The True Cost Of Using Short Links
If you’re researching short link providers it’s likely that cost is a big factor in your decision. Fair warning, this article isn’t about comparing the pricing plans of link shortening tools but rather what it actually will cost you to use them.
While some short link providers may have a free package or a low-cost price there are actually a lot of challenges and that they bring. We’ve taken a look at what this cost is and our solution for avoiding these issues while still getting the benefits of using a link shortener. In this post, I’m going to take a look at some of the challenges that short URLs pose and how you can avoid these hidden costs.
The Limitations of Short Links
There are many limitations to using short links but I want to focus on four main issues you’ll experience when using short links. These are branding, trust, security, and control.
You lose branding
Every link you share has the potential to increase your brand exposure. That’s why companies like MacDonalds are even going so far as to buy top-level-domains with their own brand name.
When you shorten a URL using a link shortener like TinyURL the link it produces uses its own domain rather than yours. This means that every time you share this link you’re promoting their brand rather than your own. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with promoting their brand but why would you pass on an opportunity to showcase your own brand name?
You lose trust
Because of this lack of branding, it can be more difficult for people to trust where your link leads them. Link trust becomes a factor when someone is deciding if they should click a link or not. Generic short URLs can look suspicious and you want people to be reassured that this link will lead them to relevant content and not some kind of phishing website or spam.
As Lifewire puts it in their article The Dangers of Short Links, “Not only does the link not look anything like the original, it completely obscures the intended link destination. There is no way by looking at the short link that you can tell what the intended target link is. All you see in the short link is the link shortening service site name followed by a string of seemingly random numbers and letters.”
You lose security
Did you know with most short URL providers like Goo.gl or Bitly anyone can add a + symbol to the end of your link and see its analytics? Even Donald Trump’s link analytics were visible during his election campaign.
Nobody wants their analytics to be visible to the world. Take this example that I found on my Twitter feed:
This tweet was shared using a link from bit.ly. By copying this link and adding a + symbol to the end I can see how this link is performing. It shows me the number of clicks that this link has gotten, the distribution of these clicks over time, the top referring sources and the locations that these clicks come from presented in a dashboard that looks like this:
Imagine how useful it would be for a competitor to see how your links are performing. Using this information they could copy your strategies by replicating a similar campaign focusing on the most successful referral sources and most engaged regions. ZDNet wrote an article about how you can use this information to find and track the performance of your competitor’s campaigns to use this to your advantage.
You lose control
The final cost of using short URLs that I want to discuss is the lack of control you have over your links once you create them. Generic short URL tools don’t allow you to edit or even delete your short links after you’ve created them. This is not only an issue if you made a mistake when creating your short links but it inhibits you from changing where these links lead after they’ve been shared.
If you forgot to add UTM parameters or misspelled something in your link not having the ability to edit your link means starting over again which can be particularly frustrating if you only notice the issue after you’ve already begun sharing and promoting your link.
How to avoid these issues
So what’s the solution? I get it, you don’t want to give up the capabilities of shortening links to tidy up long URLs or avoid character limitations.
Luckily, the solution not only solves these issues but also gives even more value. Branded links, also known as vanity URLs are custom short links that feature your domain name and are fully customizable. Here’s how they address each of the issues with the Short links we discussed.
You don’t have to go as far as registering your own branded TLD like McDonald’s has done but when instead of promoting your link shortener’s brand you can instead promote your own brand. Branded links allow you to use your own domain that showcases your brand name, a top-level domain that’s relevant to what you do and a unique keyword.
If you’ve ever wanted to create a custom short link but found that the URL slug you wanted was already taken, using your own domain also takes this issue out of the equation.
We’ve found that branded links can increase click-through rates by up to 39% due to the increased trust people experience when they see your brand name is used on a link.
Not only this but branded links also make the destination of the link clearer. You can clearly demonstrate that this link leads to relevant content by delivering a message with the link itself.
For example, by if we shared a tweet that said “Click-through-rate is a tricky business bit.ly/ju7G5e” there’s no clarity in where this link leads. It could be a video, a sign-up page, an article or anywhere really.
But if we shared a tweet that said “Click-through-rate is a tricky business Rebrandly.blog/How-To-Increase-CTR” it’s clear that this link leads to a post on our blog about how you can increase your click-through-rate. The bottom line is more trust results in more clicks.
Branded link providers like Rebrandly don’t allow your analytics to be seen by anyone except you and your teammates.
This means that only people you add to your Rebrandly team will have access to your data and analytics. There may not be anyone standing by to spy on the performance of your campaigns but being able to run campaigns and test out new ways of promoting your links should be something you can do without worrying that a competitor or someone else is looking at the performance of your links.
Rebrandly allows you to delete, edit or change your links in any way you see fit. So if you accidentally shared the wrong link or misspelled it, you can change this directly from your Rebrandly dashboard.
This also becomes useful when you want to redirect the destination of your link after it’s reached a certain number of clicks, after a certain number of sign-ups on the landing page or after a certain length of time.
For example, if you were selling tickets for an event you were holding, once all the tickets were sold you could redirect the link to a separate landing page where people could sign up for discounted tickets for next year’s event.
There’s a hidden cost of using short links. Not a financial cost but rather one that affects the quality of the links that you create, manage and share.
Branding, trust, security and control are all essential components of the links you create and share so make sure you’re hitting all of these marks with branded links. Have you come across any of these challenges when using a generic short link provider? If so let us know your experience in the comments section below.
- What is a vanity URL and Why It’s Important?
- Branded Links vs Short Links
- Domain Reputation of Links
- The 6 Best URL Shorteners
This Article is About:
- The Cost of Using Short links
- Short URLs
- Branded links vs Short links
Originally Posted: September 5th, 2017.
Post Updated: October 18th, 2021.