Unlocking the Value of Shortened Links

By Rebecca Watson, V.P. of Business Development, Po.st by RadiumOne

Up until now, URL shorteners were only used to abbreviate long hyperlink strings that looked awkward in marketing collateral and were even clumsier to share. Today, short URLs are not only prettier, but can also increase brand awareness and engagement.

Boosting Engagement

A popular social media trend right now is leveraging vanity domains to build trust (and ultimately higher click throughs). Companies can purchase a Web domain that looks or sounds like a version of the brand's name (e.g. Por.sc for Porsche), attaching shortlink functionality to that domain. With this approach, consumers see a branded link that is perceived as more trustworthy since it's connected to a brand, increasing their likeliness to engage with the link (e.g. click on it, share it, etc.). When selecting a URL shortening service, this feature should top the list of criteria to look for.

Need more proof? Several brands who have switched to publishing content to social networks with a vanity domain have experienced impressive results. For instance, a major luxury retailer's content received 25 percent more clicks per post on average, a pet brand saw a 43 percent increase in click volume and a CPG brand received 103 percent more clicks - all from using a vanity domain.

Analyzing Analytics

Knowing how your social content performs is becoming a basic component of Web success, yet not all link-shortening services provide the analytics businesses need to track these valuable links. When considering link-shortening services, analytics should include (at minimum): number of clicks for each post and per day, platforms or channels from where users clicked (mobile, desktop, Facebook, email, etc.) and geographic locations of users. These metrics can be used in a variety of ways.

For example, an automotive brand using an analytics dashboard from a link shortener may notice that at least 20 percent more users clicked on their tweets on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays compared to other days of the week. Based on this data, their social media team could adjust the timing of their posts to better align with when their fans are most engaged.

Another valuable discovery could be made by retailers when using link-shortening analytics. If a brand noticed that posts about shoes and handbags drove the highest volume of clicks, it should immediately begin to share relevant shoe and handbag images and scale down posts that include clothes and cosmetics, at least as a test.

Influencing Advertising Campaigns

It's safe to assume that a consumer who clicks on a short URL shows an interest in that company's messages or products, making him or her a valuable target to display ads to. For example, the 53,000 users who clicked on an Arby's coupon posted recently on the fast food chain's Facebook page would be ideal consumers for Arby's media buying team to specifically target with an ad campaign promoting a new sandwich. Not surprisingly, the performance of these ads is proven to be higher than ads targeted demographically or contextually.

"Our previous link-shortening tool could only provide click metrics and referring channels," said Josh Martin, social media manager at Arby's. "We've been amazed that by using advanced link shorteners we have access to those same analytics and can also gain access to deeper insights on the users who click on Arby's social posts."

Link shorteners are simple to integrate and, in most cases, free to use, making them the perfect tool for brands to gain valuable consumer insight into what content or advertisements drive the most results and when and how users are interacting with marketing material.

Short URLs in Action

Website Magazine uses custom short URLs (you'll see them as wsm.co throughout this issue) to drive traffic from our print and digital editions to WebsiteMagazine.com. These allow us to track our referral sources, what does (and doesn't) resonate with readers and helps us meet internal company goals. Discover seven creative ways to use short URLs now!