Links. You use them to go anywhere online. They are kind of like the nervous system of the internet; it can’t operate without them, yet, we are unaware of their power. Think about it, how did you stumble onto this article? Were you on a website, or did you get here from somewhere else, like a social media site? Most likely, you don’t even remember how many links you clicked to get here. Neither did I. But, I do know one thing – these links are important. If you look at the link from a different perspective, one from the eyes of a marketer, you begin to see just how the link can be used as a way to derive insights and make well-informed business decisions. If we rely on the link to get around the internet, why aren’t we tracking, measuring, understanding, and learning from them? Let’s look at how you can derive insights from links to make better marketing decisions.

The Short Link

This article isn’t going to be focused on how to best structure your website’s links for say, SEO. If you’re looking for more information on that, check out this piece. Instead, this article is going to introduce a topic called branded links. This is because branded links are trackable, customizable, and trusted. Branded links are shortened links that contain your brand name, and are the easiest and most powerful method of drawing insights from your links to get the most out of your marketing strategy, allowing you to better understand where your efforts should be focused.

 

Why just shorten when you can brand?

Links are very long and busy – look at this one from GQ-

This link clearly contains UTM parameters. When shared without the use of a link shortener, it would take up an entire social media post, for example. Once Twitter came onto the scene in the early 2000s, suddenly the fact that these clunky, long URLs took up space mattered. Because of this, various link shortening tools entered the market. When you’d shorten a link with this type of service, you’d paste a long URL, and receive a shortened version of that link that contains the name of the URL shortener, for example, short.ly/hgy71.

Yes, this did look better than the alternative, the long, confusing URL. But, the company name of the person shortening the link was lost in the process. The other downfall to using these generic link shorteners is that the link ownership transfers to the shortening company. If that company shuts down or is impacted by spam, then your links also are.

As I mentioned at the start, this article centers around a new innovation in the link shortening world. Just as the internet and social media evolved since the launch of Twitter, so have link shorteners. Rather than just shortening a link, you can brand them. Before we jump ahead, let’s see what these links look like in action:

In this Facebook post by Panda Express, their branded link acts both as a feature to their brand in a creative way while prompting the audience to click through to “order now.”

 

As you can see in the Panda Express example, these links are made up of three parts. The brand’s name, the TLD, and the slash tag, as best explained in the infographic below.

At first glance, you can already see the difference between the traditional generic short URLs that you’ve been seeing or sharing on social media. And yes, that first glance is extremely beneficial, because you can immediately recognize the brand (who is sharing the link) and where it leads. This transparency has many benefits. Let’s dive in:

Branding
The most obvious and important aspect of using branded links. Brand building is difficult. We all work hard on creating brand consistency and trust with our customers, so why not continue that with branded links. When your brand is on your links, they immediately stand out, but they also boast click-through rates of up to 39% higher than generic short URLs. This is because your audience trusts that the link belongs to your brand and does not lead to spam.

Tracking
Marketing is half art, half science. Here’s where the science comes in. Why are you currently only tracking when visitors land on your site? This is especially important for social media. If you’re using UTM parameters to track the sources of traffic, that’s great, but you can’t track which outside sites are driving traffic back to your website. When you use branded links, you’re able to track your audience from their first click. This helps you measure partner activity and understand what curated content your audience finds most engaging. Once you have a grasp on what types of content and brands your audience engages most with, you can produce and share more.

With branded links from Rebrandly, you’re able to use custom, built-in features to add additional tracking to your links, like UTM parameters. With its real-time tracking feature, you can also get more insights about your audience. For every link you create in the platform, you’re able to get insights on the type of browser, location, time clicked, device used, social media site the click came from, and much more.

Management
If you’re adding links to your marketing strategy, there needs to be a place to manage your efforts. I’m guessing that currently, you’re shortening links in a once off manner. By doing that, you’re unable to measure and compare all campaigns and individual links in one place.

Memorability
Since these links have your brand name right on them, people are more likely to remember them. This is helpful if you’re sharing links over the phone (in a support setting for example) or adding a link to an outdoor advertisement or infographic. This memorability can also be beneficial on social media, particularly on Instagram. Since the platform offers limited areas to add links, add a branded link in the bio to track and organize all assets. If you’re not yet able to add a link to Instagram Stories, add a memorable one (like we did at our last event) that your audience can type in and search.

Secure and trusted
Since branded links are owned by the person sharing them (not the URL shortening company), you have complete control of them. Meaning, they are just as much yours as your own website. The tool you use to shorten them just makes the entire process easier. They are more trusted because your audience knows the link is coming from you and where it will lead, avoiding any notions that the link could be spam. This trust can increase click-through rates by up to 39%.

 

Branded links allow you to begin tracking your audiences from the first click. They offer both a marketing and branding opportunity for your business and are easy to implement. If you’re already shortening and sharing links online, take it one step further, and think of links as an asset.

 

Have you heard of branded links before? If not, do you think they would be beneficial to your marketing strategy? Let us know in the comments.

 

Contributed by: Hannah Harrington, Content Marketing Manager @ Rebrandly

Hannah is the content manager at Rebrandly, the link management solution that empowers users to put their brand name on all the links they share. With a background in marketing and creative writing, Hannah’s passion lies in telling compelling customer stories.

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