What is a URL Shortener?

A URL shortener is a tool for making what is usually a lengthy web address, into something more manageable. Even though the resulting URL doesn't match the original, both lead to the same web address with the shortened version using a redirection. In most cases, the shortened URL will use the top level domain (TLD), such as .us or .ca of a country that is deemed more acceptable for use by larger ecommerce sites. This can increase the indexing opportunities on sites like Google, for websites that might otherwise be ignored because their domain extension isn't accepted.

A URL shortening service is usually available via a website specifically made for shortening. Although this may seem like an altruistic endeavor, keep in mind that most shortened URL's are created with the company's name embedded in the URL. This is a form of free advertising for the shortening company, which usually relies on traffic and click throughs of ads for revenue. For the company or individual using a URL shortener, the advantage is often hiding the original URL. This can act as a cover for marketing techniques that are not approved by a company or to hide effective marketing techniques from competitors.

An important component of brand recognition is the ease by which a customer or potential one can remember your name. This is true of any company and relying on a color scheme, logo or tagline is one of the primary ways to encourage people to remember your company. Similarly, people can remember a short URL name rather than a long, unwieldy one or one that simply makes no sense. A URL shortener can help truncate a name into a group of words or letters that can easily be remembered and is usually recognized. The disadvantage of this is that some URL shortening services will create a short URL that doesn't make grammatical sense and in essence, does not spell a word. This creates a shorter URL that may or may not be easily remembered and this fact should be taken into consideration when choosing to use a URL shortener.

Another advantage to using a URL shortener is the limited nature of many forms of mobile marketing. Many popular mobile platforms including SMS messaging and Twitter are limited to 160 characters. If your URL is extraordinarily long, this can eat into your ability to send a meaningful and valuable message via one of these services. Using a URL shortener reduces the number of characters eaten up by the web address and can increase your ability to send messages that contain information aside from the address. In addition, many of the top brief messaging platforms like Twitter already use a URL shortening service to truncate and standardize URL addresses.