Shortened urls have been around for years. In fact, hundreds of thousands of people started using them once Twitter took off. There are many benefits of using shortened urls, however for many SEO/SEM professionals, there was always a thought in the back of our heads on whether or not it can hurt or help a campaign. Well good news, finally a definitive answer from Google on whether they penalize a link (or site for that matter) that uses shortened urls.
The Good News
Straight from Matt Cutts, who is known as the voice of SEO from Google has stated in a recent video that shortened urls will not penalize your link. This means that even though a link is shortened, you will still get the link juice. He specifically states that a shortened url will pass on page rank to the site it points to.
You can view the video of him answering this question at the following link:
While many of us in the industry have already realized that shortened urls do pass on page rank, I decided to write about it, because I see that this is a common question being asked not only by newbies, but still many in our industry.
How Shortened URL’s Work
Now is probably a good time to go over just how one of these shortened urls work. Basically, a shortened url takes advantage of an http redirect on a home page. So a shortened url is created for a specific domain and when a person clicks on the shortened url link, it visits the original domain and then redirects to its final destination. Many of us in the industry were already aware that 301 redirects (which is what shortened urls basically are) are a common and ‘Google approved’ way of directing traffic to a new site.
Best Practices When Using Shortened URL’s
With the rise of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, shortened urls have taken off and are common place. However, as I surf the web I notice occasionally mediocre or even poor usage of these shortened urls. Obviously, you can’t dictate the way users use this tool, but I have come across many links posted by web developers and marketers which are self defeating in purpose. Here are some tips on making the most of shortened urls.
Only use shortened urls when you have to. This might seem obvious, but there is no need to post shortened urls on your website or trusted assets unless the url is exceptionally long.
Generally speaking, use urls where they are common-place such as on Twitter and Facebook. If they are used on other types of sites or media, they can seem suspicious to those viewing them. The last thing as a marketer you want to do to a prospect is put a seed of doubt on whether or not it is safe to click on a link. This means that unless necessary, try not to place shortened urls in HTML email newsletters.
Use shortened urls from known services. Not only are viewers more aware of these urls, but you never know if a fly by night shortened url company has server problems or simply goes out of business- leaving your link dead. Two services I recommend are bit.ly or Google’s own service goo.gl (pictured below).