If you’ve spent any time at all with Twitter, you can’t have failed to notice the popularity of URL shortening services. Shorteners take long URLs and shorten them to just a few characters to help users keep URL length under the 30-character limit imposed on them by the microblogging service (not to mention the overall 140-character limit on tweets).
Senders who use social marketing alongside their e-mail campaigns are often tempted to use URL shorteners in their e-mail creative, often for a variety of reasons. Many of the most popular free services (bit.ly, owl.ly, and others) offer very slick-looking link tracking metrics dashboards. Senders like the idea (with good reason) of using a single interface to track link activity across all of their electronic marketing channels.
In addition, long URLs look ugly in the text version of their creative, which is displayed on old-school feature phones and some of the older (but still widely-deployed) versions of Blackberry smart phones. Links in the creative can wrap three or four times on a small phone screen, but a five-character link means that much more of the actual marketing message can be displayed without scrolling.
But there are a couple of compelling reasons why senders should think twice about using free link shortening services in their marketing e-mail.