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Jennifer Kyrnin

Do you use URL shorteners? Maybe you should reconsider

By April 15, 2009

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I read this article on Jeffrey Zeldman Presents: Tiny URL, Big Trouble. And it came at an interesting time for me, because I had just received an editorial reminder from About.com that we're not supposed to use URL shorteners like TinyURL and others. This has been a rule for us for 4 or 5 years. About's primary reason for opposing them is because it puts your site at risk - if the URL shortener site goes down for any reason, your links on that site go down too. Since it's hard enough to manage large catalogs of external links, there is no reason to add to the trouble by adding in a 3rd party.

Other reasons that URL shorteners might be a problem include:

  • They get information on your click through rates. Every time someone clicks a TinyURL on your site, the people at TinyURL get information that could be valuable.
  • You lose SEO opportunities with the TinyURL. The URL has clues in it that search engines can read, but the URL shortener removes that information. Plus, those search engines that use link tracking as a way to improve weight might not realize that the TinyURL is the same page as the full URL and so you don't get the credit.
  • It can confuse readers or at least cause some distrust. There are so many phishing schemes out there now, and one of the only ways to know if a link is valid is to mouse over it and check where it's going to take you. If it's going to take you to TinyURL, you don't know where you'll end up.
I realize there are places where URL shorteners make sense, but personally, I think the drawbacks outweigh the benefits.
Comments
April 15, 2009 at 5:37 pm
(1) Erik Moe says:

I think most people have good reason to use URL shortening (avoid breaking long links in email, easier to relay via phone, save twitter characters) and usually don’t expect the links to have a lifespan of more than a day or two. That said, there are some short URL tools you can install on your own domain to keep some SEO and reliability.

April 15, 2009 at 6:01 pm
(2) Michael Mann says:

If posting long links on somewhere like Twitter, they get replaced with a tinyurl address. No way around this. I agree that longer urls are better in search engines.

The longer urls on my site are also doubly utilized in they help build breadcrumbs.

April 29, 2009 at 1:50 am
(3) Josh says:

I agree with Michael. Tiny URLs are must for twittering. The shorter the URL, the more space you have for content. I personally use http://z.pe which is very short.

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