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.
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“).
- 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.
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