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
- 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?
- 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.
- Tracking capabilities. Many URL shortening services offer tracking and that will allow to track performance of your links.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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…
►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.