The Pros and Cons of Link Shortening

Sharing long, complex URLs online is not ideal – hence the need for link shorteners. However, while they have many benefits, they’re not a totally perfect solution. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to ascertain when and where it’s best to use a URL shortener, and when it’s smarter to reconsider your strategy.


The crux of it all is this: The simplest and most effective way to avoid the pitfalls is to understand how link shorteners operate. Through this knowledge, you can seek to understand how shortened URLs behave in different situations, enabling you to harness the benefits for your own gain.

In this piece, we’re going to provide a rundown of both the pros and cons of link shortening, and what they mean for you. To start, let’s briefly discuss the background behind link shorteners, then jump right in!

An Introduction to Link Shortening

The TinyURL welcome screen

Link shorteners have been around for longer than most people realize. A popular example is Tiny URL, which was launched by web developer Kevin Gilbertson in January 2002, and still remains popular.

Originally, link shorteners were primarily used to keep long URLs from becoming fragmented within email clients. This was due to text wrapping concerns with displays used at the time. However, today URL shorteners are particularly popular for social media applications. Short URLs are both aesthetically and functionally more beneficial for platforms such as Twitter, where long URLs hamper ease of reading.

There are quite a number of popular URL shorteners today such as Bitly, Tr.im, is.gd, and Google’s goo.gl. While these services offer plenty to today’s marketers, a tool such as Pretty Link Pro can offer much more power and flexibility – as we’ll see later.

The Pros and Cons of Link Shortening

Now we’ve established the background behind link shorteners, let’s look at both the pros and cons of using them. We’ll start with the positives!

Pros

Let’s begin with the most obvious: URL shortening services simply make hyperlink text look more attractive. Normally, website URLs take up a bunch of space. They’re often unattractive strings of random letters and numbers, and can be distracting and aesthetically unpleasing.

However, it’s more than just aesthetics. Shortened links make the reading experience smoother, particularly on social media platforms. In addition, they make it easier for your viewers to share content, as it’s less likely they’ll make an error when copying over links (although this is less of a concern when using modern smartphones). Not only that, but there’s no danger of losing any hard-won SEO benefits – Google are smart enough to pass on link juice for any 301 or permanent redirects implemented.

There’s also click tracking to consider, and measuring the success of your marketing efforts is always imperative. In a nutshell, you can’t improve on targeting your audience if you don’t know how they respond to your content. Link shorteners provide analytics to show you who has clicked your links, and they’re often available through a centralized dashboard view:

Shortened links also play nicely with UTM (Urchin Tracking Module) codes, which enables you to track clicks across specific campaigns, keeping analytics from one platform (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) separate from the others.

Finally, some URL shortening services even provide custom editing of links – more on which later.

Cons

While there are a bevy of benefits to using link shorteners, nothing’s perfect.

For starters, the increasing proliferation of so-called ‘fake news’ means online viewers are potentially more likely to be wary of shortened links. That can lead to distrust, resulting in fewer clicks. This isn’t an inherent problem with link shortening per se, but can still be harmful nonetheless.

Also, the nature of redirections introduces many potential points of failure between a user clicking the link, and visiting the desired website. Sometimes, a shortened URL may send the user through two, three, or more redirects, and if one fails, it means a user who could potentially head to a competitor – a serious problem.

Additionally, if you’re using a link shortening service rather than a dedicated tool such as Pretty Link Pro, your shortened URL may go down. Services aren’t guaranteed to last forever, and once a service goes down, so do any links tied to it. What’s more, ISPs occasionally blacklist URL shorteners in an effort to impede the efforts of spammers who use link shortening for malicious purposes. If this occurs, again, expect a frustrated reader who will likely head to your competition.

Finally, many URL shorteners use their own branding, which dilutes the mention of your own domain, and arguably causes your own brand to suffer.

How Pretty Link Pro Can Help You Implement Link Shortening

Unlike other link shortening services, Pretty Link Pro leaves your branding intact. This is a premium plugin that can offer the functionality of a link shortening service, with more flexibility to boot.

A look at Pretty Link Pro within the WordPress dashboard

 

Just some of the features included are:

  1. The ability to group and track clicks across all your shortened links.
  2. Powerful social sharing options, including automatic aggregation of any tweets made about your posts, enabling visitors to easily make retweets.
  3. Automated page and post short link creation.
  4. Automated link replacement for site-wide keywords.
  5. SEO-friendly, server-side 301 permanent redirects, as well as temporary 302 and 307 redirects.
  6. Almost complete control over how your links appear, and how you redirect users.


What’s more, getting started with Pretty Link Pro is exactly the same as any other WordPress plugin: purchase the right license for you, upload the plugin’s ZIP file to your site, then install and activate it. Simple!

Conclusion

Link shorteners offer a range of pros and cons, and it can be difficult to know when it’s best to make use of them. However, knowledge is power, and studying the positives and the negatives will offer some insight into whether they’re right for you.

Pretty Link Pro specifically helps to mitigate the negatives of link shortening by combining good aesthetics with powerful social sharing, 301 permanent redirects, and robust analytics. Also, unlike so many URL shortening services, Pretty Link Pro enables you to bolster your branding efforts through the retention of your custom domain.

What benefits of link shortening mean the most to you? Let us know in the comments section below!

Pretty Link 2.0 is Here!

It’s been a long time coming, but we’re proud to announce that Pretty Link Pro 2.0 is now here!

We have completely refactored the code base to ensure that the plugin will be easier to both maintain and extend as WordPress continues to evolve.

Along the way we’ve completed a major cleanup to the interface, improved performance of the plugin/links, added a bunch of new (awesome) features, and fixed countless bugs. We’re so thrilled about the changes, and we hope you will be too!

So what’s new?

Great question! With literally thousands of lines of code moved, deleted and/or optimized — there’s literally too many changes to list here. So we’ll cut to the chase and highlight the one’s you’re gonna want to know about.

 

NEW WYSIWYG INSERT LINK POP-UP

Starting with what likely is the best new feature of 2.0 — you can now click the star button when editing a post or page on your website to reveal this Insert Pretty Link pop-up dialogue. Here you can create a brand-new pretty link or search for an existing one. With a few simple clicks, your Pretty Link will be embedded in your content. Finally no more switching between windows and copying/pasting just to insert a link into the content!

 

BASE SLUG PREFIX

Create links like https://yoursite.com/go/xyz! This allows you to add a default base slug that should be used for all newly created Pretty Links, it does not affect existing links. We recommend using something short like “go” or “out” to help keep your links short (and pretty). This new feature has a lot of potential uses such as omitting your pretty links from caching plugins/hosts to ensure that tracking and reporting isn’t affected. It can also be used to limit search engines from indexing your links by adding short lines to your robots.txt files.

 

CUSTOM POST TYPE SUPPORT

You can now automatically create Pretty Links for and display the social sharing buttons on selected Custom Post Types just like you could before with Posts and Pages.

 

AFFILIATE LINK DISCLOSURES

This is part of our Keyword replacements. With the FTC getting more serious about cracking down on proper affiliate link disclosures we thought it might be cool to add a feature where your Pretty Link’d Keywords are automatically disclosed for you. When enabled it will show a small text next to your replaced Keyword links so the user will know that link is an affiliate link. Further, you can even show a link to your full affiliate link disclosure statement at the top and/or bottom of each post on your site.

 

GEOGRAPHICAL (GEO) REDIRECTS

You can define an unlimited number of geo-based redirects. This means you can send users to different target URL’s based on their location. We’re excited to see the various ways you all come up with to use this new feature!

 

TECHNOLOGY REDIRECTS

You can now also choose to redirect to different target URL’s based on the user’s device info. Such as their device type, Operating System, and even their browser!

 

TIME BASED REDIRECTS

Redirect to different target URL’s based on the current date and time. You can now set time intervals and specify which target URL the user will be redirected to based on the current date and time. Set as many time periods as you want!

 

LINK EXPIRATIONS

We had a lot of requests for this, and it’s finally here. We hope you use it and appreciate it. Your Pretty Links can now be set to expire after a certain time, or after a certain number of unique clicks. Maybe you want to run a promotion for only the first X people who subscribe, or for folks who subscribe before a certain time get a free T-shirt etc. Best of all, after the link expires, you have the option to redirect them somewhere else instead.

 

MORE ROTATIONS

You’re no longer limited to just five rotation URL’s. Now you can add up to 20 rotating URL’s per Pretty Link.

 

NEW AND PRETTIER SOCIAL SHARING BUTTONS

The social sharing buttons have been completely replaced with some new modern-looking sharing buttons.

 

LARGER QR CODES

Pretty Link already supported QR codes, but we’ve increased the generated size of the codes so you can use them in your print media and campaigns.

 

AUTO URL REPLACEMENT BLACKLIST

In addition to some serious performance improvements with the Automatic URL Replacement feature, we’ve also added a domain blacklist feature as well. This means you can now omit certain domains from ever being automatically replaced. Perhaps you only want to automatically replace external (outgoing) links with pretty links, and leave your internal links alone. Now that is possible with this new domain blacklist feature.

 

AUTO TRIM CLICKS

Many of you have been very successful, and with that success comes more traffic. We now have an option which will automatically trim (permanently delete) clicks which are older than 90 days. This will keep the clicks database table fresh and prevent it from becoming so bloated that it affects site performance and other queries etc. These hits are lost forever once deleted, though we highly recommend using this new feature, please be aware that once they’re deleted – they’re gone forever unless you have some kind of incremental database backup solution in place.

 

CUSTOM HEAD SCRIPTS

You can now define custom scripts which should be used in the HTML <head> section on every supported redirect type. You can also define scripts which should only be used on individual links as well. This could be useful for tracking scripts like Facebook retargeting, analytics etc. This feature works on all redirect types except for server side (30x) redirect types.

 

OTHER CHANGES

  • Cleaner, more modern interface
  • Serious performance improvements and options
  • We’ve extended some of the data that can be imported/exported – with more to come in a future release
  • Complete refactor of the core code
  • New license key system (no more entering your username/password to activate the plugin)
  • Lite and Pro options have been merged into one page
  • Tools have been better separated out into their own page
  • Hundreds of other small changes and bug fixes too numerous to list
  • Auto twitter posting has been removed, better auto-social posting options are available such as Buffer and Hootsuite
  • Tweet badge has been removed

How to Implement 301 Redirects on Your Website

It goes without saying that if your site isn’t ranking well on major search engines, nobody will be able to find you. If you’ve worked hard at improving your ranking, then change your URL or move your website, it can all be unravelled in a flash.

301 redirects automatically send visitors and search engines to your new URL, and making appropriate use of them is vital for maintaining your current search ranking. What’s more, plugins such as Pretty Link Pro can make implementing them a snap.

In this post, we’ll explain what 301 redirects are, the process of implementing them manually, and how Pretty Link Pro can help. Let’s get started!

What 301 Redirects Are

Put simply, a 301 redirect is a permanent redirection from one URL to another – such as www.yoursite.com/version1 to www.yoursite.com/version2. The number refers to the HTTP status code for this type of redirect. Once implemented, any visitor or search bot visiting the original URL would be funneled directly to the new one.

It’s worth pointing out that 301 redirects should only be used as a means for permanent redirection, and is normally used to preserve the user’s experience while search engines catch up with your changes.

Why You Should Use 301 Redirects

Changing your URL without using a 301 redirect is similar to moving your business to a new address and not notifying customers. They’ll keep turning up to the old location for a while, but after some time, will eventually go elsewhere – leaving your business in ruins.

It’s the same thing with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – if no one knows where to find you, you can’t gain traffic.

When moving domain, 301 redirects are ideal for the following reasons:

 

  1. You can resolve different URLs to the same location. People have their individual habits when it comes to inputting web addresses – some preferring to enter www, others not. 301 redirects make sure all instances take visitors to the right site.
  2. You can rebrand a website with a different URL. There are a myriad of reasons to change your URL. Whatever the reason, you can do this while preserving most of your PageRank.
  3. You can redirect traffic from different URLs owned by the same company. Some companies may need multiple domains to redirect to the same site. With 301 redirects, you’re free to do so.

 

While using 301 redirects isn’t rocket science, it can be confusing if you haven’t done it before. Don’t sweat it – we have you covered! Let’s take a look at how to do it.

How to Implement 301 Redirects on Your Website

Implementing 301 redirects manually is normally carried out through your .htaccess file. In short, this is a server configuration file that stores important settings related to your WordPress website. It can be found within your site’s root directory (normally called public_html or www), or in the top-level directory of your WordPress installation.

You’ll certainly need to access your site via File Transfer Protocol (FTP) in order to edit .htaccess. In this article we’ll be using the popular (and free) FileZilla application. If you’re uneasy about using FTP, consult both the documentation and your web host’s instructions before you get cracking.

Once you’re logged into your server, you may not see your .htaccess file. That can be remedied by selecting Server > Force showing hidden files from the FileZilla menu.

If you’re still struggling, you may not even have a .htaccess file. To fix this, log into your WordPress dashboard, navigate to Settings > Permalinks, choose any of the permalink settings, then save your changes. This forces WordPress to create a new .htaccess file. Make sure you revert back to your original permalink settings afterwards!

From here, you’ll want to carry out one more task before getting started: backing up your site.

Simply put, you should always back up before making any changes to your WordPress installation. That way, you have a good, clean version of your site to revert to in case the worst happens. Our recommendation is the UpdraftPlus plugin:

Using the plugin is a breeze – so there’s really no excuse for skipping this step. Alternatively, you can also opt for a premium option, such as VaultPress.

Next, log into your server using FileZilla, locate your .htaccess file, and edit it using your favorite plain text editor – any other application could potentially ‘break’ it. It’s important not to edit any pre-existing code too (i.e. everything between BEGIN WordPress and END WordPress).

To implement a 301 redirect, you’ll need to add the following code to the very bottom of your file:

 

# BEGIN 301 Redirects

Redirect 301 /old-post/ http://www.yourwebsite.com/new-post/

# END 301 Redirects

 

Simply replace /old-post/ with your old URL, then add the new URL to replace http://www.yourwebsite.com/new-post/. Save your changes, and that’s it!

How Pretty Link Pro Can Help With 301 Redirects

Our Pretty Link Pro plugin is more than just another URL shortener. It enables you to shorten, shrink, cloak, track, organize, share, and test all of your links:

In addition to shortening your URLs, Pretty Link Pro also offers multiple redirect options, including 301 redirects – all set directly from within your WordPress dashboard:

So, while the manual method has its place, Pretty Link Pro offers just as much power, without you having to touch a single line of code.

Conclusion

Moving your website or changing your URL can wreak havoc with your search engine rankings. It’s a good job, therefore, that 301 redirects can help reduce the pain involved. What’s more, Pretty Link Pro can help you implement them on your site quickly and easily.

In this post, we’ve shown you how to implement 301 redirects manually on your site. Let’s recap the necessary steps:

  1. Back up your site (we recommend UpdraftPlus or VaultPress).
  2. Log into your server via FTP (with a tool such as FileZilla).
  3. Add the necessary code to your .htaccess file, and save your changes.

Do you have any questions about 301 redirects or how Pretty Link Pro can help? Ask away in the comments section below!

5 Reasons to Redirect Your Links with Pretty Link Pro

As an affiliate marketer, link redirects and cloaking have a number of advantages. Besides the pure aesthetics of a short, descriptive link, it can also have a considerable impact on the success of your business venture. It’s seemingly a small detail, but one that adds a seal of quality and professionalism to your marketing content.

What a reader sees when hovering over a link in the body of your text, or when a URL appears in the address bar, can be a deciding factor. It has a subliminal influence on whether the reader follows the link, and that fraction of a second can make all the difference.

Finding a way to create, organize and manage redirects for all your links – especially in a way that fits seamlessly into your WordPress environment – can be problematic. Pretty Link Pro was created specifically to solve that problem.

With that in mind, this post reveals five compelling reasons why setting up redirects for your links with Pretty Link Pro is a smart addition to your affiliate marketing strategy.

Let’s get cracking!

1. Increase Click-Through Rates

Your affiliate ID is the unique number used to track and record activity on your affiliate account. An affiliate link (with your ID included) typically looks something like this:

http://yoursite.com/?ref=123 click?id=exyzzyQzKg/F4&offerid=12345.10121&type=2&subid=0

Each time a customer clicks on a link of yours, the data is stored in a cookie, and you get the commission.

Unfortunately, an obvious affiliate link can harm your credibility. If that unsightly link appears in the browser’s address bar, it could quite possibly have a negative impact on your marketing efforts.

Psychologically, asking your readers to click a super long affiliate link with plenty of url parameters may send the wrong message – that you’re ‘in it for the money’ or even that you’re ‘tracking every move they make.’  No matter how well-written your copy is, and how attractive your images are, if your link gives the wrong kind of impression about your motives, your click-through rate can suffer.

Creating redirects for your links is easy with Pretty Link Pro – simply paste the URL you want to setup a redirect for into the Target URL box and the plugin does the rest. You’ll see your new short, descriptive link below the original, along with a four character slug (of course you can modify your link slug to anything you’d like).

To be clear this approach should never be used to obscure the fact that your link is an affiliate link. Before creating a pretty link redirect for your affiliate link you should check with your affiliate program to determine what their rules are on redirects and cloaking. But above all make sure you disclose each of your affiliate links — FTC rules state that you must fully disclose each affiliate link you have on your website (including on each page where you use the affiliate link). Whether your link is a direct affiliate link or redirects to an affiliate link it must be disclosed.

2. Avoid Ranking Penalties

Ranking penalties relate to how likely your page is to be found on a search engine such as Google. Search engines have complex algorithms that take lots of factors into consideration, and one of those factors is the number of affiliate links on your page.

Obviously, search engine traffic directly affects the commission from your affiliate links, so you can’t afford to jeopardize your page’s ability to be found.

Fortunately, there are ways around the issue of ranking penalties as they pertain to affiliate links. You could manually add “rel=nofollow” every time you create an affiliate link, but that’s a tedious way to go about it.

Pretty Link Pro makes the whole process much easier. It gives you the option to ‘nofollow’ your pretty links from within the plugin’s interface, without having to add a single line of code (these nofollows happen in the http headers rather than html so don’t be alarmed if you don’t see the nofollow in the link html). This means that when search engines crawl your site, they should skip over your affiliate links. While having too many affiliate or sponsored links can result in a penalty from Google, when they’re redirected, your rankings will remain unaffected.

With Pretty Link Pro, it’s a walk in the park. Head to the plugin’s dashboard, and navigate to Options > SEO Options. Tick ‘Nofollow’ this link, after creating your shortened link, and you’re good to go:

In addition to being able to add no-follows to the http headers of your pretty links, you can also add a ‘rel=”nofollow”‘ to all of your affiliate links when generating them using Pretty Link’s keyword replacement feature.

3. Prevent Link Theft

Link theft or link swapping is when your affiliate link is deliberately removed or swapped for another before your customer’s purchase is registered. An individual with bad intentions (and an affiliate account), could substitute your link with their own. The result is that you would lose the commission you would otherwise have earned.

Affiliate marketing has come a long way, and measures are taken to ensure that both companies and marketers comply with fair trade practices and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations. Still, there will always be those individuals who try to find unscrupulous ways to milk the system.

Creating pretty link redirects for your links with Pretty Link Pro protects you. Since your affiliate link isn’t visible in the html, it can’t easily be removed or swapped by anyone other than you, and your commission earnings remain safe.

4. Outsmart Ad Blockers

Nobody likes to be bombarded by adverts. Because of this, some of your readers might be using browser extensions such as AdBlock Plus. Unfortunately, those kinds of browser extensions can suppress your page because of your affiliate links.

Setting up redirects your links is the solution – often making your page available on browsers with ad blockers installed.

To ensure banner ads display correctly, you’ll need to take one more precaution: Instead of hot-linking banners from the merchant’s domain, download them, and host them directly from your own site preferably using an awesome ad-management plugin like AdSanity.

5. Make Link Management Easier

Product links expire and affiliate programs change, or even close for business. If you’re trying to keep track of all your links with a spreadsheet, keeping up with all those changes can become a nightmare.

If you’re a member of more than one affiliate program, you might find that you lose track of which products belong to the different programs. That means logging in and going through each one until you find what you’re looking for.

Pretty Link Pro makes it easy to update your links automatically, no matter how many times you’ve included them in your content. There’s no need to keep a separate log.

You can also add a descriptive title for each link you create. This isn’t displayed as part of your short link, it’s simply there to help you stay organized when you’re keeping track of your links. What’s more, there’s also the option to create groups for all your links – keeping everything nice and tidy:

You’ll be able to see this information at a glance in the Links section. Here, your latest links are displayed first, along with the descriptive title you specified and the groups you’ve assigned:

6. Conclusion

Ultimately, the most important reason to set up pretty link redirects your links is to protect and to boost your commission earnings. While there are manual ways to get around the above problems, an automated solution will save you a great deal of time and give you peace of mind.

To summarize, here’s why setting up redirects with Pretty Link Pro makes sense … you can:

  1. Replace an unsightly URL link with a descriptive one that sits well with your audience and encourages click-throughs (but making sure to always comply with FTC rules by disclosing each affiliate link you use, on the page the link is listed on).
  2. Minimize the risk of ranking penalties from search engines.
  3. Protect your links from theft and swapping.
  4. Bypass ad-blocking apps.
  5. Make the whole process easier and more efficient.

Do you have an opinion on how link cloaking impacts your affiliate marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Link Shortening: The Secret Weapon in Social Media Marketing

url

Hidden behind the scenes of digital marketing is a little detail that has made the world of difference. The Uniform Resource Locator (URL) is at the heart of the internet’s evolution, and yet it’s an often overlooked element until its format presents a problem.

Unwieldy URLs can become something of an eyesore – and a hassle – particularly for social media marketing. Long, unintelligible strings of text distract the reader’s attention, upstage your content, and are also difficult to track. That’s where link shortening (and tracking) comes in – and it’s the secret weapon in your social media marketing.

In this post, we’ll examine the origin of link shortening, illustrate why it’s so important to your current social media marketing campaigns, and finally show you how to harness its potential for your gain. Let’s get started!

A Very Brief History of the URL

To put link shortening into the proper context, let’s take a quick look at how it fits into the overall history of the internet.

Between 1989 and 1991 Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the web, developing HyperText Markup Language (HTML), Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), and of course, the URL. Together, these form the basis of all we do online. Soon after, the public were invited to link to the first prototype, and the internet grew from there.

Ten years later, the first URL redirection service (V3.com) was set up. This enabled URL shortening, prevented broken links, and helped guide navigation into and out of web pages through a memorable, short URL.

Social media expanded rapidly from the early 2000s, with sites such as Photobucket and Flickr facilitating online photo sharing. YouTube arrived in the first half of the decade, followed by Facebook. Digital marketers soon found these to be the perfect platform for sharing links and content.

Twitter launched around the same time with its 140 character limit – which presented a brand new challenge for long URLs, adding more motivation for finding a way to shorten them, revamp them, and (of course) track them.

In early 2000, mobile phones started to access high-speed 3G networks, enabling them to connect to the internet. Display sizes soon became a burning issue. Before 2011, the display area on virtually every phone on the market measured between 2.5 and 4 inches. Since 2013, phones with displays under four inches are rare, yet display size still remains a problem for web designers.

The internet has now evolved into a versatile, powerful marketing tool – strung together by that one small detail we tend to forget about – the URL.

Why URL Shortening Has Become Vital

In the early days of the web, the average person didn’t have to worry about URLs too much. Those mysterious strings of text had a job to do, and were never given a second thought. Unless you were creating software, you didn’t really need to bother about using, cloaking, or tracking them.

Gradually that has changed. At first, longer and more complex URLs became a problem when pasting them into an email. Because the string of text would often be too long for a single line, text wrapping would break things, and clicking on the link didn’t always work.

With the explosion of social media, the problem became even more urgent. Now, URLs form part of your link building and sharing strategy, and they also need to fit into a limited space. Link shortening makes the whole process more manageable, and enables you to squeeze more links into the same space.

Besides just looking better on the screen, you can also tap into another very useful property of the shortened URL: It’s now possible to track what happens to your link – and that information is invaluable for your digital marketing campaigns.

Simply put, it lets you understand your audience, figure out what they’re doing with your content, and enables you to create better campaigns in the future.

The Perfect WordPress Link Shortening Tool

Using a third-party service has its advantages, but you’ll lose a certain amount of control over the process. For a start, there’s no guarantee you’ll always have access to your links, and that means there’s a risk to your credibility if a service ceases to exist.

In contrast, WordPress users come in all shapes and sizes. Some are able to code their own redirection software, but most don’t have the background – the vast majority are bloggers and small business owners. Therefore, the perfect solution should offer power and flexibility, while being easy to navigate and use.

The answer is to use a plugin such as Pretty Link Pro. It offers hassle-free link shortening, giving you the control you require, and also offers the tracking functionality you’ll need. Social links, redirects, and affiliate links are all taken care of, and no coding experience is required. It’s simply a matter of purchasing, installing, and activating the plugin.

What’s more, the software will automatically create short links for all of your pages and posts. You also get the ability to automatically tweet a customizable message to multiple Twitter accounts when a post is published.

Conclusion

The web has given us lots of scope for expansion. Whether we’re part of a worldwide team or running a small business, it’s important to keep up with any changes. If there’s a way to get the edge on the competition, it should be explored.

The URL is at the heart of web technology, and by extension, link shortening. A versatile, inexpensive tool such as Pretty Link Pro that unlocks its potential is vital to any WordPress user. To recap:

  1. The URL is often overlooked, but in reality it’s at the heart of web connectivity. Link shortening and cloaking is a secret weapon in modern social media marketing.
  2. With the evolution of the web, link shortening has become vital to better manage URLs.
  3. Unwieldy URLs should be replaced with short, pretty ones, and tracking and managing them needs to be easy.

Do you have any questions about URL shortening and Pretty Link Pro? Ask away in the comments section below!

How to Find The Right Affiliate Offers to Promote for Your Audience

With relative ease, affiliate programs can be found on almost every corner of the Internet. But not every affiliate program has been created equally. As an ethical and responsible marketer, you need to be able to source out affiliate offers that are beneficial to both you and your audience.

In this post, we’re going to cover some ways to find and evaluate affiliate offers that not only match your audience but create a win-win scenario for both you and your visitors.

The Importance of Picking a Good Affiliate Offer

CJcom

Finding good affiliate programs that serve both your readers and your business can present a few challenges. There are a lot of different options to pick from and no affiliate program is ever guaranteed. However, there are a few things you can watch out for and steps you can take to be sure you’re making the right choice.

Affiliate marketing – at least the good kind – is built upon your ability to establish a trusting relationship with your visitors. If you pick an affiliate program that is profitable for you, while short-changing your audience, then the trust you worked so hard to develop will be quickly destroyed.

Balancing your needs with those of your audience makes the process of sourcing high-quality affiliate offers more important than ever.

So how exactly can you go about finding the best affiliate programs, and what separates the good from the bad?

How to Pick an Affiliate Offer

While there are many sources of potential affiliate offers, one of the best things you can do to avoid running into problems is to stick with the larger, well-established affiliate programs.

Some of these may be run in-house by the companies themselves (like Amazon), while some may be offered through a third party affiliate network (like CJ Affiliate). When assessing affiliate offers take the following into consideration:

  • Does the company or affiliate network appear to be stable?
  • Does the company or affiliate network have a history of affiliate payouts?
  • Will you be able to comply with their terms and conditions?

If all the items on this list appear to fit the bill, you’re set. Just remember that you should never place all your eggs in one basket. No affiliate offer is guaranteed to last forever and sometimes finding more than one affiliate program for the same type of product or service is a good idea (although not always possible).

Affiliate Networks vs Flying Solo

Neverblue

Most (if not all) of the major brands typically use a large affiliate network. This includes retailers like Zulily and manufacturers like Adidas. A few of the more popular affiliate networks include:

Typically, getting set up with an affiliate network involves an application process and sometimes a phone call with an account rep. As affiliate networks act as third parties, they provide advantages to both affiliates and advertisers alike. These advantages include:

  • Access to a large number of affiliate offers. For example, at the time of writing this article, ShareASale showed 3995 affiliate programs in their database.
  • An easy way to consolidate payouts and track a large number of affiliate programs.
  • A way for advertisers to maintain brand integrity. If you break the rules, you can find yourself banned from the entire affiliate network.

Affiliate networks can also make it easier to find appropriate offers for your audience. You’ll discover that with the larger networks, you can search for offers based on categories, keywords, seasons, and more.

Even with the advantages of using an affiliate network, some companies decide to run their own affiliate program. While it’s certainly not common, you should always perform some extra due-diligence when dealing with small or independent affiliate programs. After all, your welfare and reputation are depending on it.

Here are the basic considerations when it comes to picking an ideal affiliate program:

  • Rate the overall quality of each advertiser that you promote. Would you personally buy from them? Have you? How would you rate your experience with either the retailer or the product they are selling?
  • If their product or service is something you’d like to recommend, will they compensate you enough to do so? Don’t just look at the commission rate. You need to look at the big picture including earnings per click (EPC), average order value, average commission, and the tracking gap (the longer your cookie lasts, the better).
  • Consider their order reversal rate. How often do customers cancel their orders? This can also be a great indicator of customer satisfaction.
  • Are there banner ads or display ads (these are also called creatives) available that match the overall look and feel of your website?

How to Know What You Visitors Want to Buy

Actually discovering what your visitors want to buy should, in theory, be an easy process. I’m going to make the assumption that you are actively involved with your website.

Before we jump into finding the actual affiliate offers, let’s think about how to decide which products or services you should be promoting.

Start With Your Home Base

Since you’re actively involved with your site, it usually means that you also have a personal interest in the topic you are promoting. Use that personal interest to your advantage by promoting the products and services you rely on every day.

Also, if you’ve developed an active community either through blog commenting, Facebook, or a forum, listen to what your community is talking about. By discovering the common problems and challenges people are facing, you’ll have an opportunity to create solutions.

Instead of just finding a solution to promote, do some research. Talk to people, gather opinions, test products or services, and try out the competition. That’s how you can provide real value to your audience and earn their trust.

Performing Product Research

Sometimes, finding products and affiliate offers worth promoting comes down to research. That means you’ll need to roll-up your sleeves and do some good old fashioned hard work.

Amazon

Terapeak

For physical products, one of the best places you can start your search is Amazon.com. With just under $90 billion in 2014 sales, Amazon represents as good a source as any when it comes to researching consumer trends. As if you weren’t already aware, Amazon also runs what is probably the biggest independent affiliate network.

With relative ease, you can visit Amazon and within seconds begin searching for products that are appropriate to your audience. If you see Amazon as one of your better choices in terms of affiliate programs, you might also consider third party software called Terapeak. Terapeak  provides a more user-friendly interface and better insight into trends within your target market. It also makes the process of scouring through Amazon much easier.

Google

You can also turn to Google in your search for appropriate affiliate offers. A quick search for “affiliate programs pet insurance” turned up an entire page of results. Same scenario with “affiliate programs BBQ supplies”. With just a little effort, you’ll be able to source a variety of offers for almost any niche.

Company Websites

If your audience relies on your expertise, you probably have several standby products or services that you rely on day in and day out. These companies are a great place to start when you begin your search. Most of the time, you’ll find a simple link in the footer that says something like “affiliates,” “promote XYZ,” or “join us”.

Conclusion

Uncovering the ideal affiliate offers for your target audience will require a little bit of detective work. Most of the time it’s easier to start with the company websites you are familiar with and slowly progress up the food chain until you are searching through the databases of large affiliate networks.

Any time you find an affiliate offer that you think is appropriate, try to find 1-3 others that you can use as a comparison. Line the offers up against one another and figure out which one will work the best for you and your audience.

Remember, the most important thing you can do is to remain true and loyal to your audience. Without them, you’ve got nothing to sell.

What are some of your favorite sources when it comes to searching for affiliate offers? How do you decide what is and what isn’t a good fit for your audience? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

Pretty Link Pro 1.6.7

This release contains a handful of minor security fixes. All users are encouraged to update when possible.

Pretty Link Pro 1.6.5

This release contains a handful of critical Twitter fixes for Pro users. All Pro users are encouraged to upgrade as soon as they can.

Changelog:
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Pretty Link Pro 1.6.2

This release provides several small fixes and one major fix for Pro users and so everyone should update as soon as possible:

Changelog:
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Pretty Link Pro 1.6.1

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Changelog:
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