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Blacklisted Short Links? Stop Using them in Emails!

Short Links
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Blacklisted short links (URLs) and how to combat receiving blacklist status, especially when sending out emails or sharing on social networks, is a problem which has created a fair amount of confusion and frustration for web-based businesses.

Here’s a scenario:

You are busy trying to get your startup or business venture off the ground, and as the marketing manager, it’s you who are responsible for engaging your email list.

What you might not know, is that there is a problem…

In recent years, those once-fashionable URL shorteners like bit.ly got themselves and their customers into trouble by employing improper authentication data transfer in their short links.

Simply put, in the rush to make all of those massive, clunky URLs more easily shareable, these third-party URL shorteners were characterizes as spam.

In 2014, Google blacklisted bit.ly, which immediately threw millions of certain browser and IP users warnings when clicking on bit.ly short links, causing millions of business owners huge inconveniences.

Black listed short links

The image above shows a report from MXToolBox with a blacklisted short link (IPaddress)

Facebook blacklisted short link

The image shows a Short link blacklisted by Facebook

Here the problem:

Generic short link services like bit.ly/abcdef or goo.gl/123456 are used by millions of people to create billions of links that are disseminated on the Web.

Generic short links can’t be trusted. And because you have no idea of what the destination URL is, and you cannot be sure of who created it. It may be hackers or spammers. That is why practically all the domains used for blacklisted short links are prompting the cry, “I don’t trust your links!”

blacklisted short links
bit.ly links used in spam email

Below are the top 10 of abused generic url shortener:

  1. bit.ly
  2. 6url.ru
  3. tinyurl.com
  4. ow.ly
  5. tiny.cc
  6. goo.gl
  7. migre.me
  8. t.co
  9. bit.do
  10. x.co

Updated: Sat Oct 1 07:00:13 UTC 2016 
Source: Surbl.org/tld 

The Solution: A Branded URL Shortener

But, there is a way around this conundrum. 

Use your own custom URL shortener, in which you control the links.

By creating your own branded links, you avoid attributing your links with other marketers and providers and can stand out from the crowd.

And it just so happens, Rebrandly helps you brand, shorten, and track your links, all in one easy-to-use dashboard.

For those e-commerce and other business owners who were hurt by having their email deliverability hampered because of a blacklisted domain (which causes the blacklist anti-spammers to send a warning to recipients who use various mailbox agents), but who are not hackers or malicious software senders, it truly is a quandary, as a few bad apples have spoiled the barrel.

Part of the confusion lies in the fact that there is not one, uniform blacklist database – each blacklist is slightly different. But, we can build you a new barrel – one that does not carry the stigma of “spammer,” but instead says to the anti-spam alerts for web-based mail senders: “This one’s a legit brand, lay off.”

We will help you dodge spam traps and filters designed to pick up the real “bad guys,” which have also inconvenienced many like yourself.

Since 2010, Facebook has been blocking many of the links generated by bit.ly, so for social media marketing managers, it’s a definite headache, according to an article in Tech Crunch, though customized links since then have come out on top in the spam war.  

Here’s a blog article that does a good job of explaining just how blacklisted link shorteners can block your emails.

For those of you who regularly employ email marketing campaigns to grow your business, these are good lessons to learn, and tips to brush up on.

It’s safe to assume that most of us doing business on the Web aren’t hackers or deliberate spammers, and in fact use trusted links, but the trouble is the spam traps and filters are colorblind, and only see what they’re programmed to respond to.

With link rebranding, however, you get the best of both worlds, by gaining back your once-lost domain respectability and being able to confidently send out those link-shortened email blasts once again.

How to rebrand a link

Here’s the good news:

For all you CEOs, marketing managers and entrepreneurs trying to make a living via online and web-based marketing, creating a trusted link for your domain URL can improve your CTR (click-through rate) by up to 39%.

There’s some very interesting data which breaks down, service by service, how the various URL-shortening outfits rate, on Stop the Hacker.

The data points once again to the fact that, in the URL-shortening process lies a somewhat fatal catch-22: the items web-surfers are attempting to access are being hidden from them, through URL masking.

Link rebranding, and the creation of trusted or authenticated links obviates the confusion and streamlines what has become a clunky situation fraught with “destination denial” by overzealous, blind spam filters and malware detection services that punish all the apples in the spoiled barrel instead of “arrest” the actual short link abusers.

If you’ve been using a custom URL shortener in your email marketing campaigns, be sure to check the status of your domain with the various blacklist services like MX Toolbox.

If it is a blacklisted short URL, let us at Rebrandly know right away, so we can help you create a rebranded, trusted link that will restore your domain reputation and ability to effectively do email marketing, social media marketing, and abbreviate your URL without being seen as someone who inherently has something to hide.

No one will ever say “I don’t trust your links!” again, nor will any malware filters, spam traps, or other mailbox police pull over and arrest your link-shortened URL due to blanket-categorization.

It’s definitely time to get off of the email blacklist. Trusted links make sure your marketing messages reach your intended audience. When your audience trusts your short links, you’ll never see those red flag messages saying, “Warning; go no further”.

The easiest way to create and manage your branded short links, Rebrandly increases brand trust of companies and individuals by showcasing and implementing brand messaging across the Web.

This gives you greater authentication across the board, better CTR and ROI, and consequently, the ability to do bigger and better business overall.

What do you think? Have you been using a blacklisted URL shortener in your links? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Originally Posted: 17th May 2016
Last Updated: 21st September 2017

 

Davide De Guz
Founder at Rebrandly and CEO at ClickMeter, he has more than 15 years of experience in Internet business as entrepreneur and top consultant. He is the author of many articles regarding Internet and new technologies
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  • D Edward Church

    Ironic that ClickMeter is blacklisted for the same reasons.

    • Hi Edward – thanks for making this point! On ClickMeter, starting at $29 per month, users can have a dedicated, branded domain which will not be blacklisted. On the free plan, only a generic short link service is available.

      • D Edward Church

        So, they are a combo of two companies: a short link service and a domain registrar, yet it costs way more than domain registrars.

        • When it comes to branded links, we offer the service of two companies at a price which is a little lower than two companies would cost. But the real benefit comes from having everything integrated, which takes away a lot of the complexity.