Click-through rate, or CTR, is the percentage of people who click on a specific link after seeing it. It is an important measure of how successful, engaging and effective an online marketing campaign is. CTR can reveal the quality of an ad, social media post or email and lets you see how strong it is.
You can have top-class blog posts and amazing offers on your site, but if nobody clicks through to see them, they can’t make an impact. More clicks lead to more conversions.
The growth of link shortening
Sharing long and complex links online can prove to be a hassle, and for this reason the first link shortening service was created in 2002. At that time, link shorteners were used to stay within Twitter’s strict characters limit and to stop long URLs from being fragmented when sent via email.
Today, short links are commonly used across social media – even on platforms where the character limit isn’t too restrictive. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter even auto-shorten the links shared on their sites using their own link shortening services.
Unlike regular links, generic short links feature the identity of the link shortening company you used to create the link. For example, Bitly links begin with Bit.ly, while Google’s feature goo.gl and LinkedIn’s has Lnkd.in. A random string of text unique to each link is also added after the slash.
Here are some reasons why people still shorten links today:
The aesthetic appeal – shorter links look neater. Simple.
To track link activity – Most link shorteners offer users insights into how engaging their links are through click data. This can give you valuable feedback on the performance of your marketing messages and let you know what channels are engaging your audience. However, when using generic short links, this data isn’t always private and others can access it.
To stay within character limits – as mentioned, some social networks limit the characters in your posts and shortening your links can leave more room for you to get your message across. Short links can also help save money when used in SMS marketing campaigns.
Oversight: Using a shortener lets you see all of the links you’ve shared in a single dashboard.
Modern link shorteners
Today, many people use link shorteners for these same reasons. But generic link shorteners no longer offer internet users the best solution. With generic link shorteners, you don’t own the links you create – you can’t edit or delete them and they can be hard to organize.
Generic short links have also become associated with spam. When clicking on a generic link, the user has no indication of where they are being directed. Spammers take advantage of this and over the years it has led to distrust in generic short links. Many people opt not to click on them, which is detrimental to their CTR.
For this reason, URL shorteners have moved beyond being just a tool to keep links short. Some modern link shorteners now empower users to shorten and customize their links as they please.
Custom short links are made using your own domain which gives you ownership and control over them. This means no spammer can create links with the same domain. You can also edit or delete links as you need to.
Custom short links let you build trust with your audience by featuring your brand’s name and a keyword after the slash which indicates where the link leads. Because your links are on-brand, people know they aren’t clicking through to spam or malicious content.
The CTR of links
Branded links take URL shortening to the next level and have adapted to the needs of modern marketers and consumers. In terms of branding, they build brand awareness, visibility and trust. And in terms of traditional marketing, they receive more clicks which means more users make their way into the sales funnel and on the journey to conversion.
Studies on CTR weren’t conducted when short links first came about back in the early noughties. But it’s safe to say that, at the time, their neat appearance helped improve the click-through rate of content shared with them. As Neil Patel recently pointed out, the shorter a URL is the better. People are more likely to remember and share shorter URLs so they get more traction.
But as generic short links have become distrusted, their CTR has undoubtedly dipped. If you are a short link lover, it’s time to start using custom branded links because studies show they have a higher CTR than generic short links.
With all the above points, it’s easy to see why users would be more willing to click branded links. Their increased trust can improve the click-through rate of your links by up to 39%. This stat from Rebrandly is based on the results of an experiment, as well as a study of its user data. This figure is consistent with another study which estimated that branded links receive 34% more clicks.
Links are a powerful tool. They connect your brand with the rest of the online world and act as a touchpoint for your website on social media, forums, and anywhere else they are posted. You want as many people as possible to take the invitation to visit your site, so make sure the links you’re sharing help do that.
Editor’s note: This post was written by nDash community member, Louisa McGrath. Louisa is a content manager at Rebrandly, the link shortener empowering marketers to put their brand’s name on the links they share. To learn more about Rebrandly, or if you want Louisa to write a guest post for your website, check out her nDash profile page.