Tools

URL Shrinkers – When, Where and Why to Use Them

Last week Jane posted a must-read overview of various URL shorteners and WebproWorld.com forum thread discussed the SEO benefit of TinyURL and similar services (there is no SEO benefit by the way). I think this is hot enough topic to discuss it at SEJ also.

tinyurl URL Shrinkers   When, Where and Why to Use Them

Why URL Shortening Services Exist?

  • For usability purposes: most people are more inclined to click a shorter URL (example: email clients will break a too long URL up by line making it less clickable);
  • New technology oriented: with social networking or “microblogging” sites (e.g. Twitter and Plurk) that have strict character limits per message, URL shorteners allow to send over long URLs or say more within one message.
  • To disguise destination links: to mask affiliate links or ad-tracking codes.

Benefits of URL Shorteners:

  • very short URLs: for example, some services allow for very short (appealing) links (Is.gd);
  • URL tracking: a few services offer handy statistics. Dwarfurl.com shows how many times an URL was clicked and bit.ly offers stats by referrer.
  • customization: some services (e.g. Snurl) allow to insert words in the string (to make it more appealing);
  • bookmarking: many URL shorteners (Snurl, TinyURL, Dwarfurl.com, IcanHaz) provide either FireFox buttons or extensions for you to easily shrink URLs right with one click from your browser.

Disadvantages of URL Shorteners:

  • “Ugly” URLs: no readable words in the URL (the user doesn’t know “what awaits him”); destination domain name is also invisible that allows for abuse;
  • Shortened URL “blindness” (especially with popular services); people just won’t click it unless it is from a trusted person (see: “Avoid Blind TinyURL Clickthroughs“);
  • Some services (e.g. Tiny.cc) will send the user to the advertisement before redirecting to the destination page;
  • Not safe (like with any other third party solutions): once the service is down, your shortened URL will no longer work.
  • Browser-associated problems: some browsers simply have problems loading the shortened URLs, (Example: “Cannot access TinyURL.com“).

Conclusion:

  • use the services when you can’t do without them (e.g. with Twitter and Twitter applications that automatically shrink a long URL using TinyURL);
  • use the services when you don’t care if the link will be clicked or who it will be clicked by;
  • don’t use them at your own site.

Post image: Hello! My URL Is…

 URL Shrinkers   When, Where and Why to Use Them
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project, MyBlogGuest.com.
 URL Shrinkers   When, Where and Why to Use Them

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7 thoughts on “URL Shrinkers – When, Where and Why to Use Them

  1. The main prob with these services is that you don’t control the service, you have no idea if they are going to change the rules of the game tomorrow or even if they’ll be on business.

    This is also an opportunity for someone who wants to build this kind of application as a add on for websites, that could be installed by me.

  2. I’d say I’d agree with your post here. I use Twitter and when I need to post URLs there, I make sure I use tinyurl.com . It just makes writing long URLs easier.

    In the same breath, I’d say use it only when you have to. Of course it is not adviseable to put TinyUrls in your business card. When branding is an issue, it is best to use what will give your product or service the highest recall. And that would be your company, brand, service name.

    I would agree with Antonio’s comments too, you don’t control the service, and so therefore you’re stuck with what TinyURL is given you.

    I’m not too sure too if the Tiny URLs last a lifetime or gets recycled eventually. At any rate, it is best to stick to what will work best with your purpose.