Not using link shorteners in your content? Well, don’t get short with us! Shortened URLs can improve your content marketing efforts and help you track those efforts more efficiently.
What is a URL shortener? It’s an application that converts a regular web URL into a condensed link, usually between 10 and 20 characters long. URL shorteners come in two main varieties: there are standalone shorteners, those not tied to a content management system (CMS), such as Bit.ly, Goo.gl and Awe.sm. Then there are shortening services embedded within a CMS, a popular example being Ow.ly, which is part of Hootsuite. Shortened links are used widely across social media, emails and company websites – but don’t take our word for it – we’ve listed the most important benefits below.
Shortened Links Are More Attractive
The hard truth is that shortened URLs have become commonplace and you place yourself in the minority by not choosing to include them in your content. Shortened URLs tend to blend in while long links tend to stick out in an unprofessional way.
Being that most people are used to shortened links, this comes with a variety of hidden advantages, such as higher click-through rates and more shares per post. If you consider the issue simply from an aesthetic viewpoint, shortened links are more attractive, leave room for more content per post, and are easier to share.
They Customize your Brand
Shortened URLs provide a unique branding opportunity for businesses. Several shortening services offer customized domain branding. What this means is that, instead of your shortened URL appearing as an Ow.ly or Bit.ly link, you can create your own vanity URL, similar to a license plate on your car. For example, Time Inc.’s vanity URL is “ti.me” and Moz has a vanity URL of “mz.cm.”
Using customized domains creates more trusted interactions with your audience. Seeing the company name embedded in the shortened URL ensures that the link is secure, credible and will lead the user to the intended site.
They Measure Web Traffic
The real secret weapon when it comes to URL shorteners is that most come with tracking analytics needed for analyzing social campaigns. That’s right, shortened URLs can be tracked in real-time, with information on audience demographics, engagement rate, and click-through rate available instantly. Other available metrics may include time and date the link was clicked, which channel it was viewed from, and from what type of device.
Bit.ly, for example, allows registered users access to stats on any link ever shortened using their service. To aggregate your social data, use one shortening service for all of your links to easily refer to your metrics. Using this data, it’s simple to gauge the popularity of individual posts or your entire campaign. Is there a higher engagement rate on mobile devices versus PCs? Are you getting more hits from California than New York? You can thank your URL shortening service for that useful information!
Shortened Links Track Dark Social
A growing problem in the world of content marketing is the inability to track dark social shares. If you think dark social doesn’t affect your marketing efforts, think again. Dark social sharing accounts for more than half of all shared online content, a whopping 59 percent! URL shorteners are one of the few loopholes granting marketers access to the source of dark social content. Making use of the tracking analytics feature of Bit.ly, for example, will help you get a grip on the number of link shares you were previously unable to track.
Shortened URLs may seem like a novelty when building a social media campaign, but beyond its aesthetic and practical qualities lie a number of unseen benefits, such as the ability to aggregate your metric data, customize your brand URL, increase sharing and click-through rates and monitor dark social sharing more effectively. The long and short of it is – if your marketing team doesn’t already employ the use of shortened URLs, now is the time to start.