Lately, I have second thoughts whenever I click on a link that is wrapped up by a link shortener. We see them plastered across the web and Twitterverse in the form of bit.ly (bitly), buff.ly (Buffer), pocket.co (Pocket), ow.ly (Hootsuite), t.co (Twitter), goo.gl (Google), and a Middle-earth’s variety of others. One never quite knows where these Gollum links will take us at first glance or even how long the quest will be to the final destination link.
They served a purpose in the beginning, but now often are controlled by an army of orcish marketers and spammers addicted to metrics in all forms. They use these shortened links to lead us to annoying sites with ads and landing pages to burn our eye sockets out before we can even see a glimpse of the content we thought we were headed for – only after having endured a lengthy redirect akin to a trip to Mordor.
I came across the following article the other day and wanted to share it because it makes a lot of sense.
Link Shorteners Affect the User Experience
Why link shorteners hurt the user experience and destroy the Web
I don’t believe I’m the only one who avoids clicking on shortened links these days. I only click on them if I have some confidence in the quality of shared content that a ‘friend’ is posting. A shortened link in the wild from an unknown source, rarely gets my attention though.
Is it time to ditch the link shorteners?
Twitter’s link policy actually makes the original reason for shorteners more of a relic these days. Twitter Help Center | Posting links in a Tweet
I’ve been using unshortened links for awhile now and have seen better engagement results. When sharing an article, I’ll go out of my way to actually find the original link to it (instead of merely sharing a shortened URL within an app). Because I hate being given a link only to experience a long redirect process and then hit a spammy site with a landing page, I’ll go out of my way to qualify a link before sharing one with others.
Sometimes, even my attempt to qualify a link are undermined by sites that still automatically detect one is coming from a mobile device and so still serve up a deliciously eye burning pop-up first. It’s the old desktop vs mobile experience that some sites don’t understand yet.
Maybe it’s time to rethink the social sharing strategy and ask whether analytics are more important than avoided links. That shortened link, may just end up being tossed into the furnace of other forgotten relics.