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Different custom URL shorteners behave differently and can either help or hinder SEO so I have put this guide together for reference. I will be looking at both HootSuite and Bit.ly in this article to show how the different options behave.

HootSuite & Ow.ly

HootSuite has 4 different options when shortening URLs with their service. Each of the shorteners behave slightly differently, all have a use, but the only one that passes any SEO benefit is the one that 301 redirects the user to the page on your site.

Ow.ly

This URL shortener will automatically 301 redirect visitors to your website and passes all of the SEO benefit to your site which is what we all want.

Example: http://ow.ly/5Fjta

Owl.li

This URL shortener will 302 redirect visitors to your site although with it being a 302 redirect then there is no SEO benefit passed through this link. This may be a good option when linking out to websites other than your own if you don’t want to be seen as endorsing them in the eyes of Google.

Example: http://owl.li/5Fjwl

Hl.ly & Ht.li

Both of the URL shorteners above actually display the content of the page on your site, but on their URL which is no good for SEO. This has been implemented via an iFrame, which Google find difficult to index correctly. This page does have it’s benefits though, mainly being that these pages include lots of social sharing buttons at the top of the page. So even though the pages do not pass any direct SEO benefit, they could still be beneficial if they result in more people sharing the pages with their friends. Although personally, it is not my choice.

Example: http://ht.ly/5Fjxk and http://htl.li/5FjyV

Bit.ly

Now looking at how Bit.ly shortens URLs, they also have several options which all 301 redirect and do not have the variety that HootSuite have.

I am a little confused as to why there are 3 different URLs that all behave in the same way, maybe it is due to the limitations of custom URL shoreners – The fact that you can only have a maximum number of possible short URLs using 6 alpha-numeric characters (which is into the millions mind!).

There are also lots of other URL shortening services out there which likely behave in similar ways and offer different methods of redirection, so it is just something to be aware of when pasting these short URLs around the internet. Make sure they are passing the benefit you require.

Goo.gl

tinyurl.com

is.gd

ow.ly

bit.ly

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Michael Cropper

Founder & Managing Director at Contrado Digital Ltd
Michael founded Contrado Digital in 2013. He has experience working with national and multi-national brands in a wide range of industries, helping them achieve awesome results. Michael regularly speaks at local universities and industry events while keeping up with the latest trends in the digital industry.