What is URL shortening?

What is URL shortening?
What is URL shortening?
November 9, 2015

Have you recently seen links like http://bit.ly/1RHZBvw or ow.ly/ or t.co/ on your social networks? Probably, Yes. This is because they are everywhere. These strange looking links are actually shortened URLs. So, you may wonder why someone would want to shorten their URL? Well, there are a lot of benefits to do this as we shall see. But first how do they do it?

Is this magic?

It is not. We are not going to examine the technicalities in depth but only the basics. You should know, that there are numerous URL shortening web apps (providers) who will shorten your link if you decide to do so. This shortening is achieved by the algorithms of the web app which create a shorter URL based on the URL you provided. That shortened URL gets permanently redirected to yours with a 301 redirect. Basically, you would go to URL shortening web app, input your desired URL to be shortened (for ex. http://codeplusmarketing.com/blog/web-hosting) and the app would return you a shortened URL (for ex.http://bit.ly/1RHZBvw). Then, you can use this shortened URL (link) to post it everywhere you want. But why would you want to do it?

Advantages of shortening a URL

Reason number one is analytics. By shortening a URL it is possible to track the number of clicks on a given URL (link). Even more, you can examine the time windows of the clicks, and the sources of those clicks. All this can provide extremely valuable information for your marketing campaigns. The tracking itself works everywhere social media, other websites, email etc.

The second reason is simply “shortening” and aesthetics. Just think about the way a very long link would look like in a social media post. Instead of drawing attention to your content you will draw attention to an ugly link. In addition to that, some social media limit the character count of posts. For example, Twitter has a limitation of 140 characters and by posting a shorter URL you have more free characters for your message.

Another useful application is branding. Instead of having a URL with the following structure:

http://www.“brandname”.co.uk/product/67362847619735423WH%

you can have something like:

http://“na.me”/prY14Z

In most cases branded URLs are payed.

Popular URL shortening apps

You can use those apps to shorten your links (URLs)

  •  Bit.ly (bitly.com) - this is maybe the most popular provider, offers branded URLs
  •  Ow.ly – another provider, owned by Hootsuite
  •  t.co Twitter’s link shortening service
  •  tinyurl.com
  •  is.gd
  •  bit.do