This is our inaugural Office Hours episode – this is where I take questions that were asked in the membership and share them with you – and today, we’ll talk about link shorteners: when to use them, best practices for using them and how to track them.
Daniel says: I understand how to use the UTM parameters but what about link shortening tools like Pretty Links? Presently all of the links we share in emails are Pretty Links so we wouldn’t have to go in and change the links in the emails whenever we changed the offer they point to.
So I definitely encourage the use of link shortening tools but they do not replace the use of UTM parameters to track your campaigns.
Now what are UTM parameters? I talk about these in episode 18 and of course, we go into all kinds of depth with how to use these in the Membership To Get Data Driven where I essentially write out all of your UTM parameters so you can copy and paste them into your own marketing strategies.
But at their core, UTM parameters are snippets of code you add to your links that act as location trackers for your marketing campaigns. Using these is what will grant you the superpower to generate reports you can actually read and make sense of and take action on and really understand what the return-on-investment for your promotional efforts. So that’s the sweet-and-low on UTMs but I encourage you to join the membership if you would like to know more about these magical little tracking tools.
But let’s talk about when and where to use link shorteners.
Daniel says he uses Pretty Links but these aren’t the only types of link shorteners there are. You can also use tools like Bit.Ly or Tiny URL, just to name a couple, or you can do what I do and save yourself the extra fee by using a redirection plug-in that will point people to whatever link you intended to share.
REASON #1 TO USE LINK SHORTENERS
The reason you would use a link shortener is to take big complicated links and turn them into something easier to share and remember.
You know I love examples so let’s use one: let’s say you’re speaking at an event and you want to track the traffic you get from speaking at that event. You’re not going to tell people to go to “mydomain.com/shop/offer?utm_campaign=offer&utm_medium=offline&utm_source=event …got that? I repeat!” You’ll sound bananas.
But when you use a link shortener, you can redirect people from something like “easy.link/event” to that big complicated link and that is something way easier to share and remember.
Meanwhile, you’re still using the UTM parameters that make it possible for you to capture all the campaign information you want to keep track of because in the backend, that easy link is redirecting visitors to: mydomain.com/shop/offer?utm_campaign=offer&utm_medium=offline&utm_source=event
So there’s your first reason why you can and want to use link shorteners: when you’re sharing a complicated link with an audience at something like a speaking event or on a podcast, and you want to keep tabs on the ROI for your speaking engagements.
REASON #2 TO USE LINK SHORTENERS
Another instance where I recommend using link shorteners is with Affiliate Marketing. I cover this in-depth in the Membership To Get Data-Driven but when YOU are an affiliate for someone else’s product or offer where your referrals gain you a commission payment, I always recommend that you avoid sharing their affiliate links and instead, that you create your own links using either a link shortener or a link redirect.
Why? Because people may change their affiliate programs and links (and I can tell you from experience that it happens more often than you’d like). When they change your affiliate links, you are then in the unfortunate position of having to remember all the places where you shared that link and swap it out for the new one – no fun!
But when you use a shortener or redirect, it’s no big deal at all to update your affiliate links because all you have to do is change where your link points to.
Examples are our friend so let’s use one: I love to use Bonjoro as a tool to welcome new members to my membership and as such, I recommend the service and have an affiliate link. If you go to omgrowth.com/bonjoro, I have it set up so that this link redirects you to my Bonjoro affiliate link. If Bonjoro changes those links on me, I don’t have to hunt down everywhere I shared their link; I just have to swap out where omgrowth.com/bonjoro points to.
Another advantage to using shorteners and redirects with your affiliate links is that, hello! they’re so much easier to remember. I don’t have to tell someone “hold on! let me find my affiliate link” because I made it easy.
Which brings me to Daniel’s question about what about Pretty Links or link shorteners: while I do recommend using shorteners and redirects, I do no recommend you use them in your emails. Instead, I would recommend that you embed your link and use UTM parameters to track which emails performed in which way. If you use the same link shortener in all of your emails, it’ll be impossible to differentiate those results in your reports and you could be missing out on some key insights.
I wouldn’t limit this recommendation to just emails, either: any time you’re posting links on your own assets – so things like your ads, your social media, your emails – I recommend you use your own links combined with UTM parameters.
Meanwhile, if you’re sharing links in a free training you’re offering or any joint venture you’re collaborating on, link shorteners are great but don’t forget to use UTMs with whatever you’re redirecting to.
And finally, if you’re sharing affiliate links for referrals/commissions, I recommend you use a link shortener to redirect to your affiliate link (and in this case, you don’t need to use UTMs because you’re not directing this traffic to your site and they’re already being tracked by the affiliate program.)
A final note about link shorteners, though, is that I personally prefer to use my own redirections over link shorteners and I have 3 reasons for that:
1) Because I own my domain, it’s free whereas link shorteners usually have service charges;
2) I like that everything – including my shared and affiliate links – starts with omgrowth.com and the less I have to remember and the fewer additional accounts I need to manage my business, the better; and finally
2) Link shorteners can be used for malicious purposes and people therefore trust them less. It’s easy to hide a link that’ll download ransomware, for example, using these types of links, and that’s often why online advertisers like Google or Facebook ads frown on your use of these types of links within their own platforms.
Another thing that USED to be a problem but seems to have been resolved in the last couple of years is that you were once able to add a plus sign at the end of any bit.ly link to see the analytics reports for that link. This means your competitors could spy on how people were using that link, but again, this appears to have been something that has been updated.
So link shortening and redirecting links can be incredibly useful tools, when they’re used strategically and in conjunction with UTM parameters, but they don’t necessarily replace them. You still want to track your campaigns like they owe you – because they probably do – and if you’re looking for more information on this, join the dang membership by going to trackitlikeitowesyou.com and P.S. yes, that IS a redirection link that uses UTM parameters so here’s a little bonus to the episode:
I have 2 differently coded links in my podcast episodes that both point to my membership sign-up page. The first one is trackitlikeitowesyou.com and this shows up in my reports as people who heard and remembered the link, and went and typed it into a browser themselves. The second link is the one in the shownotes and this shows up as people who saw the membership sign-up page because they clicking on a link in the shownotes. This allows me to 1) cater to the different ways in which people use and interact with podcast links and 2) better understand what those ways are.
So if you’re looking to creep on a real-life example of how different UTMs work, go ahead and check those out and hey! it’s not so creepy if you slip into my DMs to tell me @omgrowth – talk soon, creep-o, baiiieee!