What is a URL shortener?
A URL shortener is a small piece of software or web application that, as the name suggests, reduces the length of URLs and gives you more space.
Shortened links take up less room than their long equivalents and can be easily shared on social media and by email.
URL shorteners also provide valuable tracking information so you can see how many times your link has been clicked on.
As such, some people regard URL shorteners as marketing tools as they enable you to track the efficacy of your online advertising efforts.
How does a URL Shortener work?
Most people who use shortened links do so through an online service which takes any long link and turns it into one that’s much shorter. However, how that process happens is where things get complicated.
A URL shortener uses a secret algorithm to turn your long link into something else, which shares the destination of your original link but takes up far less space.
The most popular URL shortening services take a long URL and add several letters or numbers to it so it becomes one word in length and has the same address as the original website you’re sharing. So, if we shorten https://www.lifewire.com/url-shorteners-hide-your-details-3291867, we end up with http://tinyurl.com/nqxkj2y
What are some common URL shorteners?
Because the shortened links they create are ultra-convenient, URL shortening services have become extremely popular over the years. However, there are some which enjoy far more widespread use than others.
Some of the most widely used URL shorteners today include:
Google – The search engine that wants to “organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful" has its own URL shortener integrated into every Google Maps Street View address you see on Google Maps. It also turns long URLs into something shorter with a random string of characters at goo.gl/maps/xxxxxx
TinyURL – This free service started in 2002 and continues to be one of the most popular options out there today, though it does intend to charge for its services in the future. TinyURL uses a custom algorithm to turn any URL into something much shorter starting with tny.im
Bitly – This service has been around since 2008 and is used by millions of people every day, including businesses large and small. It’s also integrated with Google Analytics, helping you track how many times your shortened links are clicked on. Bitly currently uses bit.ly/xxxxxx as its default format
Is there an alternative for companies who don't want to use a third party?
Yes! URL shorteners aren’t the only option if you need to shorten long URLs without using an external service. There are plenty of free options out there like tinyurl which you can set up on your own server.
They might not be as good for tracking metrics, so you won’t get valuable information about how many clicks your links receive, but they do help you save valuable space in blog posts and social media updates that need to include an incredibly long URL.
What are the benefits of using a URL shortener?
URL shorteners come with several benefits. One of these is their ability to track data in real time through the use of analytics software like Google Analytics or Bitly Analytics – this allows people to see how effective their marketing strategies are before investing more money in them. Another benefit is that shortened URLs make it easy to share lengthy URLs on social media platforms like Facebook where only 100 characters are allowed in the status update box.
URL shorteners are also helpful when you need to share a link that contains many special characters or numbers . Some characters, like apostrophes and ampersands , can be misinterpreted by web browsers if they aren’t encoded before being sent out on the internet. Shortened URLs send these types of links through an encoding process so all the special characters get translated into something more easily understood before it reaches its destination.
What are some alternatives to URL shorteners?
If you don’t want your data tracked by outside companies, third party services like bitly may not be for you. Fortunately, there are other options available which will shorten any long URL without involving an external service.
These alternatives may not track your data like third party services, but they do allow you to shorten URLs in a similar way. One example is tinyurl – this free service uses its own custom algorithm to create shortened links that are up to 250 characters long. There’s no need for any registration or email verification when using tinyurl; however, there’s also no analytics software available with the free account.
People who don’t need extensive tracking data can turn to stat.ink which is another alternative for creating shortened links without signing up for an external service. Linkbucks offers many of the same benefits as bitly and tinyurl , but it does require you to register before you can use the service.
What are some ways to use URL shorteners?
Here are some common uses for shortened links: Sharing links on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ Linking to specific parts of a website or blog post that you want people to see
When should I NOT use a URL shortener?
There are many instances where using a third party service which tracks your data isn’t always the right call. Here are two times when you might consider not using an external service for creating shortened URLs. If security is important, there may be large risks involved with sharing your data with another company if it doesn’t need to be shared Businesses who already have their own analytics software integrated their website most likely won’t need a third party service to track their data.
How can I speed up page load times?
If you’re using a third party service for creating shortened links, it might be slowing down the time it takes for your pages to load. This is because these services typically host their own servers which also house all of the analytics software that records your data. So even though these tracking tools don’t directly take up any space on your website or blog, they do still register as activity which needs to be immediately reported back to the external site where they are hosted. Not only does this slow down your page download speeds, but it may also count against you when search engine bots scrape your URLs looking for content to
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