I have a confession. I’ve haven’t clicked on an ow.ly link in over four years, and I click very sparingly on bit.ly links that I find in social. This isn’t an attack on shortened links, rather a celebration of the fact that we don’t NEED shorteners anymore. But we still use them because they make life easier. While they make life easier for marketers, it may actually hinder the overall visibility of your content.
The following are the reasons that I don’t advocate the use of URL shorteners in 2013 and beyond:
They mask URLs and require an implicit level of trust.
If you follow a user and they tweet out a link, you have to trust that the shortened link is going to the correct location. You can however fool people, or worse yet, send them to spam/phishing sites. Do you think you’ll see Detroit Lions news in the link below?
You may be stifling the power of your brand/site.
You see that there is an semi-interesting tweet on a topic and a shortened link. Not seeing the URL, you may fail to click. If you had known that the link headed to a reputable site or a favorite destination, you may have clicked. In the example below, I would prefer clicking on content in the left where i can cherry pick by sources that I trust.
It can hinder visibility by making more work for others.
In many forms of social media (forums, comments, communities, submissions) content requires approval before being published. Let’s take a look at Google+ Communities for an example. There is an overwhelming amount of spam on the network and content submitted needs to be vetted. If you submit a piece of content to a community, an administrator is likely to see this:
Your visibility now rests on the fact that the moderator will have to not only read your post, but also click through the shortened link. If the moderator saw that the link directly sent people to a site like Marketing Land or AdWeek, they’d like approve in a heartbeat. But now they have to do work to help you. This is the same exact issue with comments, forum posts, and social news submissions. Make it easy on those that must approve.
You don’t need the shortening!
With the evolution of Twitter’s t.co service and the increases of Facebook characters, we don’t need the benefits of shortening. The most popular shortener, bit.ly, will leave you with the same amount of characters as the standard full link inputted into Twitter.
Social analytics on par with shortener analytics now exist.
Back in the day, shortened links were required to see stats. Today there are analytics on most major social sites that show exactly how content did.
Additionally, campaigns can be created within your analytics package to provide properly attributed traffic. Use the Google URL builder (or auto-create a solution to append data to Tweets) and you’ll see all you need to view in your analytics, no short link required.
Of course, the number one item to consider when making your decision is – what works for you? If you are somehow pulling invaluable data or saving buckets of time stick with what is working for you. For example, here is an instance where shortened links may actually be preferred. Let say that you have a generic Facebook Page where you link out to sites that aren’t yours and you don’t care about enticing users to click on a link, rather just looking to track. Boom, just use a link shortener and don’t try to send more traffic to the source.
So, we’d recommend testing and using what works. If you liked this post fell free to follow us on Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Just don’t expect to see shortened links coming from those accounts anytime soon!