The SEO sphere is constantly changing and you have to adapt your strategy once in a while if you don’t want your rankings to be badly impacted. As content represents a big part of your SEO strategy, it is crucial to not miss any opportunities to share it properly. That’s where the use of URL shorteners can come in handy. URL shorteners are basically online applications that will transform your regular URL into a shorter version.
Why use a URL shortener?
URL shorteners are helpful when sharing your content
As we all know, some social media, like Twitter, have a character limit so you have to be concise and relevant when posting a tweet. Using a URL shortener can thus help you to put more accurate information about the content that you are posting instead of having a tweet with a really long URL. It is also possible to brand a URL so that you know if the content has been shared by a company or a brand in particular.
Shortened URLs have more aesthetic appeal
URL shorteners are definitely useful when it comes to making your URL look prettier, especially, as we mentioned above, when sharing your content on social media. But they can be also useful when you are producing other types of content like a print ad or an infographic and you want to insert your link in a nice way. Moreover, if your readers are using a mobile to view your content, they are going to enjoy a better user experience if they see a shorter URL in it.
URL shorteners can come with traffic monitors
For anyone curious about the behaviour of their content and how it was received by users, some URL shorteners, like the well-known Bitly, allow you to track the sharing activities of your post/tweet over a specific period.
However it is important to see if these URL shorteners are not detrimental to your SEO. Indeed, the more your content is shared, the better, and it would be a shame if the one published with a shortened URL wasn’t recognized by search engine algorithms.
What is the impact of URL shorteners on your SEO?
They can lead to spamming and endless redirections
As shortened links hide the final destination, spammers have obviously seen the opportunity to do their business. They are able to hide their harmful links in shortened URLs so that people will end up on undesired websites. This practice causes a problem because it gives a bad reputation to shortened links as people who have already experienced spamming will never trust one again. However, you can use a link extraction site, like WhereDoesThisLinkGo, if you want to be sure before clicking on a shortened URL!
If you are setting up a chain of 301 redirects, which can happen for very reasonable reasons, you might face a few issues in terms of indexing. Indeed, Bing and Yahoo have recently stated that redirect chains are usually quite tricky to crawl which can often lead to poor or non-existent indexing.
But a URL shortener will pass link juice
Social network websites have the habit of putting a ‘NoFollow’ tag in the links that they provide, in order to prevent any abuse. However, even if search engines are respecting this tag, it is not the case for URL shorteners as they short circuit this process. Indeed, these type of links will be then followed back by search engines which entails that some value will eventually pass through them. It is a good thing for people who often use social media as part of their marketing campaigns or who just use them to share content.
According to several ranking specialists, it seems that using URL shorteners doesn’t lead to any negative impact on your SEO.
As a matter of fact, shortened URLs are considered by search engines as any regular 301 redirects and they will thus act upon it. As Matt Cutt from Google explained in the video below:
If we try to crawl a page and we see a 301 or permanent redirect, which pretty much all well behaved URL shorteners (like Bitly) will do, it will pass Page Rank to the final destination.
The best tactic with URL shorteners would probably be to try sharing your content in a way that seems as natural as possible, which would be to have a nice mix between the different services and try to write tweets or post updates yourself as much as you can.
Some URL shorteners recommendations
Bitly is probably one of the most popular URL shortener due to the easiness of its utilisation. It allows you to use a custom domain specific to your company/ brand and to track your links.
This link shortening service is probably the earliest one to have appeared on the internet. As Bitly, you are also allowed to customise the URL you just shortened- if the customisation you want is still available.
Fur.ly is quite handy because you can use it either for a simple link or if you want to transform a group of links into a shortened one.
Google’s URL Shortener is also a good way to shorten your links as you can add it to your Chrome toolbar and quickly use it when needed.
Finally Yourls allows you to cut the middlemen and run the URL shortening service yourself so that you can customise them however you want.