Over the past few years, URL shorteners have become a popular tool, especially with the rise of social networking as an easy way of sharing information which relies on short and snappy content. Many people have wondered how shortening links affects the SEO world, considering the amount of links that are shortened on the Internet and search engines continuing to rely on visible links to make ranking decisions. This premise has been answered by Matt Cutts, who is head of the Webspam team at the search giant Google.
If you are unsure of what URL shorteners are, these are services that truncate lengthy URLs so that social networking users can easily fit a specific URL into the allotted space that a specific social network provides (e.g. a status message, link share, etc.). A shortened URL actually takes up the same number of characters in a Tweet as any other length URL, contrary to popular belief. However, for visual and branding purposes it’s much better to tidy up your messages with shorter links. The common URL shorteners that are currently popular on the net today are: Bit.ly, Goo.gl, and TinyURL.com.
Since URL shorteners have become so popular, there has been a lot of confusion within the SEO world of how this can improve or hurt a site for any reason. Fortunately Google’s Matt Cutts gave a solid answer which has proved useful for those in the know.
Firstly, there are no penalties involved with Google rankings if you use URL shorteners. In short, you can use URL shortening tools however much you like and there will be no negative consequences for your positions. However, Google has pointed out that it would not be advisable to shrink links for submitting your business to a directory. For branding purposes, and to make it clear that everything is above board, it’s vital to include your full link for any listing submissions.
Overall the main point is that URL shrinking tools can be highly useful, and mainly for branding purposes when you’re considering a real user looking at your message and making a snap decision on whether to click through or not. From an SEO point of view, this is doing you no harm, but it’s not likely to do much good either, so if your link is for Google’s benefit you are better off not hiding it.