Initially when website links were posted on the internet they were either hyperlinked to words on the page or contained the complete URL for people to follow. This became an issue because many full links are extremely long. Google even encourages website owners to place keywords in URL names to help with Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Over time these optimized and long form types of URLs became difficult to share in emails and on web pages. After social media sites like Facebook and Twitter emerged these long URL links started to pose even more of a problem for content sharers.
Enter Shortened Links
The answer to these issues was the rise of the URL shortener. A URL shorterner creates a shorter and more manageable link that can be used for sharing called a shortened link. As shortened links became more popular, more free software and websites emerged to help web owners create these links quickly. Shortened URLs offer many advantages to full links including:
Click Tracking: Shortened links can collect comprehensive data related to clicks including location of the user and location of the link clicked. Previously this would need to be done by adding UTM parameters which makes links even uglier. Shortened links mask these parameters. Being able to discreetly track link clicking is very valuable to content promoters.
Promoting Sharing: With URL shorteners more links and content fit inside of less space. This is essential when using social media platforms like Twitter. Many people want to share links on Twitter but are restricted to using a maximum of 140 characters. This means a full URL may not even be able to include any additional words. When the link is shortened less characters are used to share the link.
Inclusion of Advanced Features: There are many additional advanced features that can be included. For example, you can change the destination to your shortened link so that previously shared short links point to a new destination. This provides more flexibility when online locations change. Shortened links can also be used for link retargeting, splitting traffic, and the tracking of affiliate commissions.
The Evolution of Branded Links
Clearly shortened links offer many advantages over their longer counterparts. However, they have one main disadvantage: They are very generic. For example, a typical shortened link may look something like this: http://bit.ly/2hdUOpo . The link offers no information about what website the link is pointing to. Any marketing expert can tell you that this is a disaster for branding. In fact, over time people learned that using shortened URLs weakened brand recognition.
The solution to this issue was the creation of branded links. A branded link is a shortened URL which is also built around a company or organizations brand name. To do this the link uses words or terms that help people associate the link with the company, website, or content.
This is powerful because it has all of the benefits of shortened links, while incorporating a branded name, so that viewers associate the name with the content they are sharing and accessing. This reinforces brand awareness and increases brand recognition.
Some popular examples of branded links from major companies include:
- Pepsi – pep.si
- NYTimes – nyti.ms
- Starbucks – sbux.co
The Importance of Brands
Clearly branded links work if they are being used by such successful companies. These are companies that have worked hard to create a memorable brand and build brand awareness. But you do not need to take our word for it; statistics and research prove that the strength of a brand has a strong relationship to the success of a business.
This is exceedingly true when you are dealing with younger consumers. For example, research shows that brand recognition is the second most important driver of product loyalty for Millenials.
Branded links provide more recognition and allow content sharers to take control of their brand recognition and awareness. The main benefit that branded links provide is combining the many benefits of shortened links, with a visual that is branded instead of being generic. Branded links also offers additional benefits:
Branded links offer a signal of quality about the content being shared. People may be less likely to click on a generic link when they do not know where it will send them. When your link is branded they know where they will be sent and start to associate the links you post to quality content. This helps your website to establish authority.
Branded links help people remember where they read helpful information and return to your website. There is so much information on the internet today that people often forget where they read interesting or helpful information. Branded links are one way to help them remember. They will associate the link with the content and since the link includes your name, they will be more likely to remember your website.
Branded links make your website more visible when the link is shared. When other people post or share your branded link they are automatically sharing your website even before people click the link. You get the benefit of the exposure even if people only read the headline or comment and see the link. This is a benefit that you do not get with generic shortened links.
Branded links also help with SEO. This has been confirmed by Google’s Head of Search Matt Cutts in this video. According to Matt, “Shortened links still pass anchor text and the page rank. Now, that’s as long as the link uses 301 redirect, which most of them do. But since shortened links get shared more often, there is an added SEO benefit from this greater exposure.”
Using Branded Links
With so many benefits it is hard to see why anyone would not want to use branded links. They brand your website with a highly shareable link while improving your SEO. They also leave plenty of characters for comments and headlines when posted on your social media accounts. Our advice is do not delay, follow successfully companies like Starbucks and Pepsi and get your branded link today.
For more information about the power of branded links check out this helpful infographic: