URL shorteners are awesome. I never knew they were such an integral part of our lives before I started using them since I began tweeting in earnest. It's not just about making links shorter, but it's also about efficiency and how you manage your online activities that ultimately revolve around links and the act of sharing them.
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Here's a guide on choosing the best URL shorteners - you'll want to stick to your tried-and-true service but at the same time, experiment with better alternatives.
Why Do We Need URL Shorteners?
According to a poll by SearchEngineLand, it was discovered that approximately 5 out of 10 people who use URL shorteners are in favor of them because it the shortened links no longer look clumsy or take up space.
1. It adds more SEO juice. Surprise, surprise - keywords incorporates in shortened URLS are apparently detectable by Googlebot. This means that you can make URL shortening a viable addition to your SEO efforts since it doesn't cost any money. Moreover, Google's Matt Cutts has already confirmed that "Google will treat any links to that 301 redirect as being a link - for the sake of pagerank - to the destination." Anchor text, position on the page, and other factors are also taken into account.
2. Short URLs are easier to remember, sticks to the mind. And less messy too. Compare this: http://info.webtoolhub.com/KB-a307-6-ways-to-drive-traffic-and-build-audience-for-your-new-wordpress-blog.aspx
And now look at this: http://bit.ly/1jjORp2
Which is easier to remember? Although wordy links do have their merits, it's generally more beneficial if links are made more manageable to share. Tip: A nifty little URL shortener called ?.ws (Tiny Arrows) allows you to shorten your links AND add a keyword to it. This is mighty helpful in describing the link.
3. It helps you to protect your brand name. By now, most brands would've realized the benefit in preserving their brand names by registering the right domains as well as social media user names (Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook accounts, to name a few). The same goes for URL shorteners. By registering your own vanity URL first, you'll reserve that name for yourself, so don't wait until someone got there first!
Things To Look Out for
- Redirects: It is now the standard to ideally choose a URL shortener that provides 301 redirects. This redirect is a message from a web server that notifies browsers and search engines that the short URL has permanently moved to the long (original) address. Use the HTTP Viewer to find out whether or not your chosen URL shortener has 301 redirects or 302 redirects. The latter, of course, isn't preferable as it's only "temporary".
- Reliability and stability: A good URL shortening service offers ample support. Besides that, it pays to choose one that has a good reputation, not one of these "fly-by-night" services. A good example of a reputable service is TinyURL, which has been around since 2002 and Bit.ly, whose founders managed to raise $2 million worth of funding.
- Social media sharing: Most URL shorteners now offer good sharing options if you want to share your shortened link to your social media profiles. Some services even go the extra mile and round up popular links and display them on their page, giving you an extra boost in traffic.
- Tracking: Tracking features are awesome as the collect stats and lets you see how many people have been clicking on your link.
Most Popular URL Shorteners
1. Bit.ly : By far one of the sexiest URL shorteners there is. Using it might increase your traffic, some say. It also leverages on its analytics data to show you number of clicks and saves.
2. Buff.ly: This shortener is a must-use if you are a Buffer fan. Like Bit.ly, it also presents a bunch of useful stats for its users, and on top of that, schedule your social sharing by spacing them out optimally.
3. BudURL : For those who take their URL shortening and tracking seriously, BudURl is the right service for them. Although it costs money (four different pricing plans are available), the service packs a punch by shortening URLs, generating QR codes from it and creating convenient micro-sites.
URL shorteners have touched our lives in more ways than one would care to remember. I'm happy that more URL shortening sites are improving for the better, but it would be nice if these services somehow evolved to indicate the content that I will be redirected to - perhaps a couple of abbreviated letters i.e. YT for Youtube, SLD for Slideshare or even NSFW for, well, NSFW content. Ultimately, I am also concerned whether or not my link will survive if the service that hosts my short URL dies.