Short URLs – what, why, when and how to use them?

Short URLs – what, why, when and how to use them?

Short URLs – what, why, when and how to use them?

It’s never fun when you can’t find a website you’ve visited because you can’t remember the ridiculously long URL that go you there the first time.

What are short URLs?

A short URL is basically a shortened URL which is user friendly and functions as a redirect to the main page you want to go to. It makes it easy for the user to get to a page, without having to type in a long URL.

Why we use them?


There are several reasons to use short URLs. With university websites such as ours, which contain a lot of content, URLs can end up being quite long. For example:

This is somewhat unavoidable due to the structure of the website. But what happens when you want to share your URL on a publication, a brochure, or a flyer? These days nobody has the patience or time to type a URL into their browser that is millions of characters long. In this case, what you can do is create a short URL, which not only looks a lot more aesthetically pleasing, but is also a lot more user-friendly and easier to type.

When to use them?

Short URLs should be used if your users are required to physically type the URL out into their web browser. This would be the case for example if the URL is used in a television advertisement, included in a magazine article or a brochure that is handed out at an event. When it comes to using URLs for emails, or links in websites, this isn't necessary as it can simply be created as a link to specific text (hyperlink), which hides the long URL, but performs in the same way as a redirect.

How can I track how my short URL is being used?

When a short URL gets created, what we can do is attach a specific (UTM) code at the end of the URL so we know how people are using it. (UTM codes will be discussed in more detail in a future article)

For now, what you need to know is this is a simple code that you can attach to a custom URL in order to track and learn where searchers came from as well as what campaign directed them to you.

For example, if I created the short URL mq.edu.au/support/web-drop-in-sessions for the following URL https://staff.mq.edu.au/support/marketing-and-communications/website-guides-and-resources/web-drop-in-sessions and I want to know how many people used the short URL, what I can do is attach the following UTM parameters: "?utm_source=brochure&utm_medium=short%20url&utm_campaign=web_drop_in_sessions" at the end URL.

This means once a user types in the short URL of mq.edu.au/support/web-drop-in-sessions they will be redirected to the following URL https://staff.mq.edu.au/support/marketing-and-communications/website-guides-and-resources/web-drop-in-sessions?utm_source=brochure&utm_medium=short%20url&utm_campaign=web_drop_in_sessions.

From there we can look in Google Analytics at that UTM code and track who used the short URL. This will also work if we have multiple different short URLs going to the same page. So, for instance if you wanted to compare if flyers performed better than television ads, we could add different UTM codes at the end of the pages, so we know who used what short URL, and from where.

It sounds complicated, but the good news is the Digital Web Team is here to help.

How do I get a short URL?

Before you place the short URL into your letter, flyer, or brochure - you will need approval from Marketing before it can be actioned. We use best practice guidelines when creating them to ensure they are accessible and easily identifiable to the audience.

Your first point of call is to open a OneHelp ticket for the Web Team and select the dropdown option "URL redirection" - we will need to know the subject of the page, the end and final URL you would like your short URL to go to, and whether or not the short URL needs to be tracked. From there, we will ensure it meets best practice requirements and follows domain name protocol, before passing it to the IT Applications Team to implement. Please note, this can take some time, so please allow 2 weeks from opening your ticket to when you need the short URL to go live.

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