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!

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!