An issue that stirred up the Wakonda Marketing headquarters this morning is the significance of using URL shorteners on Twitter, and the impact of shorteners in general.
Does Google recognize bit.ly (or equivalent) as a link?
Are tweeted shortened URLs good for backlinking?
What difference does it make when we tweet raw links instead of shortened URLs?
These questions stemmed from my dilemma of whether to automatically shorten URLs when someone clicks on our social sharing buttons, or leave raw links as is and let Twitter shorten it with an ellipses.
My first reason for choosing shorteners is saving characters to give space for hashtags and a good headline in the tweet. However, after testing, here’s what we found out.
Notice that there’s only five characters left when using both bitly and the raw link for the same tweet and hashtags. So there’s no difference in terms of saving characters.
Raw Links Look Better
Using raw links makes a lot of sense and it’s also a personal preference. Twitter nofollows all links within tweets, and there’s much speculation aht URL shorteners can pass link juice. There’s one very important advantage when tweeting raw links, though. Observe the two images below.
Links masked with a shortener can look pretty suspicious, even if none of your links contain malware, scams or spam. There have been plenty of cases where unwitting clickers helped bad guys earn from fraudulent bitly and other shortened links, so now, many are hesitant about checking out links on Twitter.
Shortcut links may make you look like a spammer, especially to followers who don’t know you (and possibly just followed you to get a follow back), unless of course if you’re a reputable brand or if your followers know you’re not the type to take advantage of their clicking tendencies.
This is what I like about putting a raw link — followers know that my link will take them to the Wakonda site.
Analytics and Shorteners
When it comes to tracking, analytics will show that a referrer is a URL shortening site if the link is clicked from the shortener’s website. But when a shortened link is clicked on Twitter, analytics shows that the referrer is Twitter.
This was the case until the micro-blogging site rolled out t.co, its very own link shortener. Here’s a screenshot from distilled.net:
Analytics actually displays t.co as a referrer, which means it can be used to gather and measure data about clicks and relevance of URL shorteners.
This doesn’t mean however that you can give up on other URL shorteners because we here at Wakonda love bit.ly. It’s free, and complete with all the analytics components to analyze number of clicks, referrers and origin location of the clicks. Bit.ly even keeps data of who tweeted the page using the raw link, like so:
Compared to Google Analytics, bit.ly gives access to incredible measurements and data.
Can URL Shorteners Pass Link Juice?
After a bit or research, I discovered a whole goldmine of information about URL shorteners and how they pass link juice.
According to our resident SEO expert, URLs from Twitter don’t directly add value for link building because Twitter automatically adds the rel=nofollow attribute. What they do add are social signals. They allow pages to be seen in social channels, which means more exposure and traffic to your site, whether they’re shortened or not.
If you’re going to use a shortener, make sure it uses 301 redirects because they tell search engines that the link is a permanent redirect. Search engines relay link juice through 301 redirects, and not through temporary 302 redirects. Shorteners that use 301s include:
URL shorteners that don’t pass link juice (because they use 302) include:
So, make sure to use the ones with 301 redirects for posts that you really want to receive a lot of traffic, and of course, say things that people would want to retweet.