softwares would work just as well but I don’t want a lot of this sitting on my server either. Any suggestions about that?

    ~Adrienne

    • Dita Irvine July 17, 2013 at 10:24 am #

      Hi Adrienne,

      The best is to have a dedicated domain for link shortening. Either Easy Redirect Script or Pretty Link Pro could be used. You have the links all in one place that can be categorized to your liking. Best is to use as short a domain name as possible. .me, .co and some other obscure ones will still give you the opportunity to do so. Just make sure to find out which country they originate from.

      I still prefer .com but you have to be pretty inventive to find a short domain name.

      Hope that helped,

      Dita

  6. Glenn Shepherd July 13, 2013 at 3:50 am #

    Hi Dita,

    Awesome article as usual! I totally agree with you about using third-party link shorteners. It’s just like anything else, we want to maintain as much control over our stuff as possible. While web-based URL shorteners have their place and can be useful, to use them in business could be damaging or could cause problems, mainly because many people can be suspicious as to what is being the link and the headaches that it could cause if the site went down, etc.

    I hadn’t given it much thought until I was writing my first e-book. I came to a point where I was embedding some links and there was a link that I knew would likely be changing at some point in the future. I started thinking about this and realised that if I put the e-book out and then the link changed, then not only would I be losing traffic to the link but it can also be so annoying to the reader when they click on a link only to find that it’s dead.

    I settled on Pretty Link as a solution and I’m very happy with it. It’s simple, slots in perfectly to your existing site and is very customisable. I find that it works perfectly for my needs.

    I think that this is one of those subjects where the potential problems just don’t occur to you until you take some time to think about it, as I said it certainly didn’t occur to me. Yet it’s something that is very important but so easily remedied. Thanks for sharing!

    Regards,
    Glenn 🙂
    Glenn Shepherd recently posted…What is Your “Because”? Eliminate Your ObstaclesMy Profile

    • Dita Irvine July 13, 2013 at 10:57 am #

      Hi Glen,

      Your ebook example is a perfect example of what happens when URL shorteners are not editable. I have come across several ebooks where the links are dead. What a shame. This problem is so easy to correct when you have control over your URL shortener.

      Pretty Link is good except it can only be used on WP blogs. If the developers resolved that issue, it would be perfect. I have used Pretty Link for some of my links but I have now turned to Easy Redirect Script because it has quite a few different options. As well, I like how it can be organized and it is not a WordPress plugin.

      Cheers,

      Dita

  7. Navid Moazzez July 12, 2013 at 11:01 pm #

    Hi Dita,

    Great article, I learned quite a few new things here, thanks for sharing! I use bit.ly for click to tweet so I can add in my specific url for my blog post in the tweet, but for affiliate links I use pretty link. I saw many bigger sites using bit.ly and that’s why I personally used it, but now I may reconsider that and look into some of the options you shared in this post.

    Keep up the good work,

    Navid
    Navid Moazzez recently posted…Interview with Jesse Krieger: Become a Lifestyle EntrepreneurMy Profile

    • Dita Irvine July 13, 2013 at 1:50 am #

      Hi Navid,

      Here is an interesting excerpt from and article to which I’ll give you a link below the excerpt:the URL shortening service’s DNS stops working.

      Bit.ly is registered in Libya. Who knows what regime will be in power there in a few months. Will they continue to allow Western companies to use ‘.ly’ TLDs?

      This was written about 6 months ago but still very interesting:Source

      Cheers,

      Dita