URL Shortener: An Essential Tool in a Time When Less is More

10 min read
August 26, 2019
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URL stands for Universal Resource Locator, which is a fancy term for what most of us know as a web address or simply as a website. In fact, most of us never say, "What's your URL?" when we want to know how to find a website. We say, "What's your web address," or "What's your website?" What we're asking for is the URL, an important piece of information that allows us to find a business online. Think of the URL the same as you would the address to a house. Simply knowing the street is not enough. You need the actual address to find the right house on the street. The URL lets you do this. Without it, no one would be able to find your business.

URL Refers to a Web Address or a Website

Elements of a URL

There are three main elements that make up a URL. The first is the URL's protocol. It's the "http:// and https://" you see at the beginning of every URL. The protocol is the part that lets your web browser know how it should interact or communicate with a specific website's server. This is the part of the URL that allows it to work. In the beginning, most websites used Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP), which you still see in use quite a bit, but these days you're more likely to see Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS). This is basically the same thing, but it indicates a more secure connection that encrypts the data sent being shared between the browser and server. You may also notice a little padlock image in the address bar further indicating the security of the connection.

Elements of a URL
The next section of the URL is the domain name, which is what most of us think of as the web address. This is the part that used to always be preceded by the www (world wide web) preface but now some websites omit the use of the www. The domain name is the primary identifier for the website you're looking for, such as WebFindYou.com. If there is nothing added to it, this will take you to the home page you're looking for. The domain name, as noted in the bold example above, is made up of two components. First, there is the name of the website in question, then the Top-Level Domain (TLD), which is the .com, .org, .net designation. There are many different . (dot) designations, each with its own meaning. A .edu, for instance, indicates a TLD for education, .gov indicates a government website, etc.

The third component of a URL is what's known as the path. If you only want to visit the home page of a website, all you would need is the protocol and the domain name either with or without the "www." (depending on how the website is configured): https://www.webfindyou.com/ or https://webfindyou.com/. If you are looking for a specific page on the website, you need the "path" that takes you to that specific page. For example, if you want to learn more about WebFindYou's All-in-One Digital Marketing Technology, you would go to this URL: https://www.webfindyou.com/all-in-one/.

The Importance of URLs in Marketing

A URL is obviously extremely important in general. Without it, as we mentioned above, nobody would know how to access your website. The link to your website is an essential part of marketing your website. You will show it in print and tv advertising, mention it in radio advertising, and emails and other websites will use it to link to your website for anything that has to do with your company, your products, your services, and any kind of promotional campaigns.

The Importance of URLs in Marketing
As you can guess from all of the elements involved in a URL, they can become harder to manage if you choose a long domain name or the deeper you go into a website or if you use query parameters (extensions of your URL that help define specific content to show or actions to take). All of these scenarios cause the URL to become much longer. Beyond the fact that the longer it is the less aesthetically pleasing it is, it becomes harder to use in a marketing context the longer it is. Imagine showing a long URL in a print piece about a particular product you offer - it will occupy more space giving you less room for other more important information. When people want to share your URLs via email, longer URLs have a tendency to break rendering the link useless and causing you to lose an opportunity to receive the traffic benefit of that shared URL. These are just a few examples of many on why longer URLs can decrease your ability to maximize the Power of the Internet to increase traffic, leads, and sales for your business.

Shorter URLs Equal More Effective Marketing

As stated above, the length of your URL plays an important role in marketing your website but it's impossible to keep its length to a minimum due to internal pages on your website or the use of query parameters, not to mention the fact that it's harder to find a domain name that is not taken causing you to have to buy longer domain names. Therefore, wouldn't it be nice to be able to convert your long URLs to more concise and aesthetically pleasing ones? Well, you can thanks to a URL shortener. A URL shortener is a tool that reduces the number of characters in a URL to generate a simpler, smaller, and much cleaner one that you can use in online or offline marketing campaigns. The only downside with the free services is your brand name is removed from the URL and replaced by the name of the URL shortener. For example, a popular URL Shortener is Bit.ly. When we pass it the URL for this blog, which is https://www.webfindyou.com/blog/url-shortener-an-essential-tool-in-a-time-when-less-is-more/ (92 characters), it returns to us https://bit.ly/2Zjehfw (22 characters), a savings of 70 characters, but as you can see our branding of webfindyou.com is removed from the URL. However, if you upgrade to the payment plan of Bit.ly ($29/month) then you can use their Branded Link feature for up to 1,500 links. Your branded links will not use your actual domain name but rather a smaller domain name that you would choose. For example, if we purchase wfy.co then our shortened URL could be converted from https://bit.ly/2Zjehfw to https://wfy.co/2Zjehfw - so in essence we lose the branding of webfindyou.com in the URL but allow people to see wfy.co instead. So it would require you to find a shortened domain name for your brand that still provides some branding for your business to reduce this potential negative effect of a shortened URL. However a recent article by Rebrandly claims that branded links receive up to 39% more click-throughs when compared to generic short URLs, showing the importance of a branded short URL and therefore the reason to pay for this option (pssst...but with WebFindYou this option is included at no additional charge - keep reading below to find out more).

Beyond the primary purpose of reducing characters in a link, URL shorteners are helpful to digital marketing in other ways:

Advantages of Using a URL Shortener
  • "Cleaner" Posts
    In social media, content and aesthetics go hand in hand to help you get your target's attention. Picture all the effort made by a team to write a piece for Facebook or Instagram just for half of the post to be a full link. The users' attention will go straight to that link, with the post itself completely unread. Users will likely go on browsing their feeds and your company will get no positive response from them.
  • Personalized Links
    Users hate not knowing where a link will take them, and as stated above can create less click throughs. URL shorteners provide two options for custom links. Either just the back-half (typically a limited number per month - Bitly provides 50) or the actual domain name of the link (a paid option). Continuing from the example stated above for this blog which produced the shortened URL of https://bit.ly/2Zjehfw, using the personalized back-half would produce a potential shortened URL of https://bit.ly/wfyurlshort. But the paid $29/month option would allow us to use https://wfy.co/2Zjehfw and as stated above the later will produce higher click-through rates.
  • Prevent Broken Links Within Emails
    As stated above, long URLs sent via email can sometimes break and whether they do or not depends on many different technical things that are out of our control or simply not in our knowledge so we wouldn't know how to fix the problem. For example, if you send a friend an email with a link to this blog your email might look something like this when you write and send it.

    Hey John, how are you? I found this blog quite interesting on shortening a URL. We should consider this in our marketing: https://www.webfindyou.com/blog/url-shortener-an-essential-tool-in-a-time-when-less-is-more/.

    ...but when John actually receives this email, he might see the version above, or he could see the following instead, causing the link to the blog to not work not allowing him to easily read the blog you so wanted him to read.

    Hey John, how are you? I found this blog quite interesting on shortening a URL. We should consider this in our marketing: https://www.webfindyou.com/blog/url-shorten

    ** notice the link doesn't work now because it was cut in half causing the link to break. For John to use this link, he would have to copy both portions of the link into a separate file like Text or Word or into his browser to put it back together - and how many people would know how to do this?
  • Important Metrics
    Many URL shorteners can generate important data, including the number of users clicking on the link, from what social media platform or source the link was clicked on, and other data that can help you determine how successful a marketing strategy is. However, what they don't tell you without potential custom programming that could take a lot of time or get expensive to do, is how many people converted on your website (joined your newsletter, called you, purchased a product on your website, registered on your website, or filled out a form on your website) and who exactly these potential customers are (actual name, email, phone, product purchased, service requested, etc.) which can help you calculate "True ROI", and this is a very valuable insight for your marketing to know which links are truly working. However, have no fear, because there is finally a URL Shortener that does provide this option without any custom programming required - keep reading below to find out who.

What Are the Options for a URL Shortener?

There are a couple of popular options for tools that can shorten URLs for you as listed below.
What Are the Options for a URL Shortener in the Market?
  • Bitly: Bitly is one of the most popular URL shorteners in the world. It has a free plan that makes it attractive to users. Bitly allows you to convert 1,000 links per month and you can only see any data associated with that link for 30 days. If you want to be able to view data beyond 30 days or take advantage of other powerful options for your marketing strategy, you'll need to subscribe to at least the basic plan for $29 a month. The basic plan lets you convert 1,500 links per month and offers additional features such as link customization as mentioned above that can increase click-through rates by over 39%. They offer personalized plans that provide further options but cost more money.

  • TinyURL: The plans offered by TinyURL range from $5 to $49 a month and even higher for an Enterprise plan. Each plan comes with a specified number of links you can have and additional features depending upon the plan you select.

  • Ow.ly: Launched by Hootsuite, this shortener was initially an independent feature on the website that is now integrated in Hootsuite's platform plans. Prices range from $19 to $99 a month. It can get quite expensive to get the features you need with this one.

  • WebFindYou Presents its URL Shortener: WFY.CC

    There is another option - hooray! WebFindYou's WFY.CC URL shortener. It's everything you need a link shortener to be and much more. Other URL shorteners like the ones mentioned above don't let you see how many potential customers you get from a link without potential custom programming and therefore additional time and costs to you. That's because they don't support a tracking technology like WebFindYou does that will show you the actions a link generates, such as phone calls, contact forms, subscriptions, newsletters, e-commerce registration/purchases, etc. WFY.CC, WebFindYou's URL shortener, simplifies the important process of tracking leads beyond just clicks. The real power of digital marketing comes with knowing the conversions your links generate, which is exactly what you get with WebFindYou's URL shortener.

    With WFY.CC, you get these unique advantages at no additional-cost:
    • Lead tracking.
    • Better conversions.
    • The ability to obtain maximized digital marketing results.
    • One administrative area for everything as opposed to using a separate area for your URL Shortener as is the case with Bit.ly, TinyURL, and Ow.ly.
    • The ability to personalize the domain portion of the shortened link.
    • No limits on the number of links you can create - you can have a shortened URL for every web page within your website and have built-in tracking for each social media platform or source you create (including text messages).
    • No limits on link history or reporting.
    • All of this with less time and hassle. You simply create your shortened URL with the click of a button.

    How Do I Start Using WFY.CC?

    The good news is, the URL shortener WFY.CC is integrated in our All-In-One Digital Marketing Technology, along everything else you need to implement true digital marketing. The WebFindYou All-in-One Digital Marketing Technology is the first and only way to ensure your company's marketing meets the demands of the digital age. We provide all the essential components necessary for success in today's online world with less hassle, less cost, and increased revenues. So once your website is using WebFindYou, our URL shortener WFY.CC is automatically included at no additional charge. WebFindYou costs only $49/month for an informational website and starts at $59/month for eCommerce websites, both with an initial one-time payment as well. As shown above, Bit.ly costs $29/month and has limitations, therefore for a minimum of $20 more per month you'll receive the additional advantages that WFY.CC provides plus all the other advantages (tools and functionality) that WebFindYou provides (see our All-in-One section). Furthermore, with WebFindYou you'll Save $1,500+ on Average in Just the Tools and Services Needed to Achieve True Digital Marketing. There simply is no other way to do digital marketing with less hassle, reduced costs, and increased revenues.

    Are you ready to discover the True Power of the Internet and maximize digital marketing revenues with WebFindYou? Simply follow these easy to follow steps to get started:
    1. Click here to purchase WebFindYou.
    2. You'll receive an email to access the WebFindYou platform for your website.
    3. Follow the very easy to follow videos to implement WebFindYou for your business.

    For questions, please call us at 1-866-SEO-WEBS (736-9327), fill out our contact form, subscribe to our newsletter or follow us on social media to stay informed of everything WebFindYou including webinars and live speaking events.

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