You’ve certainly seen shortened URLs on social media platforms such as Twitter on numerous occasions. It could have been a link created using bit.ly, but there are actually many sites that make it possible to make shortened URLs. What should you know about them? Are shortened URLs okay for SEO? Keep reading!
A shortened URL is a link that redirects to a longer, destination address. Its form depends on the tool used to create it. When you click on such a shortened URL, you're redirected to the target website.
Shortened URLs have a variety of uses. You can encounter them not only on social media but also on other sites. They're frequently used by those who participate in affiliate programs. Thanks to it, they can avoid situations when users, instead of clicking on a link with the affiliate ID of the site owner, copy the part without this element and thus deprive the publisher of a possible commission.
Although shortened URLs aren’t used on an everyday basis, they can come in handy from time to time. Does URL shortening affect SEO? Is it safe? What are the advantages of this solution?
They have an Attractive Form and Use Available Characters More Efficiently
Still, not all websites have user-friendly URLs. Some addresses are extremely long and contain random characters. Such a form doesn't encourage users to click. In this case, it's better to use short and transparent URLs.
There is also a character limit per post, which is another issue. In the case of Twitter, it's 280 characters. As you may guess, regular URLs can take up a significant portion of these 280 characters. In this case, it's also better to use shortened URLs and many portals take advantage of this option.
If you're working on a site that is supposed to earn money thanks to affiliate programs, some users may not click on the links you place, but copy them, remove the part with your ID and go directly to the landing page.
If the described situation occurs, you don't earn money despite having done the work you were supposed to do to get the sales commission or pay-per-click. With shortened URLs, you can avoid this problem, as you can choose what is displayed to the user in the form of the shortened link.
You Have Access to Analytical Data on Website Visits
Depending on which link shortener you use, you can get a variety of visitor data. This includes not only information about the number of redirects, but also more detailed data, which can be exported to an external file and analyzed.
Some services that enable URL shortening also allow you to add your domain name, which is a huge advantage. Why? Because it eliminates the risk of the search engine evaluating the links as suspicious.
You Can Use Shortened URLs Offline
You have probably encountered long URLs in traditional resources. In order to visit a particular page, you had to rewrite the address, probably making a lot of spelling mistakes. Meanwhile, the author could have used a shortened URL, thanks to which the recipient would have reached the expected content quicker and easier.
The same applies to links on leaflets, business cards, and infographics. A shorter address won’t discourage users from checking out the content.
See for yourself how different the links look:
www.yourwebsite.com/8vdjwmic7d83jf vs bit.ly/register
If you send short text messages to recipients, then instead of adding a long URL, use a shortened version. This is definitely a good solution that increases the chances that the recipient will rewrite this URL and check out the page.
The shorter the URL, the better. However, on the other hand, this solution also has disadvantages. After all, you aren't working towards improving your brand recognition. Instead of your brand, users will remember the shortener's name.
Note: if you see shortened URLs, and you don't trust the linking website, you can check where it redirects to before you click it. Use this tool - https://wheregoes.com/. Paste the shortened link and you'll see where it leads.
Does URL Shortening Affect SEO? Everything You Should Know
There are numerous advantages of using shortened URLs. But have you ever wondered if such addresses are okay for SEO? Do they have a positive or negative impact on website visibility? As you probably know, links are one of the ranking factors. But how does URL shortening affect SEO?If you use shorteners, you have nothing to worry about, as long as they've a good reputation and come from valuable domains. Matt Cutts, among others, discussed this topic. Although this statement isn't brand new, it still remains relevant.
Link shorteners pass on link juice, so they're taken into account by Google when determining rankings. However, it's worth keeping in mind that social media links often have the nofollow attribute added.
Shorteners use 301 redirects, which are precisely what you're likely to use on your site when you want to combine different pieces of content or get rid of 404 errors.
What's more, Google also offered its link shortener - but the service was withdrawn in March 2019. However, given that it was available for 10 years, Google must have evaluated it positively. Most importantly, after turning off the ability to create new shortened links, the URLs that were created in the past still work. That's why it's very important to use only proven shorteners - after all, you don't want links leading to your website to suddenly stop working!
Since such links are taken into account by Google, can you base your link building strategy on dozens of different shorteners? Not really. Why?
First of all, such solutions are based on different domains, and you don't have full control over the redirects. Some of them can cause redirect chains, or negatively change their link profile. There are more potential problems.
In the past, link shorteners actually could bring excellent SEO results. Nowadays, such links aren't able to give you top positions in search results. Besides, a site with dozens of 301 redirects can look suspicious to Google. Actually, years ago Matt Cutts confirmed that 301 doesn't convey all the power to the website.
If you decide to use shortened URLs for SEO, remember the following rules:
Use only well-known and reputable shorteners - avoid sites that are anonymous, recently established, or have a very bad link profile. This can have a negative impact on your site's visibility.
Use link shorteners that give you the opportunity to determine the URL - this is an SEO-friendly solution and better than a link with a random string of characters.
Choose only shorteners whose links don't have an expiration date. This means that you add a link, and it'll work forever - until the end of the site's existence.
Besides, remember that the shortened URL still needs to be indexed in Google so that it conveys SEO power to your site. To do this, you can either sublink it or use indexing systems.
To sum up - shortened URLs aren’t bad for SEO per se. However, they can be a little bit less powerful because of the 301 redirects they use.
The easiest way to create shortened URLs is to use ready-made shorteners. Check out solutions that are worthy of consideration:
Bitly - is one of the most popular shorteners on the market. Available in both free and paid advanced versions, which offer about 20 different data and statistics related to link clickability in real-time.
Rebrandly - this tool is also available in both paid and free versions. It stands out thanks to its ability to modify URLs according to your preferences (as long as your selected address is available, of course). Just take a look below:
As you can see, we managed to get the following link - https://rebrand.ly/how-to-manage-seo-for-hotels/ which differs from the original link only by the domain name - https://delante.co/how-to-manage-seo-for-hotels/. In addition, you can see click statistics in the management panel:
Short.io - this tool is also available for free and for a fee. The free version allows you to set the slug. It also offers numerous statistics and various data.
Sniply - in this case, besides being able to shorten the link and get statistics on its clickability, you can add a CTA button. It can be used to refer the user to other valuable material on the site. This button will be displayed when people click the shortened URL. Then, it can look in the following way:
TinyURL - one of the oldest link shorteners operating since 2002. If you want to create a shortened URL that won't disappear anytime soon, it's the right fit for you. You don't have to create an account here, but it's a good idea to add links while logged in. Here you can also modify slug, but you can use a maximum of 30 characters with spaces. Gaining access to statistics requires using a paid plan.
BL.INK - this solution offers a free version that allows you to create up to 1,000 shortened URLs. In the management panel, you can track the statistics of individual links, i.e. how often they're clicked. Below you can see the available options:
Test at least a few of the above shorteners and choose the one that meets your expectations. Setting up an account shouldn’t take long. Each tool allows you to log in with your Google account, Facebook, and more.
Your Own Link Shortener
If you add links in social media posts, or you use them for other purposes, it’s a good idea to make sure that the shortened URL comes from your domain, not a completely different site. After all, not all users are familiar with popular shorteners. But how to do it?
If you run a site based on WordPress, the solution is at your fingertips. All you need to do is install Pretty Links - Link Management, Branding, Tracking & Sharing Plugin. It stands out thanks to more than 300,000 active installations and high ratings.
How to use this plugin? It’s child’s play. You just add a link and get its shortened version.
If you don’t use WordPress, you can benefit from other solutions such as Yourls.org. You can find a description of this script on the linked website. Using it, you get a lot of data on not only the number of clicks but also on the users who clicked the link.
However, remember that simplicity is the key to success. So, if you already have numerous WordPress plugins, think twice if you’re going to use this one as well.
If this solution doesn’t satisfy your needs, some paid versions of link shorteners allow you to use your own domain for creating the URLs. Is it worth the investment? Well, let’s be honest - using an off-the-shelf plugin or script is a considerable saving.
To wrap up, let's see what our SEO specialist, Wojciech, says about shortened URLs:
Linking is a process of passing one website’s link juice and power to the other website. Redirects (even 301 ones) decrease the amount of the link juice that is transferred to the target site (it's said it's maximally 85-90%). Links created using bit.ly or other shorteners contain this redirect, so if you can have a direct link, there's not much point in shortening it. However, it’s better to have a shortened link than not to have one at all. Therefore, shortened URLs aren’t so bad for SEO in the end. At least, they don’t have a negative impact on the process.
Off-site SEO specialist, link building expert. At Delante since December 2018, she took her first professional steps in organizing large events. Student of journalism and social communication. Passionate about dance, music and good cinema. Loves listening to people and discussing with people with opposing views.
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