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Will Google’s new URL shortener make tracking easier?

Henry Elliss
Henry Elliss
Managing Director
23 December 2009

googlAs you’ll probably have heard by now, Google are stepping in to the URL-shortening game with the launch of their own service – http://goo.gl/. Currently only available for use by Google’s own tools (i.e. The Google toolbar and the like), it’s almost certainly going to be opened up to the public at some point, putting Google in direct competition with services like TinyURL and Bit.ly. Whilst a lot of people are speculating about Google’s motives for doing this, I’m most interested to see how this will affect two particular issues that, as a person who works closely with Search and Social people, really affect us:

Will it pass link juice?

As an agency who specialise in the ‘synergies’ between SEO and Social Media, short URLs have been a bit contentious issue – whilst they seem to pass link ‘juice’ when you look at Yahoo’s backlink listings, they are actually protected using nofollow tags on Twitter*, so Google (theoretically) won’t count them towards your links profile. But surely this is something that will need to change – after all, a link becoming popular on Twitter should surely point to the destination URL being a significant link? Obviously you can’t use any anchor-text with a short url, but in terms of link volume they should surely be counted.

However, one has got to assume that if Google launch their own, publicly-usable URL shortener, it’s links will be crawled by Google and count towards a link profile?

(* It’s worth noting here that whilst they’re nofollow-ed on Twitter, sites that aggregate tweets, people that pass them through other services, and many other services will not include the nofollow, so they’re still going to be adding value one way or the other)

Will Google Analytics pick them up?

As anybody who has ever scratched their heads while looking at their Google Analytics account will know, Bit.ly and a number of other shortening services don’t actually show up in GA – they get lumped in to the “Direct / None” category. This can be extremely infuriating if you’re hoping to quantify what traffic Twitter is sending to your site, or even more if you were hoping to actually track which links sent what. Obviously bit.ly provide a stats suite (and a recently launched “Pro” package) that will give you *some* of this information, but common consensus seems to be that these numbers are very unreliable – when you can’t even cross-reference them with your own stats package, what hope do we have of trusting them?

Presumably, Google wouldn’t build their own URL shortening service without making sure it shows up properly in their own analytics package?

Obviously I’m speculating on both of these – as soon as we can give the service a try ourselves, we’ll have a better idea of how likely they are. But I for one am quite excited about the launch of Goo.gl for these two reasons – even if all it does is inspire Bit.ly and others to up their game and give us a better service…

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