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:
* Fixed bug with some reports not showing
* Fixed twitter auto-posting issue
* Fixed scheduled posts not auto tweeting
* Upgraded code to work with PHP 5.4+
* Other minor bug fixes and improvements

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:
* Small Fixes
* Fixed an issue in Pro with automatic link creation for posts

Pretty Link Pro 1.6.1

This release provides several important updates including some security fixes so all users of both Pretty Link Lite & Pro should upgrade:

Changelog:
* Security Fixes
* Fixed some issues with Pretty Link running in WordPress Multisite
* Altered the way Keyword Replacements can be disabled on individual pages in Pro
* Fixed an issue with import feature in Pro
* Fixed an issue causing “ghost” update messages in Pro
* Updated browscap file for more accurate click tracking
* Fixed an issue that interfered with Pretty Link’s option saving for some users

Pretty Link Pro 1.6.0

This release fixes a few potential security vulnerabilities …

Pretty Link Pro Release 1.5.9

We’ve fixed a few issues that users reported to us from release 1.5.8 and have added some link management features that have been requested by our users:

Feature Added Bulk Actions for Pretty Link Management page
Feature Added the ability to change the number of rows displayed in the Pretty Link Management page (no longer limited to 10)
Feature Added 1-click copy for pretty links in the Pretty Link management page and bookmarklet
Feature Added the ability to click on the referrer links in the pretty link hits table
Fix Fixed the permission issue when clicking on some links in the pretty link admin interface
Fix Fixed the timestamp issue in hits that some people were experiencing

Pretty Link Pro 1.5.8

This is a major new release that fixes numerous bugs and adds several new features for Lite and Pro users. Everyone should upgrade …

Feature Re-factored the add/edit link screen to be more intuitive and accurate
Feature Added the ability to add a new group from the Add / Edit Link screen
Fix Using uniqid() to generate visitor id for normal & extended tracking now in order to increase performance and avoid issues with mt_rand and pow
Fix Replaced all code dependent on curl to now use the more versatile WP_Http
Fix Altered the hits list for normal & extended tracking to use GMT time
Fix Fixed some issues with Parameter Forwarding
Fix Fixed the conflict with W3 Total Cache Object Caching that was causing pretty link options to not be saved when it was enabled
Pro Feature Added Double Redirection for any pretty link
Pro Feature Added Google Analytics support for any pretty link by integrating with the Google Analyticator, Google Analytics for WordPress and Google Analytics Plugin
Pro Feature Added Delayed Redirection for any pretty links using Javascript and Meta-Refresh Redirection
Pro Feature Added the ability to automatically create and download QR Codes pretty links
Pro Feature Added the ability to change the minimum user admin role that can access Pretty Link
Pro Fix Made some major performance enhancements to Keyword and URL Replacements
Pro Fix Fixed an issue adding Twitter accounts for some users running wordpress within a subdomain
Pro Fix Fixed an issue with select all links

Pretty Link Pro 1.5.6

This is a security release of Pretty Link Pro:

  • Fixed a cross-site scripting vulnerability that could have affected a very small number of users