As Google have now released their URL shortening service goo.gl into the public domain, it’s worth looking at what these services are all about, for the benefit of those who see them and wonder why others insist on using these somewhat obscure links.
URL shortening is a technique on the World Wide Web in which a URL may be made substantially shorter in length. This involves using a domain name that is short to link to a website which has a long URL
Of course this definition from Wikipedia may seem to be very obvious, but it is the reasons why people do this that I am asked about, so here are a few:
- To use fewer characters, thereby making the URL easier to use in micro-blogging sites such as Twitter (140 characters max)
- To make the URL more elegant when sending to clients or friends (a database string also can wrap onto two lines in an email and break, thereby rendering the URL useless)
- To make the link trackable. Most URL shortening services offer tools for tracking clicks on shortened URLs and this can be extremely useful in assessing clicks and traffic sources for website content.
An example of a shortened URL in action:
There are many URL shorteners on the web, but the two best known are tinyurl.com and bit.ly. I prefer the bit.ly service as it also offers an excellent Bitly Pro service, whereby you can use your own micro-URL and route clicks that way. I use my domain ickl.co to route all my clicks for Twitter, Facebook and when I send email links, so that I can track usage and view stats on bit.ly. See the example above to see the domain usage. This does involve buying a domain primarily to route clicks, but then it does also mean you have a uniquely short URL for email, should you so wish!