Shortening links is a technique that’s been around for nearly 20 years now. As a result, there are many myths and misconceptions surrounding the practice. These can deter website owners from using shortened links, and prevent them from enjoying the various benefits associated with them.
As with any technique, link shortening does have its pros and cons. However, many of the supposed downsides can be easily debunked. Understanding how this technique really works will enable you to use link shorteners (and shortened links) more effectively for your website or business.
In this post, we’ll discuss some of the most prevalent myths about link shortening, and explain why they're false. We’ll also offer some advice to help you get the most out of your shortened links. Let’s get started!
A Brief History of Link Shortening
Link shortening is a technique in which a web page's URL is made more concise, and often branded. This is a useful way to share links without using too many characters, which can be a big deal on social media sites in particular.
Link shortening has been around for almost two decades. In that time, it’s evolved significantly. Previously, most shortened links included branding added by whatever link shortener you used (for example, TinyURL or Bit.ly). However, other link shortening tools eventually emerged on the scene, which enable users to fully personalize (or “pretty”) their shortened links.
These days, using shortened links on your website offers a number of benefits. For example, it:
- Increases the aesthetic appeal of your links.
- Lets you share links across various platforms (including social media and web forums) more easily.
- Makes it possible to track clicks and traffic, and to improve your linking practices.
As mentioned above, you can also use shortened links to increase brand awareness. This alone makes them well worth using, both on your site and across the web.
3 Link Shortening Myths (and Why They're False)
Unfortunately, in some parts of the internet, shortened links have developed a poor reputation. The good news is, these myths and misconceptions can easily be debunked.
Let's take a look at three of the most common statements you might hear.
Myth 1: “Shortened Links are Untrustworthy”
Perhaps the greatest myth surrounding shortened links is that they’re untrustworthy. After all, they “hide” the content of a web page, and sometimes, even the site that the link leads to (in the case of non-branded links).
However, this doesn’t have to be the case. There are many link shorteners now, including Pretty Links, that enable you to share more information about each web page with users.
- Use a legitimate link shortener. These are typically well known to internet users and will make your links easier to trust. You'll also want to look for a solution with personalization features that can improve transparency.
- Brand your links. This will lend your brand’s credibility to the link itself, while also telling readers exactly where they’ll be going (i.e. to your website or social media page). It can even increase click-throughs by up to 39% when compared to generic links.
Ultimately, you'll want to consider what makes you trust a link enough to click on it. This will enable you to improve the quality and credibility of your own shortened links, so that they’re just as trustworthy as unshortened ones.
Myth 2: “Link Shortening Negatively Impacts Search Engine Optimization”
Due to Google’s many algorithm changes over the years, there has been some concern surrounding shortened links and their impact on search engine results page (SERP) rankings. While this may be true of generic link shorteners, which tend to have poor redirection practices, high-quality shorteners offer various redirection types.
Indeed, many redirects often used by link shorteners (including 301 and 302), both pass along link juice and PageRank. These help with your site's optimization. While search engine algorithms won’t fault your use of redirects, however, using them incorrectly can have an impact on trustworthiness.
With that in mind, we recommend that you follow these guidelines when shortening your links:
- Choose permanent redirection over temporary. Permanent redirects will make your links more trustworthy in the eyes of search engines.
- Use appropriate anchor text. Anchor text offers key information to internet users so they’ll know what the link contains, and it can also improve your rankings on SERPs.
Myth 3: “Shortened Links are Only Used for Spamming”
In the earliest days of shortened links, they were used extensively by spammers who were looking to misdirect Internet users. However, shortened links are now being used by much more trustworthy companies (such as CoSchedule and Amazon). This shows that the tide has begun to turn, and shortened links do have their place in business after all.
Of course, there are some general rules to follow when it comes to making your links appear credible and non-spammy. You'll want to:
- Use a premium link shortener tool. These are less likely to be used by scammers (after all, there are many free alternatives). They also offer many benefits that can make your links appear more trustworthy, such as branding options.
- Add a slug to each URL. A “slug” appears at the end of a link, and briefly describes the link’s contents. This can instill trust in readers and encourage click-throughs.
Of course, you’ll also want to consider how you use your shortened links. For example, adding them to a blog’s comment section or a forum without any commentary can look spammy. Instead, use your links as an addition when posting them on external sites, rather than as the main focus.
Link shortening has had quite a diverse past, and there are still many misconceptions surrounding link shorteners that are often believed. However, most of these can be easily debunked.
In this post, we’ve discussed the most common myths surrounding shortened links. To quickly recap, here are the three things we’ve learned about link shortening:
- Shortened links can be trustworthy.
- Link shortening does not negatively impact search engine optimization.
- Shortened links don’t have to appear “spammy”.