Social Media 110: 7 Ways to Shrink URLs

After exploring a couple of alternatives to the granddaddy of URL shorteners, TinyURL, I had been planning to write a post about why these services are important and what are the advantages and disadvantages.

(By the way, I think it’s kind of funny…a sign of the rapid innovation in social media, really…that a service like TinyURL, which was started in 2002, could be considered an “old-timer.”)

When I found out yesterday that Ragan.com had an article (including a video interview) from a presentation I did in October at SAS in Cary, NC as part of Ragan’s corporate communications conference, I saw a good opportunity for a real-world, practical demonstration of how these services work.

Here was the URL to the Ragan article:

http://www.ragan.com/ME2/Audiences/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=

MultiPublishing&mod=PublishingTitles&mid=5AA50C55146B4C8C98F903986BC02C56

&tier=4&id=86C724C3E1794BA8ACD9D7CC55BC6DE5&AudID=3FF14703FD8C4AE98B9

B4365B978201A

And of course, when you paste a link like that into an email, for instance, what typically happens is that the URL is broken, so that when the recipients of your email click the link they get error messages.

Not a happy outcome.

That’s where TinyURL and similar services come in. Using the browser bookmarklet for TinyURL, I got this message:

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By reducing a 215-character URL to 25 characters, it meant I could paste the shorter version into an email (or into Twitter) without worrying about a broken link.

How does this work?

It’s brilliantly simple, really. With a six-character string of letters and numbers, TinyURL can create over 2.1 billion URL options. So when you submit a gigantic URL, TinyURL generates a random six-character code and links it to that URL in a table. Then, when users click that TinyURL link or enter it into a browser, they go to the TinyURL site, which looks up the longer URL and redirects them to the original longer URL.

See the Wikipedia article on TinyURL.

Here are six other link-shrinking options:

BudURL – This service has a free option or a paid upgrade that gives you access to statistics on how many times your BudURLs are clicked. I’m just using the free option, which I think limits me to 25 BudURLs. It also has a browser bookmarklet, which I will describe in the SnipURL discussion.

SnipURL – Also goes by Snurl or Snipr if you want to squeeze those last two characters out of your 140-character Twitter limit. It has a javascript bookmarklet you can drag to your browser’s toolbar (at least in Firefox and Safari):

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So that when you are at a page and want to create a SnipURL, you just click the link and it automatically creates one for that page:

picture-81

Here’s the sequence when I clicked the link from the main page of my blog. This window popped up:

picture-10

And then I had an opportunity to decide where I wanted to share it (or whether I just wanted to copy to my clipboard)

picture-11

And when I selected Twitter, it opened a new window with some text pre-populated (and which I then completed):

picture-12

Adjix.com – This is an interesting one in that it is ad-supported and offers revenue share. When people click your adjix link, a new browser window opens with a narrow ad banner. I think it’s relatively well done and the ads aren’t annoying. Here’s an adjix.com link for this post (which will create a recursive loop). What do you think of the ads? Annoying or OK?

NotifyURL.com – Similar service to some of the others, but you get an email the first time someone clicks your link. More recursive fun.

DwarfURL.com – Not very politically correct, but workable. Here’s the DwarfURL for this post: http://dwarfurl.com/01e3a

Linkbee.com – an ad-supported platform like Adjix. I like the way Adjix incorporates ads, as opposed to Linkbee, although Linkbee does give options. The interstitial ads show up for a few seconds (with the option to skip like some of the newspapers use), and there also is a banner option. What do you think?

TinyURL, SnipURL and BudURL offer browser bookmarklets, which makes the URL shrinking much faster and easier. TinyURL is actually automatically incorporated within Twitter, but I’ve found that it doesn’t always work. Adjix says it has a couple of bookmarklets (and even has video demonstrations of how to use them), but I can’t find the bookmarklets anywhere on its site.

Any of these seven tools will do the job for you. One potential downside of them is that if you use them instead of your long URL you may not get the Google/SEO benefit of links, because the link is to an intermediary site instead of your own site.

I’d appreciate hearing any thoughts you have relating to these services, or others like them that I haven’t reviewed. Please add your thoughts and reviews in the comments, so all SMUGgles can benefit from your experience.

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Author: Lee Aase

Married father of six and grandfather of seven, and the Chancellor of SMUG - Social Media University, Global. By day I'm the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Whatever I say here is my personal opinion, and doesn't reflect the positions of my employer.

22 thoughts on “Social Media 110: 7 Ways to Shrink URLs”

  1. I like bit.ly at the moment. Tried is.gd, which may be the shortest of all, but it seemed to give Twitter problems. So I’m sticking with bit.ly.

  2. I use BudURL’s free option for my URL shortening and currently have 35 URLs. I’ve tried several shorteners, but found BudURL’s detailed analytics to be the most useful.

  3. Love this!! When I am writing in my blogs I hate having to post such a huge link this will definitely come in handy! THANKS

  4. My favorite one is tinyURL because it seems simple and easy to use. Some of the other sites can up with error messages or had too many fields to fill in. I have never heard of anything like a shortening-URL site. Quite honestly, I don’t copy-paste URL’s very frequently right now, but it could be useful to me in the future.

  5. The adjix link on this page doesn’t even work. That is kind of ironic.
    Actually, the majority of these links are not working for me.
    In general, I’m not a fan of ads.
    I’ve never had problems with links being broken when I sent them in emails or anything like that, but I guess this could be a useful tool. I don’t know that I would use it, but I understand that many people would.
    DwarfURL is not appealing to me. It seems like it might be more complex than I would like.
    I like tinyURL in that it is really simple.
    Linkbee and NotifyURL also seems like good ones and NotifyURL has the feature of letting you know when someone accesses the link, but I’m not sure how important that is. I don’t think I would care much.

    I guess I would use TinyURL if I used any of them, but it really doesn’t seem that appealing to me.

  6. I didn’t know that these types of services even existed. What a great way to be able to shorten URL’s! Thanks for the instructions!

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