It is common knowledge that the more features you can squeeze into a piece of real estate the better, and HTML links are no different. One of the most basic SEO strategies you will learn is the inclusion of user-friendly keywords in your links and link text. Unfortunately, as more and more sites try to crack down on spam, we are often forced to post our links without the help of HTML and in increasingly fewer characters. Enter the tidal wave of URL shortening services that have become almost ubiquitous on social networking sites such as Twitter. You have likely seen these links — looking like http://bit.ly/d99YI1 — all over the web, and may have even used them for your own site. There are serious SEO implications to their use that one must be aware of however.
When you use a URL shortener for your links, you are immediately losing all brand associations. That link may go to any nature of site without the visitor knowing what it is until he gets there. Even legitimate and useful links are rendered forgettable, making a repeat visit less likely. Additionally, when you “outsource” your links in this way, you are surrendering control to the link company. If their servers go down or the company goes out of business, you are left stranded with dead links across your marketing efforts. It’s not unheard of; ask TinyURL.
Consequently, due to the de facto nature of obscuring link destinations, URL shorteners are often the lurking grounds of spammers and hackers. As a result, some corporations may block all links of this nature. DJ Vallauri, Founder and President of Lodging Interactive, has stated that his company has “cautioned hoteliers to not use links generated from free URL shortening services in their marketing as these links were increasingly being blocked and filtered out by companies as a result of the rampant abuse, rendering them ineffective.”
What is there to do when you need to post a link but simply do not have the space for the full URL? Well, if you happen to be in the hotel industry, the aforementioned Lodging Interactive produces a tool called Link2Brand which bypasses the pitfalls of the free services. If you own your own domain, there are tutorials on the web that teach you how to make your own URL shortening service. If all else fails, at least use a free service that passes on link juice by utilizing 301 redirects, such as bit.ly.