We have all seen bitly links posted on Twitter, sent to us through email, and scattered throughout the web. Unfortunately, sometimes people have associated them with less than reputable sources, even if URL shorteners like Bit.ly and Ow.ly are both reputable companies themselves. This is an unfortunate development, because these can both be an important part of optimizing limited space on social media, websites, and in email marketing strategies. Google itself used the shortener Goo.gl before switching to their new dynamic links. With all the confusion surrounding URL shorteners, some have wondered if they will have a negative effect on your Google search engine ranking. We’ll look at the answer to that question below.
Use a Well-Established Link Shortener
Before we begin, you need to make sure that you are using established brands. If you go with a new start up and it ends up going bust within a year or two, your links will go dead. These dead links will have a negative effect on your Google ranking.
Another reason to use well known link shorteners over others is that studies have shown that users and customers are unlikely to click on a URL with a URL shortener that they do not recognize.
Be Aware of Redirect Issues
URL shorteners use 301 redirects to their own sites that then redirect to the final destination. Google has offered clarification on whether they use the URL shorteners’ domain or the final destination in ranking factors, affirming that they do indeed use the final destination. Now of course, part of this means you need to ensure that it is indeed a 301 redirect and not some other tactic.
One pitfall to avoid is the fact that the shortened links are very specific, meaning that if you change just one letter, or do not copy the entirety of the link, you risk sending your customers to entirely unrelated content or a broken resource.
URL Shorteners for A/B Testing
Another benefit of URL shorteners is that they offer the ability to get an in-depth look at how people are reacting to your links. They can help track social sharing, clicks, who is referring, reach, and conversions. While there are other ways to get this information, URL shorteners can make it easier when you are using a variety of different platforms to share links.
This allows you to do significant A/B testing (deciding best practice through trial and error). You can try tactics such as branded links (links using shortened words or phrases instead of random letter/number combinations), or even try your hand at using your own domain to post shortened URLs. This works especially well in traditional media (radio, newspapers, TV) where customers are unlikely to remember long domains, or long randomly generated links.
URL Shorteners and SEO
Let’s return to the original question: Do URL shorteners have a negative impact on your Google search engine ranking? The short answer is “no;” the use of URL shorteners themselves will not. Using a URL shortener that doesn’t use appropriate 301 redirects or one that disbands and leaves you with multiple dead links can lead to problems, but there’s nothing wrong with using a reputable shortener that will save space and allow tracking and A/B testing.
While using URL shorteners for these testing purposes will not have a direct impact on SEO, it can help you fine-tune your process and ensure that everything you share has the maximum reach. More reach and more shares means a better Google rank ultimately, which over time will increase your domain authority and total rank.
Looking for more information about factors that affect your SEO and ranking? Contact tekRESCUE, a San Marcos web design and IT company, to learn more.