As Facebook and Twitter usage goes through the roof so does the use we make of URL shorteners. These fall into two categories, those we use ourselves to shorten a URL so we can post it on Twitter and not exceed the 140 character limit and those which social networks automatically employ every time an item is promoted outside their own systems.
The burning question here is, do these hurt your SEO? The news is good all the way here and the implications even better. According to Google’s SEO voice, Matt Cutts, using URL shorteners has absolutely no negative impact on SEO provided the URL shortener in question is functioning properly and treats the conversion as a 301 redirect.
This should alert you to one potential pitfall, if you use a chain conversion of URL shorteners (unlikely but you never know when you might be tempted to experiment) you are essentially setting up a daisy chain of 301 redirects which might present a few issues (with BING at least).
Matt’s video explanation confirms all of this:
URL Shorteners Change ‘No Follow’ Tag
One interesting thing which comes out of all this is that social network websites usually have a ‘NoFollow’ tag in the links they provide. This is mostly standard practice and it is put there to stop abuse whereby a link from Facebook, for instance, counts towards a website’s PageRank (PR) and artificially inflates its authority.
While search engines respect the ‘NoFollow’ tag and do not pass value through the links on the page URL shorteners short-circuit this process which means that shortened links are followed back by search engines and some value does flow along them.
This is good news for those who use Facebook and Twitter as part of their social marketing campaigns and great news for those who post on Facebook content leading back to their websites.
URL Shorteners you can use
Now that you know that using URL shorteners does not affect your SEO you probably want to know which ones to use.
Google have their own URL shortener for Chrome and Firefox. You could also use Chrome’s multi-URL shortener and expander to shorten and expand different URLs shortened by a selection of URL shorteners.
If you want to use a web-based service Google run Goo.gl and then there is Bit.ly and TinyURL.
If you have an inner geek moment and need to satisfy your curiosity on how URL shorteners work check out the article at Coding Horror.
URL shorteners, as you might expect, are beginning to become a weapon for abuse both by internet marketers marketing unsavoury websites whose URL they really need to mask and Black Hat SEO guys looking for ways to circumvent the ‘NoFollow’ rule of some sites.
Until this becomes a problem big enough for action to be taken, using shortened URLs as you do at present does not harm to your SEO and it is actually good for it.