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. That’s where a URL shortener comes into play.
This article discusses the power of shortened links, why this is important for social media, and how branded short links help increase engagement with just a few clicks.
The growth of the link shortener
Sharing complex and long links online can prove to be a hassle, and for this reason, the first link-shortening service was created in 2002. At that time, a URL shortener was used to stay within Twitter’s strict character limit and to stop a long URL from being fragmented when sent via email.
Today, short URLs are commonly used across social media – even on platforms where the character limit isn’t too restrictive. Platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter even automatically shorten the long 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, the link management platform Bitly links begin with Bit.ly, while Google’s feature goo.gl and LinkedIn’s have Lnkd.in. A random string of text unique to each link is also added after the slash.
Here are some reasons why people still use a shortened link today:
A URL shortener adds aesthetic appeal
When sharing links on social media or on custom domains, short URLs look neater. Simple.
URL shorteners track link activity
Most URL shorteners offer users detailed analytics 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 a generic short link, this data isn’t always private, and others can access it.
A short URL helps you stay within character limits
As mentioned, some social networks limit the characters in your posts. So shortening your links can leave more room for you to get your message across. Short URLs can also help save money when used in SMS marketing campaigns.
Link shorteners offer clear oversight
Using a shortener lets you see all of the links you’ve shared in a single dashboard. For example, the Google URL shortener features all the URLs in Google Analytics. That information allows small business owners the opportunity to measure audience engagement and other analytics with their URL shortener.
The modern URL shortener
Today, many people use link shorteners for these same reasons. But generic URL shorteners no longer offer internet users the best solution. With generic URL shorteners, you don’t own the links you create.
Meaning, if you use a free link shortener, you can’t edit or delete them. Because you don’t own links, 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, unfortunately. 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.
It’s more than just a shortened URL
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. Meaning, you can use a URL shortener for your own custom domain to create a custom URL.
Shortened URLs for your custom domain
Custom short links are made using your own domain, which gives you ownership and control over them. This means no spammer can create short links with the same domain. You can also edit or delete any custom short URL 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 branded 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, a branded URL shortener builds brand awareness, visibility, and trust.
And in terms of traditional marketing, custom short URLs 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 a custom URL shortener 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.
Final thoughts on the shortened link
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.
When you create short links using a free URL shortener or bitly vs Rebrandly links, you can create short links that’ll appeal to your audience.
Editor’s note: This post is 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.