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The Pros and Cons of a Short URL

Need to shorten a URL? This Webopedia reference guide will help you understand what a URL shortener is and how these URL redirect services work.

Things to Consider Before Using a URL Shortener

While short URLs make it easier to access pages at a long URL, there are a number of things you should consider before using these services, especially when promoting and relying on the short URLs for your Internet business or website.

The Negative Side to Short URLs

Service Closure and Disruption

If the URL shortening service is shut down or goes offline then your short URLs will not work . Service interruptions can happen but you can avoid disruptions by choosing a URL shorten service that has been around for a while and has a good reputation for actively monitoring its service for spam links.

Disadvantage of Short URLs

Type of URL Redirect Being Used

 Different URL shortening services use different HTTP redirects. The type of redirect is being used determines where the credit for the URL is given, and you want search engines to credit the short link to your site not the URL shortening site. The services that use a 301 permanent redirect are the best choice.

Consumer Privacy and Security

Short URLs can be used for malicious reasons; for example, to cloak the URL of a pornography website or to hide malicious spyware and downloads.  Savvy Internet users simply might not click a short URL. In terms of security, remember that you have no control over the URL shortener service and should they fall victim to malicious hacking so will your short URLs.

Potential for URLs to be Blocked

Since short URLs can be used for directing users to malicious or spam sites some ISPs and Web sites will block short URLs so these are not seen by users.

Meaningless Characters in URL

Short URLs consist of “meaningless” characters. Users and search engines do not see useful words (keywords) in a short URL. For example our short URL http://bit.ly/3wMIVa tells you nothing about the page you will land on when you click the link. Look for a short URL that you can customize with a keyword.

On the Positive Side...

On the positive side, a URL shortener is useful and commonplace online today. It has disadvantages but it also has many advantages over using a long URL, especially for microblogging.  Ultimately, just having a short URL to access your Web page tops the list of advantages, but it can also help with keeping links intact in email or text messages and it can be useful for SEO (search engine optimization) when you use a short URL service that allows you to choose keywords in the short URL.

Another positive note is that most URL shortener services provide detailed tracking and analytics for each shortened URL. This is useful to track how popular the short URL is and to see when it is published on social media sites.

List of 15 Short URL Tools & Services

Now that you know how to shorten a URL and are aware of the pros and cons of using a URL shortening service, here are 20 services you can try.

1.  Beam.To: Free and easy to remember B2-Redirect URL.

2.  Bit.ly: shrink tweet URLs to 20 characters, plus track and share the shrunken URLs.

3.  doiop.com: Allows you to create a keyword in the short URL.

4.  EasyURL: Spam-free URL Shortening for active easyDNS.com members in good standing.

5.  Goo.gl: Google's own URL shortener. Offers short URLs, reliable service and good uptime.

6.  is.gd: An "ethical" URL shortener with options to use your own keyword.

7.  LNK.IN: Offers a short URL generator, domain forwarding or URL Redirection Services.

8.  ShrinkURL: Instant redirection, custom URL (shrinkurl.us/mysite) and logging.

9.  SnipURL: URL shortening with added features for posting to RSS.

10. Redirx.com: A basic URL shortener.

11. ReTwtme: shorten, share, and track URLs posted on Twitter and other online publishing spaces.

12. t.co: Twitter's own link service is used on all links included in Direct Message notification emails and can be used to shorten URLs -- but only those posted on Twitter.

13. TinyURL: shrink your URLs to 23 characters on any online publishing space.

14. Ulimit: domain names, Web redirection and email forwarding.

15. v.gd: automatically generates URLs that are typically 18 characters long.

Top 5 "URL" Related Questions on Webopedia

1. What is URL?
2. What is domain name?
3. What is dynamic URL?
4. What is obfuscated URL?
5. What is OpenURL?

Based in Nova Scotia, Canada, Vangie Beal has been covering small business, electronic commerce and Internet technology for more than a decade. You can tweet with her online @AuroraGG.

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