In this article, you’ll learn about:
- What url shorteners are and why you would use them
- What some of the most popular url shorteners are
- We’ll look at whether url shorteners hurt your SEO
- We’ll analyze whether you should use url shorteners
- We’ll discuss Bit.ly and Goo.gl
What is a url shortener?
For me, a url shortener is just a way to make a url (or link or web address) shorter.
Instead of using http://simplycompelling.com/the-top-wordpress-backup-services-and-plugins/, you can use t.co/gHfbtURXaD. See how much shorter that is?
You would use a url shortener mainly just to make your links shorter (duh), which helps them fit better into social media posts, especially on sites like Twitter. You also can use them to track links and for one other big reason that I’ll get to later.
Let’s look at the definition of url shortening from Wikipedia:
“URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a uniform resource locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter in length and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using a redirect on a domain name that is short, which links to the web page that has a long URL. For example, the URL “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/URL_shortening” can be shortened to “http://tinyurl.com/urlwiki”. This is especially convenient for messaging technologies that limit the number of characters that may be used in a message, such as Twitter and Identi.ca. In November 2009, the shortened links of the URL shortening service Bitly were accessed 2.1 billion times.
Other uses of URL shortening are to “beautify” a link, track clicks, or disguise the underlying address. Although disguising of the underlying address may be desired for legitimate business or personal reasons, it is open to abuse and for this reason, some URL shortening service providers have found themselves on spam blacklists, because of the use of their redirect services by sites trying to bypass those very same blacklists. Some websites prevent short, redirected URLs from being posted.”
What are some popular url shorteners?
Some of the popular url shorteners include Bit.ly, Goo.gl, t.co (Twitter), and wp.me (WordPress link shortener through the Jetpack plugin that you can get on your edit page screen next to the link below the title).
Here is a list of 90+ url shortening services from Mashable (this is an older post from 2008).
Do they hurt SEO?
Url shorteners are essentially 301 redirects. It is widely believed that 301 redirects limit the amount of link juice being passed to your site. This is because some of it sticks to the url shortener service.
An example of this would be if you posted a bit.ly link to twitter. Of your normal amount of link juice from that link, you instead would only be getting around 90-99% of the link juice. That other 10-1% would go to bit.ly. That stat of 90-99% comes from Moz’s page on redirections.
Okay, so you’re not getting as much link juice by using url shorteners, but does that hurt your SEO?
You would think that not getting all your link juice means that your page isn’t getting it’s right authority from other sites. That doesn’t sound good, but we don’t really know what is going on with how Google is determining a page’s authority and spot in the SERPs (search engine results pages). Sure, we know some factors, but for all we know they are tracking how much link juice is going from each page to each site. If you had nothing but 100% link juice links, that wouldn’t look natural, right?
It also wouldn’t look natural to have nothing but the same url shortener service always being the site that links to your site. Say 100% of the links leading to your site go through Bit.ly, that would be a red flag as it doesn’t seem natural.
Should you use url shorteners anyways?
My advice with url shorteners is to use them, but do so in a way that appears natural.
Don’t always use the url shortener. I would say you should use shorteners somewhere less than 25% of the time.
When you do use url shorteners, change between services. By that I mean don’t always use wp.me (the WordPress shortener through Jetpack). Instead, mix it up and switch between goo.gl, t.co, wp.me, and bit.ly.
What you are doing is diversifying your link profile so that it appears natural. I think this is a very important part of SEO at the moment and have another big post about it here.
One big reason to use Bit.ly
I earlier alluded to the fact that there is one other reason to use url shorteners.
I think that you should use bit.ly at least some of the time (under 10%, probably around 5% of the time) because the SEO and website tracking service Moz uses bit.ly to find links. After a link is clicked on bit.ly, it is indexed in under an hour on Moz. They’ve been using Bit.ly this way since 2014.
Moz has become a very important metric in the online community of webmasters and SEOs. They have two metrics called domain authority and page authority which are widely regarded as some of the best ways to evaluate websites. People use these to figure out the value of their sites, to fix and optimize their sites, and even to determine the price of ads or whether they want to guest blog on a site.
If you care about domain authority and page authority, you should be using at least some bit.ly links.
Goo.gl, one shortener to rule them all?
I should also mention Google’s shortener, goo.gl.
A lot of people say that this is the best shortener as it is google’s own product and so of course it might work better in the Google search engine and with google products. That of course is sound reasoning, and you probably should be using at least some goo.gl links so that you get that good tracking by Google and to diversify your link profile.
However, I wouldn’t go overboard as there also is the possibility that Google is tracking their url shorteners to the point where they punish abusers. If they see that the same IP address has made 100% of the goo.gl links to a particular website, they might downgrade that website in search or use that information somehow in the future.
Doing a few links in goo.gl per week is probably fine, just don’t do them in bunches and never suddenly do tons at a time. If you haven’t ever done goo.gl links and suddenly do 100 of them in an hour, I think Google might take notice.
In this article, we discussed what url shorteners are, why you would use them, and what some popular shortening services are.
We also looked at whether they are bad for SEO or not. Our opinion was that they are bad for link juice and possibly authority, but they make your link profile appear natural and give better tracking in Moz’s metrics of domain and page authority.
Finally, we looked at using goo.gl, which I think you should use to make your backlink profile look natural but also you should be careful not to abuse it.
If you are mainly wondering whether you should use url shorteners or not, my answer is yes you should use them, just do so in a way that appears natural by diversifying your link profile through use of several shortener services and don’t make a ton of links at one time. I especially think you should use some bit.ly links to get better Moz tracking.