The Smart Way to Shrink Your Links and Stay in Control

Short links are all the rage on sites like Twitter.

Are you curious why people use short links?

Or wondering how to create them yourself?

Short links take this:

http://www.shareasale.com/r.cfm?b=291674&u=468400&m=31479&urllink=&afftrack=

And turn it into this:

https://www.michelleshaeffer.com/go/premise

Isn’t that better?

 

Why Use a “Short” Link?

Short links make URLs easier to share and remember.  They fit in tweets and share easily via email.

Some URL shorteners allow you to track and analyze which ones are being clicked on.

Using the right link shortener will also give you a way to protect your links and change them later.  So you can cloak affiliate links and change what products you promote as needed without losing the work you’ve put into building links!

How to Shorten a Link

Let’s cover two simple ways to shorten your links and the advantages of each.

1. Use a shortening service like SnipURL, TinyURL or Bit.ly

There are many websites that offer link shortening. Search for “shorten my link” and you’ll find lots of results.

Both of these are easy to use. Just copy and paste your URL into their shortening box, click a button, and you get your shortened link back. Bit.ly also offers free tracking for your links.

The main disadvantage of these links is that you don’t control the domain name or shortened link so if the site disappears eventually your link won’t work anymore. You also can’t change the link later with most services (some premium paid versions give you more control).

Another challenge with some of the popular link shorteners is that because spammers have used them to hide URLs they’re sending out, they can cause an email to be flagged as spam. Don’t use them in your newsletters or autoresponders.

However, they work well when you need a super short link for the social networks.

2. Use a script on your own domain

If you’re using WordPress, the plugins GoCodes or Pretty Link Lite are a simple way to shorten links and stay in control of them. They also give you the ability to edit the link that a shortened link points to. Choose one and install it the same as any other plugin. Go to “Plugins” then search for “GoCodes” or “Pretty Link Lite” then install and activate.

This works especially well for affiliate marketers. If I recommend Big Website Host A right now, I can make a short link to my recommended host. If next week, I realize there’s something better and decide to recommend Big Website Host B, I can change the link my short link points to and redirect people to the new recommendation. All my short links will still work but they’ll point to Big Website Host B instead.

There are other options out there if you don’t run your site with WordPress, so just search for free URL shortener scripts and compare your choices.

Using your own domain as the base for your shortened links allows you to continue building links to your own website, and building your brand. It also makes the link less likely to cause your newsletter or autoresponder to get flagged as spam.

Are you using a link shortener?  What’s your favorite shortener and why?

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14 Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this great tip, Michelle! Using a link shortener definitely makes life easier. I like how some programs, like Hootsuite, do it automatically for you as well!
    Kimberly ~ Gypsy recently posted… Does the Lack of Email Manners & Tacky Customer Service Have You Frustrated?My Profile

    1. I use ow.ly in Hootsuite all the time for quick shortening, it’s a great feature. :)
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Want to Know My Secret Weapon?My Profile

  2. Which is the one you use to create links with /go/ like the example?
    Lisa recently posted… Top 3 tips for entrepreneursMy Profile

    1. That’s GoCodes. I love it.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Success with WebinarsMy Profile

  3. It’s okay to laugh when you read this. I thought people were literally going in and created re-directs for those ‘go codes’. I had thought about doing it & it seemed like so much work. I’m so glad I popped over to your post tonight Michelle. You’ve saved me from creating a monster project. Thanks! :)
    Loralee Hutton recently posted… 3 New Clients in 2 hours. Do you have an intake process?My Profile

    1. Yeah, the plugin makes it MUCH easier than setting up and maintaining redirects through cPanel or .htaccess. I could do it that way… but the plugin is quicker and gives me better stats. :)

  4. Informative indeed Michelle!

    I use Bitly mostly because for the social networks that works well. But I had no idea about the other two links you mentioned, nor about how these links can’t really be edited or changed in-case we need to change them. I guess I need to check them out.

    Thanks for sharing. :)
    Harleena Singh recently posted… Do You Follow Unhealthy Ways to Lose WeightMy Profile

    1. It’s worth looking at if you do much affiliate or email marketing. I’ll make it easier down the road.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Embed a TED Talk Video in a Blog PostMy Profile

  5. I am currently using Pretty Link Lite. These shorteners can be such a time saver when you change your mind about a recommendation or a company goes out of business. You may have links all over the internet, not to mention autoresponders, free reports, ebooks and more. It is a huge relief when you remember you only need to update that link once and in one place. Can you imagine the former? Yikes!
    Angie Nelson recently posted… The Best WordPress Plugins for 2012My Profile

    1. Right! Anytime I’ve only got to remember one place to update–that’s awesome.
      Michelle Shaeffer recently posted… How to Get Your Fan Page Shut Down by FacebookMy Profile

  6. “Are you using a link shortener? ”

    Not really, because I think keywords in domains and links are too valuable. I try to use keywords in my links, like http://www.romandesign.ca/design-portfolio , it’s not terribly wrong and has good keywords in it.

  7. Great Article Michelle, but i have a concern, I don’t think shortlinks can pass link juice to your links
    Gautham Nekkanti recently posted… Google PageRank Update this August, 2012My Profile

  8. Okay, I can see I’m going to have read this post over and over in order to get this information into my thick skull. Better yet, I need to hire a VA to take care of all this stuff. Michelle, I just don’t get how you process all this stuff well enough to share it. I’m still having issues creating broadcasts at Aweber. :-)
    Julia Neiman recently posted… 8 Patterns of Self-SabotageMy Profile

  9. You’re right that while the shorteners can be great they are also favorites of spammers.
    Thanks for telling us about the WordPress plugins that allow us to stay in control.. Those make me feel more assured that folks will click my links.
    Flora Morris Brown, Ph.D. recently posted… Stir Up Some Encouragement, Inspiration, and RejuvenationMy Profile

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