URL shortener, link shortener, custom link… all pretty much the same thing.
They’re tools which take a long URL and shorten it.
But some shorteners are better than others. And here’s why…
In the rise of Twitter, long links started becoming a problem and shortening them became necessary as every character counted in your 140 limit. Which meant that a URL like this…
… would eat up more than 70% of our character limit. Until we used a shortener.
TinyURL was Twitters shortener or choice until around 2009 when bit.ly took over and then Goo.gl jumped in with their own version. There’s a lot of shorteners out there, all with varying pricing models and services.
The problem with URL shorteners now is less about the character length restrictions and more about the confidence in what that URL is going to link to when you click on it. URL shorteners mask the links of the destination address they click through to, which is not so great for you and I when we want to know that the content we’re going to see when we click on the link is what we expect. And even more so that the link isn’t hiding any kind of malicious code.
Use branded links to inspire confidence
So let’s take the example Blog article URL above about the 5 Things We Learnt Using Facebook Live at the Oz Harvest CEO CookOff and shorten it using Funraisin’s inbuilt URL shortener tool…
Nice and simple, but more importantly it’s consistent branding for our organisation which should inspire some confidence with those clicking on the link that its trusted, alludes to the what the content is with the ‘FBlive’ and keeps Google’s spiders happy that there’s no black hat link cloaking going on (different to link masking, link cloaking is presenting false information to search engines and can get you blacklisted – don’t do it). It’s also memorable and effective with brand reinforcement. Do you remember the brand behind the URL of the last bit.ly link you clicked on?
Using domain extensions to set expectations
You could use the primary domain your Funraisin site is running from (for example, Cure Cancer Australia Foundation uses their curecancer.com.au domain for their URL shorteners) but you could also purchase a shorter domain that contains brand keywords and use that. There’s no shortage of domains out there to choose from. OzHarvest for example could grab the short URL ozhvst.co and run their URL shortener off that.
They could take it a step further and use domain extensions that promote more of a call to action or identify the type of content the user is linking thorugh to (domains that fit the right content at the right time). Here’s some examples:
- ozhvst.help — A strong CTA for generic fundraising
- ozhvst.store — Great for a link to their online store
- ozhvst.video —Setting expectations the you’re about to see video
- ozhvst.live — Good CTA through to streaming of their live events
- ozhvst.photo — Setting expectations the click through content is photos
Setting expectations with user upfront about the click through content is likely to also ensure more quality traffic too. These example branded short URL domains provide an opportunity to for organisations to categorize their marketing efforts into content funnels and have accurate reporting against those content types.
I especially like this domain, it doesn’t contain brand keywords but directly speaks to the mission of OzHarvest (and could be used as support on a collateral which contains their branding): foodrescue.tips
Using links as part of your CRO strategy
Branding aside, standard URL shorteners have some additional benefits around stats – you can see the volume of clicks each link get, time of day, day of week, that sort of thing. All useful when planning times to post content for maximum reach and engagement.
Organisations who use Funraisin are pretty active in their use of the URL shortener module as we have built in a lot of features that take this link tracking to the next level and can provide insights into the quality of offsite channels in driving traffic, your content effectiveness and much more – right down to the most important stats around Donations and Registrations. And the links don’t just have to be used online. They’re powerful for use in offline channels too such as TVCs, OOH, direct mail – pretty much anywhere you need a URL.
For example, using Funraisin you’re able to quickly see total donations attributed to a specific link which we then extrapolate on for average donation value, form submissions, onsite content interactions and much more down to an individual fundraiser and donor level.
What if I’m not using Funraisin?
Now comes the fun part, we’re building out the branded URL shortener to allow nonprofits who aren’t using Funraisin to also get free access to the tool so they can start creating their own custom branded short URLs and see these advanced analytics from traffic. Services like bit.ly charge up to USD$995 per month for their Enterprise version for similar.
I’m excited to say that we’re not far away from having the free tool ready, so if you’re interested drop me an email and I’ll add you to the early waiting list to make sure you receive full access.