URL Shortening Harmful, Use URL Masking / Cloaking Software Instead

Nov 23, 2009   //   by Hackadelic   //   WordPress  //  11 Comments

Use URL Masking And Link Cloacking Software rather than URL shortnersURL shortening, and URL shortener services, are evolving rapidly into a real hype. And while they do make sense with Twitter (due to their 140 characters per tweet limitation), they are not all that harmless from a SEO perspective.

The most harmful thing when you use a shortener to link to your own site is: It is not you who gets the link love, but the URL shortener website. The same is true when other people link to your site via a shortener.

Now in the case of Twitter there is counter-value you receive: More space for your message.1 But I’m observing a trend to use shortened URL even in normal blogs / websites. There is even a growing number of plugins that help you automate their usage.


It is not because the shortened URL is more memorable (or would you be able to remember http://bit.ly/4CSWyR?)

Is it because it is “trendy”? Well, go on, fall for it if you must.

I can think of only one logical reason to use an URL shortener in the own blog: To cloak a link the target of which you don’t want to be immediately visible to the reader (an affiliate link, for example).

If your intention is to cloak a link, why not use link cloaking software instead. There is an excellent free link cloaker for WordPress from White Shadow. (He even provides a much extended premium link cloaker with many more features.)

And if you must have short URLs, check out a URL masking solution that creates short URLs on your own domain, like the Kael.me URL Shortener plugin for WordPress.

Cheers and happy URL masking. 😉

  1. And you need that space, because everything is part of the message, even tags. []


  • How about using google’s short URL service released just before? Will it be useful for SEO?

    • Laura, interesting point. I don’t know Google’s secrets, but technically, with their own shortener, they at least have immediate access to the short URL’s target, so they could attribute page rank to the actually targeted website instead or that of the shortener service. If they do it or not is part of the mystery. I do believe though they should be interested in it, because Google has always been obsessed about improving the relevance of their search results.

  • I’m not so sure that ALL shorteners are devoid of SEO link juice. For instance, bit.ly actually gives you a 301 permanent redirect whereas other shorteners will do a 302 (which is not as effective in getting search engine love).

    As a shameless plug, I’m providing my link below that was shortened by bit.ly — http://bit.ly/c7cFWu

    You can take the above URL and run it through anyone of those sites that will verify whether your redirect is a 301, 302 or any other server status such as 404 and 200. The one I use frequently is http://gsitecrawler.com/tools/Server-Status.aspx.

    As I understand it (although I am NOT an SEO expert by any stretch of the imagination), google and other search engines will pass link juice through 301 redirects.

    • Excellent remark, bluehost. Indeed you’d expect 301 redirects to pass on SEO juice. However, my own (first-hand) observations indicate that, unfortunately, PR is not passed on to the target page, at least not immediately. Hmmm, this topic could be worth a post, I think… <:)

  • Yeah, I don’t like shortened URLs when I’m surfing online for they make me feel insecure.

  • hi,
    We needed a shortening tool, for a website with already 1000 posts up.
    And we wanted a solution which could be used for other sites too..

    The solution was simpl (duh… like after the fact of course).

    We installed Lessn. This allows us to use it’s tools to shorten any url on the net to the form of
    http:/ /t wojjs.com/x/ 3242 for example. ( broken on purpose here)

    We the created a PHP script with the Lessn API such that it would automatically create a short url for any page in our site. The short url is created upon the page loading. Duplicates are not made, Lessn takes care of the back end.

    View at http://twojjs.com , any page, on left side, small tweet button, uses this shortener, and the field below it displays that page’s short “anywhere” url for copy into anywhere.

    I’d love to have a plugin developer pop this together as a plugin perhaps.. (I don’t do).

    This type of shortener does one thing only, no stats, no tracking… definetly low-key, but I tend to like short sweet, and quick more than most.

    Touch base if you think you can do something with this info.
    (ps. I can use this across many different websites, same or other servers, currently planning on using across 10 domains).

    sweet, simple, quick, portable (not tied to WP) , password proteced and API capable, I couldn’t find a better solution.
    The beauty was, install, set up, and forget about it. done. haven’t given it another thought in a week.


    • Vince, thank you for sharing this. Seems like a great tool. 🙂

  • I use a cloaker some but most times just go with it. I do not do direct affiliate marketing n my blogs/sites so just going into settings and changing to %postname% on the permalink works well enough. Thanks for the interesting posting.

  • I think you bring up some valid points and a decent solution. The comment:

    “I can think of only one logical reason to use an URL shortener in the own blog: To cloak a link the target of which you don’t want to be immediately visible to the reader (an affiliate link, for example).”

    I would tend to agree with this only as a partial demographic. Outside of limited 140 char sets for a Twitter entry, I personally shorten for one of two purposes:
    1) in order to allow the end user to easily transcribe from mobile device to workstation browsers
    2) in order to avoid a line break in a link sent via email, where the end user is too confused to understand the issue of the ‘broken link’

    I also think that a URL shortening service is a way to hide the originating URL server, but for me, I do not use them to hide.

    • Hello Ari,

      good points. You may be interested in a “personal” shortener then. They provide a short URL path, but start at your own domain. So instead of “thingly.me/b17fe8” your get “yourdoman.com/b17fe8”. Of course, if your domain is longish by itself, the shortening will be less effective.

  • This is why I prefer to use my own short URL (the ‘ugly’ URL) for WordPress and Twitter. Keeps MY branding.

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