URL Shorteners: what are they and what are they for?

13 February 2018

URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is a string of characters that follows a standard and which the objective is to allocate a unique address to each of the resources found on the Internet: to open not only webpages but also images, audios and videos. It allows you to create hyperlinks in the World Wide Web, making internet navigation easier.

URL Shortener Definition

It’s a web tool that randomly allocates a sequence of numbers and characters to the URL that you want to shorten. It will considerably reduce the length of the original link.

Why shorten a URL?

When you want to share a link on any social network, the importance lies in the fact that the link is not too long and in knowing how many clicks that link receives on the social network where it was shared. URL shorteners will help you with both things but there are many other benefits:

✔️ It offers metrics

You can obtain the click stats when you shorten the link: volume, geographical origin, more active users, etc. Indispensable data to know the effectiveness of the link you shared.

✔️ It saves characters

Characters on social networks are very valuable. You avoid links that take up several lines using URL shorteners. Besides, you will have more space on your publications where the use of characters is limited, like on Twitter.

✔️ You can customize a URL

When you replace the letters and random numbers generated by tools for a call-to-action button to encourage users to do something, you can write a key word that describes the content of the link. You will offer more information to users and it will look nicer esthetically.

✔️ You can program updates

Once a URL is shortened, you can use it to schedule your social networks at the best time, from the same tools used to compress the URL

How do you shorten a URL?

There are multiple services on the internet that can help you to shorten a URL of a specific web page or any other address. All of them are free.

The addresses offered by these apps consist of two parts: the domain of the service and a unique key generated by algorithms based on numerical systems.

When you use the new shortened address on the browser, it accesses the service that searches for an equivalence on its data base and it redirects you to the original URL

To reduce the length of a URL using an app, simply follow these steps: Access the service and paste the URL that you want to shorten. The app will return the link in a shorter format.

Is it necessary to use an external tool?

It isn’t always necessary to use an external app to shorten a link, especially on the main social networks, social media planners or CMS.  For a while and more and more every day, online platforms have their own tools to compress a URL automatically. Some examples are:

  • WordPress: Use me to shorten links on your blog publications
  • Twitter: Use co for all links used on a tweet.
  • Facebook: Use me to reduce links on your profile or business pages.
  • LinkedIn: Use in to compress links on this professional platform
  • YouTube: Use be when you share a video
  • Google: use gl to trim URLs
  • Karmacrazy: Use me as a shortening tool
  • Tumblr: Use co to shorten links used on its platform
  • Metricool: the app that allows to program your content on social networks, it also offers, as long as you are a premium user, the option of shortening links automatically when the content is uploaded on social media. For users of Metricool’s free version, a link will be shortened directly when they include it on their posts.

Other tools to shorten a URL

On the internet, there is a wide range of services to quickly shorten a URL, some of them are:

➖ Bitly: One of many other services that you can find on the market. Besides other features, it offers the possibility to customize your URL addresses in a few seconds and at no cost. It also provides the stats of your link.

➖ iS.gd: It’s a basic URL compressor. However, this tool has a very interesting option: it allows you to create short pronounceable links. The advantage is that the links will be easily remembered. You can also create QR codes with this app.

➖ Tiny.cc: As the previous one, you can shorten links and convert them into QR codes. You can customize URLs and share them on social networks.

➖ Tr.im: Easy-to-use web service to shorten URLs. You just have to paste the address in the box and it will show you the new short one on the same screen.

 Some disadvantages of shortening URLs

There are some disadvantages that come with URL shortening:

✅ Many people and marketing professionals avoid clicking on very short URLs because they are sometimes customized to send spam or even viruses.

✅ There are other methods to obtain analytics for your web page.

✅ Twitter used to be the social network that put more obstacles in the way of including URLs. However, now they included an update that converts a URL of any length into a 23 characters.

✅ Short URLs might create distrust with those who have to click on them in case they redirect them to spam.

To shorten or not to shorten a URL, that is the question. You will have to consider whether it is worth it or not and whether your audience will feel comfortable tapping on your short links or the opposite.

Do you have any comments or doubts? We read all your comments!

Sara Martín Sara Martín , 13 February 2018

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