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4 Unexpected Ways Short URLs Can Help Grow Your Business For Free Isn't it surprising that something as simple as a short URL can have such a dramatic effect on your business? Free link shorteners such as Cli.co can help you acquire new leads, promote brand awareness, get ahead of the competition and ultimately grow sales

By David Thorne

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A URL shortener is a Web tool that turns long Web page addresses into much shorter ones. An address that is over 150 characters long can be easily turned into a link containing fewer than 20 characters. This is done through the so-called 301 redirects: when a user clicks on a short URL, after a negligible delay, they are taken to the original page with the long URL.

Generating short URLs is extremely easy and doesn't require any technical expertise from a website owner. For instance, here is how it works on Cli.co.

One needs to copy and paste the page address into the create short link field. Make sure to omit the 'https://' part because it's added automatically, and click on generate to create a short URL.

Post that, copy the resulting short URL or share it immediately. Short links are reusable, so you can share the same page many times with the same link.

The many advantages of short URLs

Why would you want to shorten your links? The most obvious technical reason is that the long form looks too long and unwieldy, perhaps even too long to fit on a single line. But apart from practicality, there are some great marketing reasons to use URL shorteners.

What are they? Read on for a breakdown of five ways to promote your products and services with short links.

Build stronger engagement

According to Rebrandly, short URLs can generate up to 39 per cent more clicks than long ones because social media users are more willing to share them. More clicks mean more visitors to your website, store, or blog, and each of them can become a lead.

Considering that you can create short links for free on platforms like Cli.co, this is a rare example of a free way to generate leads. Compared to a campaign on Google Ads, this represents savings of hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

An additional tip is to use branded links and custom domains. Some services, including Cli.co, allow you to transform a short URL from something like cli.co/NFuDlWA into, say, cli.co/buy-cool-tshirts. You can even choose among 20 free domains to use instead of cli.co, such as fb.sv, ok.sv, and more. Even better: it's now possible to use your own website's name by creating links like your-site-name/campaign-name.

Promote your business offline

You can't always share a clickable link. For instance, you may need to print your links on leaflets or t-shirts for an event, or you might want to include a link on a PowerPoint slide. In both cases, a long URL won't work: nobody will spend minutes of their time manually typing in a hundred characters.

Short URLs are the only viable option for printed and other non-clickable promotional links. It's highly recommended to use branded links and add a QR code—both of which you can do with Cli.co.

Grow faster on Twitter

Twitter was the original reason why short URLs became so popular. You may remember that there used to be a 140-character limit on the tweet length, and every character in a URL counted. So if you posted a long link, you'd just run out of characters.

The limit was eventually increased to 280 characters, and now any URL counts as just 23 characters. But since short URLs have already become standard, everyone still uses them. If you post a full long link on Twitter, people may even get annoyed and think that you don't know Twitter etiquette. This may reduce the chances of your post being retweeted.

It may seem a bit strange that Twitter users are more willing to click on a short link that doesn't say anything about the content of a page than a long and descriptive URL. But nevertheless, this is true. If your brand has a Twitter account (and it should!) and you use it to promote your content and products, a URL shortener is a must-have.

Acquire insights for better campaigns

Web analytics is another invaluable feature of URL shorteners that business owners shouldn't overlook. Shorteners track clicks on each link, so in theory, they can tell you how many people have visited the page using the short URL, which country they come from, what their source page or app was, and so forth.

Whether you can really rely on this data or not depends on the shortener you use. Many free services are known for their unreliable stats—even the number of clicks is often estimated incorrectly. To get access to better data and more analytical tools, you usually have to pay for a pro plan.

Clic.co is a shortener that doesn't charge for advanced analytics. It counts clicks in real time instead of using estimations and offers a lot of flexibility when it comes to displaying stats. It provides data for both the short and full URL, IP address, visit date and time, country and city, and much more. You can choose between a summary and a detailed report, and you also have the option to export the data in the CSV and Excel formats.

Why is it important to have access to analytics? Because it allows you to plan more efficient future campaigns.

For example, if you see that Facebook sharing drives more visits than Twitter, you might want to rethink your tweeting style. If a YouTube review generates a surprisingly high number of clicks, you might want to focus on developing your YouTube channel. And if a large percentage of your visitors come from a single country, perhaps you can create more content in that country's language.

Can the use of URL shorteners hurt your SEO?

The short answer is no. Google uses Twitter and Facebook as ranking signals, so when social media users click on your links, this can make a difference for your SEO (if there's no no-follow tag attached). Google treats short URLs like any other 301 redirects, so any SEO benefit that is generated by the clicks gets passed on to the target page. Watch this explanation by Google's own Matt Cutt.

Startups are increasingly taking advantage of the functionality of short URLs. Now it's time to try them in action. Copy a link, head over to the cli.co website, generate a link, and share it on social media. To get even better results, create an account to unlock additional features. Experiment with short URLs in your next campaign.

David Thorne is tech, blockchain journalist based in Hong Kong. He is passionate about new technologies, blockchain, crypto currencies, DeFi.
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