A URL Shortener Lesson Learned

ccd-screenWow. I made a big mistake.

Over on the site forCreate Consume Delete, we had been tracking people who clicked on the “Subscribe in iTunes” link with a shortened URL. When people click on the link, it goes to an address at the URL shortening site we were using to, then it forwards people to the page in the iTunes Store for Create Consume Delete. The shortening service tracks how many people clicked on the link and it was one big happy ecosystem of traffic forwarding and statistics gathering.

That changed today. I got an email from someone asking if I was intentionally forwarding people to “cakefarts” (WARNING: DON’T GO THERE) instead of iTunes. Sending people to watch a woman fart on a cake isn’t exactly what I want when they want to subscribe to my show. hint: I want them to go to iTunes.

Clearly something has gone wrong here. What happened? I imagine that in order to keep URLs short, shortening services eventually rotate out old URLs, and my URL was rotated out for this lovely site featuring the lady with the flatulence. Instead of people subscribing to the podcast, I likely offended them. That’s awesome! What’s a better brand building exercise than “You want to subscribe to my show? How about this porn instead!” Wrong.

Boredom by ttcopleyWhat’s the lesson? Don’t use URL shorteners when the link is important. Bad things happen to URL shorteners and putting an unnecessary step in the process means there’s one more thing that can go wrong.

URL shorteners were meant to save characters when using Twitter or making Google Maps directs easy to send using a URL that’s easy to remember. Shortened URLs are like directions you might scribble onto a piece of scrap paper or the back of an envelope to go to the house of a friend. Once you’re there, forget about it. It’s trash.

“Boredom” originally by ttcopley via Flickr