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Why Link Shorteners Matter for Content Marketing

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January 23,2014

By Jon Henshaw, Raven Internet Marketing Tools


When most people think of link shorteners, they envision a service that takes a really long URL and makes it shorter. Based on its original purpose — to shorten links on Twitter and other social networks — they would be correct. However, a lot has changed since services like TinyURL were created.

There's no longer a need to shorten links for Twitter, because it now automatically trims and shortens them for you. In addition, when you paste a link in a post on Google+ or Facebook, they automatically take the link and enhance the post with a snippet. After which, you have the option to remove the URL and then type your message about the link.

So why would anyone want to use a link shortener anymore? The answer is simple: for campaign insights and reporting.

Insights from Campaign Variables

Campaign variables are tags (additional text) you can append to the links you share that will help you better measure the performance of your promotional campaigns. Google Analytics supports five main campaign variables.

  • Campaign name: Defines the name of the campaign
  • Campaign source: Origin of the campaign, like a website or a company
  • Campaign medium: Campaign type, like a banner ad, email campaign or click ad
  • Campaign term: Keyword terms describing the campaign
  •  Campaign content: Describes the content (link destination) being shared


Campaign name, medium and source are generally mandatory, while campaign term and content are optional.

To get started with campaign variables, use this URL Builder. Enter a URL, name, source and medium. The tool will automatically append the campaign variables to your link.

Next, copy the updated link and shorten it with a link shortening service like Bitly. Once you have your shortened link, you can use it to share your content via social networks and other means. As people click on your shortened links, you'll have the ability to filter and report on which campaigns were the most successful in Google Analytics.


Link Shorteners that Support Campaign Variables

The most popular link shortener that supports campaign variables is Bitly. It has a free version, but to get the most out of it you'll need to upgrade to the paid service. If you're looking for a more advanced and customizable link shortener, you may want to consider using

If you're looking for a cheaper solution or want to be in total control of your link shortening, then you'll want to consider using YOURLS. It's an open source project that is being actively developed, and it works great!


Jon Henshaw is the co-founder of Raven Tools, the all-in-one Internet marketing software for small businesses and agencies. Follow Jon @RavenJon
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