The Pros and Cons of Link Shortening
We'll begin with the most obvious: URL shortening services make hyperlink text look more attractive. Normally, website URLs take up a bunch of space. They’re often unattractive strings of random letters and numbers and can be distracting and aesthetically unpleasing.
However, it’s more than just aesthetics. Shortened links make the reading experience smoother, particularly on social media platforms. In addition, they make it easier for your viewers to share content, and less likely they’ll make an error when copying over links (although this is less of a concern when using modern smartphones).
Not only that, but there’s no danger of losing any hard-won SEO benefits – Google is smart enough to pass on link juice for any 301 or permanent redirects implemented.
There’s also click tracking to consider, and measuring the success of your marketing efforts is always imperative. In a nutshell, you can’t improve audience targeting if you don’t know how they respond to your content. Link shorteners provide analytics to show you who has clicked your links, and they’re often available through a centralized dashboard view.
Shortened links also play nicely with UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes, which enables you to track clicks across specific campaigns, keeping analytics from one platform (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) separate from the others.
Finally, some URL shortening services even provide custom link editing – more on that later.
While there is a bevy of benefits to using link shorteners, nothing’s perfect.
For starters, the increasing proliferation of so-called ‘fake news’ means online viewers are more likely to be wary of shortened links. That can lead to distrust, resulting in fewer clicks.
Also, the nature of redirections introduces many potential points of failure between a user clicking the link and visiting the desired website. Sometimes, a shortened URL may send the user through two, three, or more redirects, and if one fails, it means a user could potentially head to a competitor – a serious problem.
Additionally, if you’re using a link shortening service rather than a dedicated tool such as Pretty Links, your shortened URL may go down. Services aren’t guaranteed to last forever, and once a service goes down, so do any links tied to it.
What’s more, ISPs occasionally blacklist URL shorteners in an effort to impede the efforts of spammers who use link shortening for malicious purposes. If this occurs, again, expect a frustrated reader who will likely head to your competition.
Finally, many URL shorteners use their own branding, which dilutes the mention of your own domain, and arguably causes your own brand to suffer.