The debate over shortened URLs and their usefulness (or lack thereof) has been raging since the advent of URL shortening, borne from the launch of tinyurl.com back in 2002. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages that transpire from the use of shortened URLS which both hurt and help your click-through rate (CTR). I’ve listed a number of the main issues surrounding shortened URLs below, so hopefully this helps you make an informed choice when deciding whether to use shortened URLs in your web marketing campaign.
The first issue I’ve found concerning shortened URLs is the argument that they remove any sense of brandawareness when you use them in your online marketing drive. Brand recognition is a cornerstone of any successful marketing campaign, since you want customers to be able to associate your brand with the product that you’re selling.
For example, if I’m selling memoribilia branded with our company name, the URL to the gift store would be important (e.g. www.convurgency.com/giftstore). However, if you’re looking for something particular like a wool winter hat, the URL might extend to look like “www.convurgency.com/giftstore/winter/accessories/hats” – this is where a shortened URL can come in handy. At the same time, shortening this URL to something like “http://bit.ly/vzIN98” immediately removes the “Convurgency” brand name association, and loses you valuable brownie points in turn.
Another thing that will likely lose you some valuable web traffic if you opt into shortened URLs is the fact that a shortened URL might delegitimize your URL because it doesn’t display your company name. Just like when you lose brand recognition by removing your company name from the URL in order to replace it with random characters, you also lose legitimacy with the removal of your brand name from that URL. Given all the malicious sites permeating the web these days, you can forgive users for not wanting to click a random URL that will redirect them to the unknown.
A third downside to using shortened URLs and something which can definitely hurt your CTR is the loss of linkbacks when you decide to use a shortened URL in your web campaign. As one user at BrightHub.com writes “Linkbacks are valuable SEO currency that help bring a website to the top of the search page. Url shorteners turn golden linkbacks into mush. No matter how many people click, the originating website doesn’t get the credit.” Generally speaking, in order to have a successful marketing campaign and a ton of web traffic coming your way, you want those linkbacks to contribute to boosting your search engine ranking.
Now that we’ve explored two main sticking points about shortened URLs that can potentially hurt your CTR, let’s see ways in which shortened URLs can help your Internet business. Two great reasons why you might want to use shortened URLs are both related to social media marketing. The first is that nine times out of ten, you’ll need to shorten a ridiculously long URL in order to be able to stay within Twitter’s 140 character limit. The second is that many (if not most) URL shortening websites allow you to track the flow of traffic through that shortened URL for items you’ve shared on Twitter and Facebook.
All in all, at the end of the day it’s obvious that there are both pros and cons to using shortened URLs. Losing brand awareness and creating confusion with the removal of your company name from a URL is certainly something you’ll want to take into consideration with your more important URL postings. Additionally, any traffic is good traffic and the more you get the better, so shortened URLs may hurt your CTR since you’re at the risk of losing linkbacks from using these URLs. At the same time, shortened URLs may and sometimes must be used for your all-important social media campaign, so ultimately it is up to you to decide whether you want to sacrifice your CTR in favour of a sleeker and more user-friendly social media blitz.