May 22, 2011

URL Shortening Services

You may not have given much thought to using a URL shortening service.  For most people, when they click the share button on a blog post, they get redirected to their Twitter or Facebook accounts with the URL already shortened.  

Did you know that not all URL shortening services are created equal?  Remember that more than anything else, the primary use of URL shortening services is that it allows you share your articles, pages and content with the rest of the world.  So take time to choose the best one for your needs.

What is URL shortening?
Basically, it helps you shorten the URL you have, which might prove handy when you are using Twitter or any other services that limits the number of characters that you send.

What makes a good URL shortener?

1. 301 Redirects. You would want more link juice from the shortened URL, which is why a 301 redirect or a permanent redirect is vital.  When a search engine sees a 301 redirect, they would still credit the long URL behind it, earning you brownie points with your search rankings. 

2. Reliability. Think about the embarrassment of tweeting a short URL then have people reply that it is not working.  Choose a highly reliable URL shortening service to avoid this headache.  Also, you might want to test for longevity.  You may have been using a URL shortener for a year and then that service shuts down.  What would happen to a year’s work then?

3. Tracking. An added service for most URL shortening sites, tracking can give you good insights on which ones of your tweets and shares are getting clicked.  This way, you would know which topics are of interest to your audience and you could do more of these in the future.

Some people might think that tracking is not important.  They reason that you could get the same information on Google Analytics anyway.  But tracking and metrics provided by URL shortening service are much more detailed.  GA would just tell you the total number of visits you get from Twitter, for example.  There is no way of knowing which links have been clicked and what content was appreciated by relying on GA alone.

4. Sharing. If you want more traffic for your pages, then consider a URL shortener that also shares the most clicked or most popular URLs clicked through them.  For example, tweets the most popular links on its Twitter account, Plurl shows the most recent links on its home page, while Snurl has a Browse Snips tab.

What We Recommend
While choosing a URL shortening service is a matter of personal choice, we recommend this service based on the criteria above. – uses 301 redirects, and provides tracking and sharing support.  What’s more, you could use it on TweetDeck, Twitterfeed and Twhirl. This is what we use personally.