Short links are all the rage on sites like Twitter.
Are you curious why people use short links?
Or wondering how to create them yourself?
Short links take this:
And turn it into this:
Isn't that better?
Why Use a "Short" Link?
Short links make URLs easier to share and remember. They fit in tweets and share easily via email.
Some URL shorteners allow you to track and analyze which ones are being clicked on.
Using the right link shortener will also give you a way to protect your links and change them later. So you can cloak affiliate links and change what products you promote as needed without losing the work you've put into building links!
How to Shorten a Link
Let's cover two simple ways to shorten your links and the advantages of each.
1. Use a shortening service like SnipURL, TinyURL or Bit.ly
There are many websites that offer link shortening. Search for "shorten my link" and you'll find lots of results.
Both of these are easy to use. Just copy and paste your URL into their shortening box, click a button, and you get your shortened link back. Bit.ly also offers free tracking for your links.
The main disadvantage of these links is that you don't control the domain name or shortened link so if the site disappears eventually your link won't work anymore. You also can't change the link later with most services (some premium paid versions give you more control).
Another challenge with some of the popular link shorteners is that because spammers have used them to hide URLs they're sending out, they can cause an email to be flagged as spam. Don't use them in your newsletters or autoresponders.
However, they work well when you need a super short link for the social networks.
2. Use a script on your own domain
If you're using WordPress, the plugins GoCodes or Pretty Link Lite are a simple way to shorten links and stay in control of them. They also give you the ability to edit the link that a shortened link points to. Choose one and install it the same as any other plugin. Go to "Plugins" then search for "GoCodes" or "Pretty Link Lite" then install and activate.
This works especially well for affiliate marketers. If I recommend Big Website Host A right now, I can make a short link to my recommended host. If next week, I realize there's something better and decide to recommend Big Website Host B, I can change the link my short link points to and redirect people to the new recommendation. All my short links will still work but they'll point to Big Website Host B instead.
There are other options out there if you don't run your site with WordPress, so just search for free URL shortener scripts and compare your choices.
Using your own domain as the base for your shortened links allows you to continue building links to your own website, and building your brand. It also makes the link less likely to cause your newsletter or autoresponder to get flagged as spam.
Are you using a link shortener? What's your favorite shortener and why?