A URL shortener is a critical tool for any marketer or business. It can help build your brand, share content via social media, create great mobile experiences and help you understand the performance of your marketing activities.
What’s the best link shortener for you? The one that ensures that you have the most effective platform. So, here is a checklist of 13 URL shortener features you’ll want to consider:
- 1. Custom branded domains
- 2. Link customization
- 3. Link tracking and analytics
- 4. Usability
- 5. Browser extensions
- 6. Search engine optimization performance
- 7. Link expiration
- 8. Safety and security
- 9. HTTPS support
- 10. Mobile application
- 11. Application integrations
- 12. Mobile deep links
- 13. Upgrade features
Read on for more details on these features and how they can improve your marketing efforts.
Brand and Customize your Short Links
When assessing different link shorteners make sure you are able to brand and customize your URLs. Branding and customizing your links makes them easier to remember and increases engagement. If the link shortener you are considering doesn’t have the ability to brand and customize links you will be missing out on a great feature that can make a significant difference to your business.
For instance, in Bitly you can set up your own custom branded domain. This “custom branded domain,” replaces the generic “bit.ly” with something that more closely reflects your brand.
Branded Bitly links not only adds a level of professionalism to your online presence but also promises to increase your clicks and engagement over standard short URLs. One study we conducted with Beats by Dre showed branded links receive a 34% higher click-through rate!
Here are some other examples we love:
– Bitly uses bitly.is, so we can create links like bitly.is/everywhere
– Red Bull & Nike made domains out of their slogans, win.gs and swoo.sh, respectively
– Vissla chooses to use a domain that mimics the company name, viss.la
– TD Bank pushes the website subdomain, go.td.com
– Cleveland Clinic breaks out the city, the brand, and its purpose all in one link: cle.clinic
When you shorten a URL through Bitly, you can switch out the randomly generated letters in the back-half of the link and customize the text. Any Bitly link can be customized by clicking the “edit” button next to the link.
Customizing a link tells your audience what they’re getting and makes it much easier to remember and type. Nonprofits can experiment with /donate or /volunteers, a finance company could try /invest or /banking, or healthcare could use /HeartHealth101 or /insurancepolicyFAQ.
The Upshot: When you turn links into brand assets, you create consistent experiences across channels, build trust with your audience, and provide context for every piece of content shared.
Track Each Link and *All* Links
Effective link tracking and analytics are other “must have” features of your link shortening solution. A comprehensive tracking system is critical because a click means someone is engaged with your product or content. Your brand needs to know whether it is social, email, mobile, print, or display ads that are driving sales.
The best URL shorteners offer a clean, intuitive way to see how your links are performing at both an individual link level and as a whole.
For instance, here’s what the data looks like in your Bitly account:
Individual Link Data
What’s great about Bitly is that all the data populates in real time, and you can see how much traffic your short link generated vs. organic traffic to the same destination URL from other users.
Overall Link Performance
When you want to understand your results and engagement trends at a higher-level, Bitly allows you to do so with three key elements:
– Summary Graph: An interactive chart displaying the links you’ve created and their overall performance for the past 30 days. Filter by date range, tags, custom, or hidden links.
– Top Referrers: The top referring digital channels – from social media channels and “dark” traffic to YouTube and partners.
– Top Locations: The top locations from which your audience is clicking, broken down and measured by country.
The Upshot: When you understand your links at a micro and macro level, you’re bound to understand how to share the right content at the right time in all the right places.
Don’t Let Your Short URLs Affect SEO
One important factor that is easily overlooked when deciding upon a link shortener is whether the short links they create can damage your organic search efforts on your website. Some redirects can sap your website of its page authority which in turn causes your website to lose organic search traffic. This can be very detrimental to your website traffic and your business.
Bitly short links, are 301 redirects, which do not hurt your SEO. Google and other leading search engines will pass PageRank value to the final destination rather than the Bitly link.
Your Link Shortener Needs to Integrate into Your Workflow
Your URL shortener should work the way you work, not the other way around. Integrations and access to your link shortener on any platform are important components of usability.
Like most tools, a Link Management Platform is only as useful as you make it. If you’re shortening links sporadically and keeping Bitly data in a silo, you may be missing the bigger picture.
That doesn’t mean you have to spend extra time on the platform to maximize your results. Integrating Bitly into your current workflow and tech stack is as easy as it gets.
Bitly Extension & App
Our nifty extension is available to all users on Chrome, Firefox and Safari browsers. Once installed, just click on the icon and automatically shorten, brand and share whatever web page you’re on directly to your social channels. Similarly our iOS and Android apps allow you to create and share links, plus view your analytics on the go. Download the Bitly extension and app here.
Bitly Integrations & API
It’s awesome you can share your short links to Twitter and Facebook directly from the Bitly platform, but some teams leverage other tools specifically for social, content, or ad publishing. And for marketing automation. And for analytics.
Bitly’s got your back! We integrate with thousands of software platforms, from Adobe to Zapier, so you can shorten links and track clicks no matter your interface of choice. Don’t see what you need? You can build a custom integration with our open and flexible API.
The Upshot: Bitly is at its most powerful when you leverage it consistently and map your links’ impact back to the rest of your tech stack.
Mobile Deep Links
Mobile deep links are a way to seamlessly route mobile users to the best place to view the content they clicked. This enables you to control your mobile customer experiences, and directly drive key metrics like app opens, downloads, and customer satisfaction ratings by leveraging industry standard mobile deep linking functionality.
Leverage Links Strategically to Drive Results
When the power of the link starts to click (sorry), our users come up with the most ingenious and meaningful ways to leverage Bitly to drive tangible results. Here are just a few of our favorites:
By using different Bitly links to A/B test each CTA’s shares and clicks, the team at Social Quant determines the best channels, times to post, and types of content for its customers. “This data helps us maximize our Twitter marketing and has helped our startup get over 25,000 visitors a month just from Twitter,” said Social Quant CEO Mike Kawula.
Influencer Marketing ROI
It’s notoriously hard to measure return from Influencer Marketing programs, but giving an individual link to each influencer is a great way to do it. During HP’s #AwakenYourForce sweepstakes, which was promoted by Instagram influencers, one partner’s creative take on the challenge drove thousands of clicks, making him a go-to choice for future promotions.
Operational Messaging & SMS
One popular fast food chain received 20-40,000 email requests for help with passwords each day. They built an SMS password reset program using branded short links through the Bitly API, and have since reduced email support volume by 66%, putting less strain on internal resources and more self-service options for their customers.
The Upshot: Don’t just shorten – Put strategy behind links. Whether your goal is to boost engagement, drive sales, or streamline processes, Bitly links help you get there.
Your Link Shortening Solution should be Safe & Secure
HTTPS connections help make the browsing experience more secure by preventing eavesdropping or tampering by third parties. Your URL shortener should support HTTPS and other advanced security settings to support corporate or government mandated security policies — including HSTS support, TLS version restrictions, and strict SSL Ciphers.
In addition, ensure that there are steps to prevent bad actors from misusing your link shortener platform. As an example, Bitly works with trusted tech partners to monitor and block abuse and spam, and encourage the public to report suspicious Bitly links to email@example.com.