Aside from that fact that having your own branded URL shortener is cool, comfortable and professional, we’ve summarized the top reasons why using publicly available “free” URL Shortening domains could be harmful to your brand, business or project.
1. Domain security & control
Considering that free URL Shortener domains are typically used by a large amount of users they are constantly at a risk of getting flagged for harboring malicious content. Free Short URL domains are commonly used to mask affiliate links, adult content, malicious content and even criminal activity such as phishing.
Whenever you use a free URL shortening domain you run the risk of your links getting flagged or banned from social platforms and services simply because they are using a shared domain. When these things happen you may be stuck and depended on the compliance team within the service provider to quickly find and remove the inappropriate links so that they can effectively mitigate the issues with social networks such as facebook, twitter, pinterest etc.
Using your own branded domain that is utilizing an SSL certificate to safeguard all connections between the user agent and the web servers will ensure that you are never exposed to malicious usage and allows you to stay completely in control over your domain and links.
2. Inappropriate link content
Similar to the problematic issues that may arise from using a potentially unsafe domain – using a public URL shortening domain may pose risks of people arriving at unintended destinations. Most URL shorteners are case sensitive. They do so in order to be able to generate and serve an enormous amount of unique links. This means that whenever you shorten a link the Alias (aka URI / Vanity) is the unique identifier for the destination you’ve just shortened. Unless you assign a specific Alias to your link – most likely to give it some sort of meaning – the alias you will get is a random string of letters that will pose as that link’s unique identifier. The random string will be made of lowercase and upper case letters and will forever re-route traffic to the destination you specify.
The main problem occurs due to user errors. It’s enough that 1 letter is changed from upper to lower case that the link you’ve just shared or clicked on will re-route you to a totally different destination. This problem is specifically large when dealing with free URL shortening domains since those are shared by millions of users – each shortening links for their own purpose. Some may be using the free URL shortening domain to mask harmless videos or articles, others may use it to drive traffic to apps, malicious content, adult content or even viruses.
Avoiding using these free URL shortening domains altogether will ensure that the links you share will never accidentally lead users to those types of content destinations. Rather – users that encounter a broken link will typically see a harmless error page or better yet a branded landing page that might enable you to communicate with your audience and help re-route them to the content they were looking for.
3. Domain authority
When your audience sees your brand they know the message is coming from you. If, however they see the domain as something that doesn’t represent your brand they are more reluctant to click on the link. Years ago Bitly and other companies conducted a study and discovered that branded domains get clicked on 34%-40% more compared to the free URL shortening domains.
4. Promoting their brand
Why would you want to promote another company’s brand? You are the one that invests the time, effort and money promoting your links – shouldn’t they bare your brand and promote your company? That’s an extension of your virtual real estate!
5. Unlimited Aliases (Vanity URI)
Publicly available URL shortening domains are shared by millions of users. This means that all the users share the same domain and have to “fight” over great alias such as short.fyi/Sale short.fyi/Promotion short.fyi/Special etc. Only 1 user can claim a special alias so if you would like to use a meaningful alias for your short link you may have to spend some time trying to secure one on a public domain.
When you are using your own branded domain however you will never have this problem. You will own all of the possible aliases and be able to create, update and use them whenever and however you see fit!
6. All free things must come to an end
Just as Google announced the shut down of its free URL Shortener – Goo.gl in April 2018, giving developers 1 year to find another solution before their beloved service was switched off – you can never really trust a free service and know, when and if the company running it will decide to shut it off.
7. They monetize your traffic and sell your click data
Any free services provider has to find a way to make money in order to ensure their business is sustainable and long living. Similar to how Facebook and Google sell ads, free URL shortening service providers will typically either sell analytics data (in aggregate and not personalized) Or add their own affiliate referral codes to the destinations you put so that when you share links and your audiences clicks through them the company who provided you that services earn the commission if the user transacts on the destination website.