Shortened URLs in social media: pros and cons

I received a great question from one of our customers at AboutUs: What is the best Twitter URL shortener?

As I dove into writing an answer, I took a step back and pondered whether it’s actually a good idea to use a URL shortener when posting in social media. After all, Twitter now has a built-in URL shortener, so you no longer get extra characters by using your own shortened URL when you want to include a link in your tweet.

Here are the pros and cons I came up with for posting shortened links in social media.

PROS of using URL shorteners in social media:

  • If you pick a URL shortener with some analytics, you’ll get easy stats on how many clicks that URL got.
  • With some URL shorteners like, you can customize the URL to make it something like that looks nice, and is easier for people to remember. If you don’t have much control over the URLs on your website, and you like the idea of using link language, custom URLs are nice.

CONS of using URL shorteners in social media:

  • Some people reading your social media post or tweet may not trust your shortened link because they’re not sure which site it will be taking them to. That means you could easily get fewer clicks on your link than if you used the full original URL. Many accounts that put out tweets that are spam or phishing attempts do use URL shorteners, so a shortened URL may make some people’s spidey senses tingle.
  • Using a URL shortener is an extra step that makes posting in social media take a little more time. Better to post quickly and often, so make it easy on yourself.
  • URL shortening services can go down temporarily (or maybe even permanently), rendering your shortened URLs broken for that time. Of course, your own site can go down too.
  • If someone chooses to link to your website from their own website via the shortened URL they saw on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc., it will pass only 90-99% of the SEO value, or PageRank, to your site. The shortened URL will pass even less SEO value if you’re using a not-so-great URL shortener that doesn’t use permanent 301 redirects. If the person sees only the full original URL, that’s the link they’ll use on their site – and then you’ll receive all the SEO value of their link.  (Keep in mind that the links you post in social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are NoFollow, which means they don’t pass PageRank like a normal website link. But still, social media links are a ranking factor that search engines pay attention to.)

What do other people think?  Here are a few tweeted opinions on URL shorteners from savvy social media people:

  • Ryan Campbell, a long-time account executive at a marketing agency in Portland, tweeted, “I have no problem with them, but studies I’ve read say URL shorteners decrease CTR.” (CTR means click-through rate, or the number of people who see a link and choose to click it.)
  • Keridwyn, who provides social media services in Seattle, tweeted, “Not only do shorturls allow you to track clicks, they also look much tidier! I use them not only in social but emails as well.”
  • Charlie Loyd said shortened URLs in social media are a yellow flag to him, and a credibility buster. He tweeted, “Domain names, and recognizing things I’ve already seen, are important,” and “An unnecessarily shortened link says ‘I expect you to click on anything I link to’ and/or ‘you’re just a statistic to me.’”
  • Pierce, a marketing manager and author of Epic Marketing Failstweeted, ” I like the full URLs or at least part of the full URL so that you know where it’s going to take you.”
  • Cesar Pinera tweeted, “I don’t trust shorteners, they hide their destination. Thus, I don’t follow URLs that use shorteners unless I know the posters.”

What do you think about URL shorteners? Do you have a favorite one? Share in the comments.