The Internet is full of short links, but not all platforms are created equal. When using a link shortener, you should consider 3 major factors:
● Is the service supported by the browsers you use?
● What kind of analytics does it offer?
● What security protocols does it have in place?
A handful of websites will let you shorten links for free. This may be a viable option for individuals with limited linking needs. However, using a paid service or plugin can offer you more control. Let's take a look at the considerations you'll want to make when evaluating potential link shortening tools.
1) Supported Platforms for Link Shorteners Your browser may support popular services such as Bitly and TinyURL. Some services, such as Ow.ly and Linkis.com, offer plugins for Firefox and Chrome browsers to make them easier to use when directing your site's visitors.
2) Analytics Tools Most link shorteners provide analytics data to users who register for a free account or trial period. You can use this data to track the success of your campaign in terms of conversions, clicks, shares and more. This information can help you determine what content is generating the most interest in readers and guide your future efforts accordingly. 3) Security Measures No matter how small or large a website may be—whether you're an individual blogger or a major corporation—it's best if you have some security measures in place with any online activity that entrusts personal or financial information, such as a web store. This is especially true with link shorteners, since the shortened links often lead to other websites or even other pages on your site that may have sensitive content. "These types of services are susceptible to phishing and spam problems," said John Prisco, CEO at anti-virus software company Triumfant Inc. "It's very easy for an attacker to set up a fake service using a similar domain name."
As you evaluate different platforms, make sure they offer SSL encryption—also known as HTTPS—to ensure secured connections from shared links to their destination pages. In theory, use of HTTPS should prevent man-in-the-middle attacks from extracting any data about your site visitors if they click a shortened link.
4) Customizing Link Shorteners You may also want to think about customizing your links beyond the standard short URLs that many services provide right out of the box, such as bit.ly/Contoso and ow.ly/HP150 . "Customization is important because it allows you to brand your links and make them stand out," said Kenneth White, co-founder of the security firm Acetrain AG and an open source advocate. This means choosing a domain name for your custom service rather than using one of the generic names often associated with free services—for example, earning clicks by using www.twitter.com/username instead of t.co . White added, "It's much easier to gain the public's trust if you show your website is yours." If not all of the options above are relevant to your web presence, consider testing out a free trial of different tools to see which best fits your needs.
5) Pricing Link shorteners can be paid services or offer shortened links for free—it just depends on how much control you want over the service and whether it offers value-added features that you need. Of course, some shortening services provide unlimited usage at no charge. For example, bitly.com offers ad-supported free accounts with up to 2,500 URLs per day without registration required. Linkis.com is another example of a service offering basic link shortening for free through its sponsored search engine model, where it partners with large and small companies to syndicate content and provide users with the ability to shorten each link into a more relevant and specific URL.
For those willing to pay, services such as TinyURL offer premium tools for $5 per month that include customized domain names, additional analytics features and unlimited use of their platform. "We also have an enterprise plan aimed at companies with sites holding high volumes of traffic," said Sean Henthorne, co-founder at TinyURL. "It has some advanced capabilities meant to help them manage their links efficiently."
6) Third-Party Integration If you're looking for something integrated within your website and not just an external shortener linked from outside pages (e.g., on Twitter or Facebook), many link shorteners offer widgets, buttons or tools you can place on your site. If you are using a WYSIWYG Web builder tool like the popular website design software from Adobe, all of these shortening service tools are compatible and easy to implement. "We recently added a new application for Adobe's Kuler color wheel via an extension for Dreamweaver," said Henthorne. "People working with images and multimedia will find it useful because they can generate URLs and start sharing them straightaway."
On the other hand, link management platforms such as Outgrow.me require that users input their custom link into the platform before it can be used to create shortened links—you cannot simply go to domain name generator website and choose a custom URL; instead, you will need to manually enter the link into the dashboard.
Even though many of these services offer competing features, they can all work together. "Most link shorteners integrate with other social media platforms and CMSs," said Aaron Aders, CEO at Click.is. Thus, you can simply take a shortened URL from one service and refer people visiting Facebook or Twitter to click on it for expanded content.
7) Security Considerations While integration is cool, what's more important is that any third-party tool follows basic security protocols when handling your information. Although most will require users to input their own website domain name—versus typing in an arbitrary string of characters—it shouldn't be possible for someone else to take that link and re-point it to a different page, or alter what you share with your readers.
"You want to go for a tool that has strong security protocols," said Aders. "This is especially important if you have any type of e-commerce site where people are giving personal information." Whatever the service, not being able to have control over this could spell trouble for your business or website.
8) SEO Considerations This is one area where users should always look at their options before settling on a specific shortener—or at least, they should conduct some basic search engine research first. White added: "SEO isn't about keyword stuffing anymore; it's more about earning links from reputable sites, publishing great
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