202.577.3350 will@willmarlow.com

Two things are important in a URL shortening service: (1) you don’t want the links to ever “expire” (unless you do want this to happen) and (2) you want the link shortening service to provide some amount of analytics.

This is why bit.ly is currently the standard free service for most people who shorten a lot of links.  Anytime you shorten a longer link with bit.ly you get a whole list of analytic data to tell you how many people clicked on the links; what countries they were in when they clicked; how many people picked up your link and used it elsewhere, and a few other things.  Also, you can take ANY bit.ly link you see anywhere and add a “+” sign to the end, and it’ll show you all sorts of data, like in this image.  (I suspect that some quasi-famous Twitterers and bloggers don’t use bit.ly exactly for this reason: they don’t want to let the world know that their influence isn’t as vast as they think it should be.)
Bitly

Here’s another cool thing you can do with bit.ly: you can create a custom bit.ly link to help telegraph where the link goes.  For example, a link to my blog could be “http://bit.ly/willmarl” instead of a bunch of messy random characters.

The need to use link shortening services like this is one reason why trust is so important in the online world.  If you don’t trust me, or you don’t know me, then you have no way of knowing if I’m trying to conceal a malicious link behind a bit.ly mask.  This is why it’s important to post regular, relevant updates on your blog or social media feeds.  Trust is something that accumulates over time, and as more and more people begin to trust you, that accumulated trust becomes validation for new visitors who are meeting you for the first time.

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Will Marlow co-founded AlumniFidelity to help his clients reposition their fundraising to benefit from Web 2.0 technology and marketing techniques. He’s working with clients such as UVA, the College of William & Mary, the University of Oklahoma, Bowling Green State University, Randolph Macon College, and he loves nothing better than a thorny marketing challenge.  Read more about Will Marlow here, or email him at will@alumnifidelity.com.