If you have ever had trouble seeing where your customers are coming from, wanted more information on what systems are performing best for you, or just want to add a new tool to your marketing tool bag, then let me introduce you to URL Shorteners.
If you have ever seen a URL that starts with goo.gl, bit.ly, or owl.ly, then you’ve seen a shortened URL. There are many services out there for URL shortening, but they all basically operate in the same way.
URL Shorteners are Convenient
URL Shorteners are not only a great marketing tool, but they also provide value to your customers. There are many ways to obtain marketing analytics, but few of these ways provide value to your customers. In short, URL shorteners provide value in shorter, less intimidating URLs. Obvious, right?
To truly appreciate their value, here is an example:
Shortened URL: http://bit.ly/sr5DrA
Notice that the URL went from 77 characters to 13 characters. That makes the URL look much nicer to your customers, and now allows you to pull relevant data, especially when placed strategically.
URL Shorteners are Easy
If you’ve ever tried to use Google Analytics, it’s easy to see how some people might find it terribly intimidating. That is why many people will like using URL shorteners. You only need to setup a free account with your shortening service, select the URLs you want to shorten, and create your newly shortened URLs.
To make things really easy, add some notes to describe your URL like where you’re going to place it. It is good practice to make URLs for each system. Using our example above, I could describe the above shortened URL as “For Twitter” and only use that shortened URL in my tweets on twitter.
Then, when one of my followers clicks on the link, it will be logged within Bit.ly and when I log into Bit.ly and see that the shortened URL that I described as “For Twitter” has a click, I know it came from Twitter!
You can get as granular as you want with the URLs, but just remember that it can get cumbersome managing too many URLs.
URL Shorteners are Free
The thing I like most about URL shorteners is that they are effective AND free. There are many competing services out there, so there is plenty to choose from. You can also pay for a vanity URL shortener which allows you to create your own short URL so it looks a bit more professional.
Don’t get me wrong, Google Analytics is a fantastic system, and it is also free, but it just isn’t for everyone. URL Shorteners are a great way to still get effective analytics on where your customers are coming from for free.
URL Shorteners Drawback
All of this sounds so great, but there has to be some sort of drawback, correct? Oh yes, there is. By having all of these shortened URLs out there, you lose some of your link love that you would be getting if your actual URL were being displayed. This means that you may not rank as highly in Google, because Google sees your shortened URL, not your actual URL.
I can’t give you any solid numbers (Google is very secretive), and I’ve heard some claim this will be rectified eventually, but regardless, I’ve heard enough SEO gurus claim this to be the case. By having the shortening service’s name instead of yours, the link love goes to them instead of you.
You need to choose if that is a big enough drawback for you, but if you’re having trouble figuring out where your customers are coming from, or want to start seeing this kind of information without learning a whole reporting system, then this may be perfect for you.
Do you use URL shorteners for marketing purposes? What tricks or tips work for you?