You probably remember the first time you saw a "tiny url" and got a little freaked out. Tinyurl.com was a site originally launched to tackle the problem of long links breaking in emails at the end of a line.
Tinyurl experienced a revival when twitter came along and each character became oh-so-precious. Today we have a plethora of options for link shortening, and twitter has just introduced their own solution, t.co
I wanted to clear up some misconceptions over twitter's new link shortener, have a word about link analytcs, and advocate the link shortener you should be using.
What is t.co?
Twitter's shortening service, t.co, was created:
"to protect users from harmful activity, to provide value for the developer ecosystem, and as a quality signal for surfacing relevant, interesting Tweets."These lofty goals haven't saved the service from coming under fire.
Some users are upset because they can no longer use link shorteners with built-in analytics. Guess what? You still can, it just gets displayed in a t.co wrapper.
According to the t.co support article [emphasis mine]:
A link converted by Twitter’s link service is checked against a list of potentially dangerous sites. When there’s a match, users can be warned before they continue:
- Our link service will also be used to measure information like how many times a link has been clicked.
- This information will eventually become an important quality signal for our resonance algorithm, which determines how relevant and interesting each Tweet is when compared to similar Tweets.
Twitter is trying to build a better internal search engine based on relevance instead of just chronology. We can see the genesis of this in trends and "top tweets".
Prior to the introduction of t.co, twitter was only able to track clicks on links from their website, not 3rd party apps. With their own link shortener, twitter can now measure all click traffic driven through their platform, from any tweeted link. It also means your Google analytics report will now be easier to read:
... analytics tools will now categorise all traffic from both Twitter.com and all Twitter clients as traffic coming from Twitter. Whereas before it would be divided amongst all the various twitter clients (usually just as “direct traffic”) and specific pages on Twitter.com – never directly from the tweet.
Add Search keywords in your URL
Here's another neat thing about twitter search optimization: twitter follows all short links and parses the complete URL in search. That means if I shorten www.newmediacongress.com and share it as http://goo.gl/uMdGH, searching twitter for newmediacongress will show results containing all links to my site, no matter what service shortened them. This is a great way to show up in search for any popular keyword or hashtag -- add keywords to the page of the URL!
Custom-branded link shorteners
If you want your own branded link shortener, it's simple to do through bit.ly. All that is required is registering a domain, then setting up a DNS redirect. For example: The New York Times uses nyti.ms, Mitt Romney uses mi.tt, C-SPAN uses cs.pn.
Interestingly, anyone can still access analytics from links of custom domains. This is a way to measure the influence of your opposition. Add a Plus symbol (+) at the end of any of their links and you will be redirected to the bit.ly page showing you how many clicks the link got. Mitt Romney's link to the tie-dyed "magical misery tour" t-shirts has gotten .26,588 clicks in the past few days. Look: http://mi.tt/MiseryTour+
What is the best link shortener?
You should be using the goo.gl shortener from Google, without a doubt. besides the custom branding, it has all the features of any other service, plus QR codes. Where it is leaps ahead though, is that it is by Google. Every time someone clicks a goo.gl link, that sends a signal to Google about that page. There is no doubt in my mind that they use this data to influence search results. Use goo.gl.