Chances are if you’re sharing links online you’re most likely using a link shortener of some form. Some platforms such as Twitter even automatically shorten your links for you with their own domain like https://t.co. There are however, issues that arise from using these ‘generic’ URL shorteners. Generic link shorteners create short links that use their own domain like goo.gl or bit.ly (thus categorizing them as generic). Custom short links (also known as branded links), on the other hand, use a custom domain chosen by the user, rather than the link shortener’s domain. Custom link shorteners not only alleviate the issues that arise from using generic link shorteners but provide even more value to your brand for the same amount of work. Let’s take a look at some of these issues and how custom short links can help.
Generic short Links Vs Custom Short links
Problem 1: Lack of Branding
It’s true that some URL shorteners do allow you to customise the slug in your URL, but they still require you to keep their generic domain. Anyone who’s done this will know that since URLs need to be unique it can be very difficult to find a URL slug that’s not already been taken. By using a custom domain for your link, you are not only opening up your choice of URL slug but showcasing your brand name every time your link is shared. Using a fully custom short link allows you to show your brand name, a relevant top-level-domain (For example, you can use .press rather than .com) and a unique keyword. You can even use different domains for different types of links that you’re sharing and have a team of people use the same domain for sharing custom short links
Problem 2: Blacklisting
Generic short links are often blacklisted and flagged as spam. This can occur when sharing links in emails or even when sharing links on social media. Blacklists are websites which build lists of domains which they’ve deemed to be unsafe. Generic short URLs often end up on these lists and since all users are forced to use the same domain, everyone’s links are affected. This is where using your own domain comes in. So long as your domain is in a healthy standing, your custom short links won’t be affected by a link shortening tool’s domain being blacklisted. Using branded links not only helps improve your deliverability, it also helps to increase the exposure that your links get.
Problem 3: Anonymous Destination
If I showed you with this link //goo.gl/cQsnUH and asked you where do you think it leads to I’d be pretty confident that there was no way you could guess just by looking at it. But what if I presented you with this link? Rebrandly.blog/How-To-Increase-CTR Both of these link to the same place, but with the custom short link it’s pretty easy to break down. It’s a link from Rebrandly’s blog to a guide on how to increase click through rate. Now it’s true that I could be lying and it could actually be linking to anywhere on the web, but since our brand name is being displayed in the link it’s a lot less likely that I’m going to mislead you and potentially damage our brand reputation by doing so. Essentially, visitors are more trusting of where this link leads to because they can see who it’s from and it’s destination is clearly communicated. This increased trust leads to a higher click through rate. In fact, we’ve found that using branded links over generic short URLs can help to increase link click through rate by up to 39%.
Problem 4: Lack of Memorability
In order to remember a generic short link you’d need to be a bit of a Rain Man, due to the random mix of letters and numbers they’re made up of. This limits the places you can share them to online-only, and also inhibits your click through rate. However, when using a custom short link, you can share also share them offline and even verbally. Custom short links are memorable and pronounceable so can be used on business cards, packaging, flyers, posters and any promotional material you can think of. Reporting return on your offline marketing efforts is one of the biggest challenges facing online marketers. But the added benefit of using your custom short links offline is that you can use UTM parameters to attribute website visits to your flyers, business cards or whatever you decide by using a unique URL for each channel.
Problem 5: Can’t Be Edited
Generic short URL builders don’t allow you to edit your links after they’ve been created and more often than not they can’t be deleted either. This causes an issue if you make a mistake when creating them, if you want to clean up your short link dashboard or if you want to stop the redirect from occurring over time. Custom short links give you the ability to fully manage your links by editing the URL, changing the destination and deleting the link as you see fit.
Generic short links were highly relied upon back when Twitter’s character restriction was making sharing URLs along with a message difficult. Now it no longer matters how long or short your URL is. They all account for 23 characters. Generic short links no longer provide the same value that they once did, so why are you causing yourself all the aforementioned problems by continuing to use them? Custom short URLs give brand exposure, increase trust, will not be blacklisted, can clearly communicate their destination and are memorable. They come up on top of generic short links every time in my books.