If you’ve ever used Twitter or if you’re really into short URL’s you will be likely to have come across the URL shortening services that are available from a few different companies.
The idea behind the service provided is to solve the problem of the ever increasing length and complexity of URL’s.
Many sites will have increasingly difficult and long URL’s that do not suit linking the entire URL within a piece of content on another web page.
My understanding is that these services started out as a way for people to link to content within emails, specifically so that long URL’s do not wrap to different lines on an email, they have however evolved into more common usage for content services where short URL’s have major advantages.
News articles, particularly excerpts, are starting to use these shortened URL services as well as the new micro-blogging systems (e.g. Twitter) where the amount on content in any single post is limited to a number of characters so space is a premium and the shorter the URL the better.
Since their launch, URL services have also been promoted by their companies as a way for affiliates to link to an affiliate URL without displaying the fact that it’s an affiliate link.
In its worst form, there are people who have started to use services like Twitter to link to ‘interesting’ information where the link is in fact a hidden affiliate link.
The real problem here is the user who is clicking on the link has no way of knowing where the link is going to take them. This leaves the situation quite open to abuse by either trusted parties or potentially by someone who could hack the URL shortening service itself.
One of the immediate benefits of some of these services in affiliate marketing is the option to include tracking statistics on things like the number of clicks and timing of when people have clicked through.
If you don’t already have a tracking system in place, this can be a good use of a freely available system to track certain links e.g. email links or even links through social networks.
Here are examples of some of the services that provide the short URLs:
The key in using these URL services is about trust. Make sure you don’t leave a feeling like you mislead the user into clicking to somewhere they didn’t know they were going. If you’re always clear about where the link is going to take the user or at the least what service it will take the user to then the Short URL’s can have a real place in your marketing.