URL shortening services just in time for short-cial media

With the boost of Twitter and its limitation of 140 characters, URLs need to be increasingly (decreasingly?) shorter. There is a grandpa among these types of services called TinyURL which used to be a leader but now as Twitter has assigned Bit.ly its official URL provider, some services like is.gd continue to operate, tr.im even died as a result (and later was resurrected, but for how long?), others want to win the crown over (Google's goo.gl and Facebook's fb.me) and organizations are also doing their own...

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Yesterday Techcrunch wrote about Bit.ly's PRO service to serve short URLs for big companies and they are giving it a shot.

Now, if you're a Twitter user, which service should you use? And how to use it?

1. First of all, don't use short URL's in blog posts and comments

I may change my mind about it but for now, I believe that real links should point to real destinations, without any URL shortening in between. You're not limited to 140 characters outside of Twitter, so use real links. I've already seen people using bit.ly links inside comments and blog posts and I have two problems with them:

- they hide the branding - if you're posting a bit.ly link, the person clicking on it is not sure where they'll be going. On the contrary, if you use the original link, everything's clear.

- they break the Internet's logic - Google's PageRank (tm) and all the indexing mechanisms as well as the whole logic of the Internet is based on good full-blown links and I like this logic.

My take for now - stick with the short URL's when in Twitter. Anywhere else use the original links.

2. If you're not a webmaster (or don't have webmasters working for you) - use 3rd party services like bit.ly

Bit.ly has all the statistics, widgets and all the mechanisms that help creating short links a snap. And if you're using Twitter clients like Tweetdeck, just give them our bit.ly username and they'll create short links for you automagically. Easy to set up and use. Go for it.

3. If you do have webmasters working for you and care about the links - get your own URL shortener

I know HTML/PHP etc. and still wanted to go with the 3rd party provider but when tr.im closed their doors and wrote their URLs will not be served past 2010, I decided I want to control the links better myself and cannot trust a free URL shortening services enough.

I built my own URL shortening service just for myself (with stats and all) to use not only inside my Productive Magazine but also to promote my web app Nozbe and other cool stuff. It took one week of development time so it wasn't that bad.

The advantages are really cool for me:

- I own the domain (pmagz.com) so I control the traffic
- I can customize the shortener and how it works (and I use it for various purposes)
- I can promote my brands on twitter by installing redirections on nozbe.com and other sites
- I can add other cool features (especially tracking for marketing purposes) as I need them, and I've already added a few

If you can't build your own but know some PHP, get yourls - it's a free script and you can install it on your server - I've heard good things about them. I didn't know about them prior to building my own service.

Disclaimer: I don't use my in-house URL shortener only when I post on this blog, as posterous uses their own (post.ly) for that purpose and I like the fact that it's automatic. This is the only exception to my rule.

Conclusion: Link shorteners will be popular as long as Twitter will be popular so it's good to establish your own URL shortening strategy to make sure people reading our Tweets do click through to the content we want to show them.

What's your take on URL shortening? What's your strategy for posting links on Twitter? 

--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Tuesday, December 15, 2009 (facebook,google,startup,twitter)