Google launched an URL shortening service in September 2010 called goo.gl. Originally the service was used internally to pass links within Google, but the service was expanded to include external links as well.
What Is An URL Shortener?
URL shorteners are short Web addresses that redirect to the longer, full URL. (That stands for Universal Resource Locator - it just means the website address, like http://google.about.com)
When all goes well, the experience of visiting a short URL is virtually seamless for the end user. They click on a link, and they get redirected to their intended destination. The most common place to see shortnened URLs is in Twitter where character limits make it difficult to list the full address to websites.
Why would you want to use Google's service instead of bit.ly or ow.ly or is.gd, or any of the dozens and dozens of other URL shorteners out there? Well, if you use an URL shortener from Google, you don't run into potential SEO (Search Engine Optimization) problems with your links. By that I mean that one of the reasons people create links is to give items some Google juice, aka PageRank. Most URL shortening services transfer that PageRank just fine. However, there are exceptions, so it's good to be safe.
In addition to the PageRank issues with URL shorteners, there's the risk of putting your trust into a third party when you shorten an URL. Shortening services come and go, and you don't want to risk having live links disabled because the app that was forwarding them went out of business. Although Google has had their share of failures, they've generally provided users with a lot of advanced warning before they end a service and a way to migrate their data when they've closed an app down.
The final reason is just expedience. You're probably using Google for other things, so why not keep all your data where you can find it and use your existing Google Account?
Goo.gl allows you enter a long URL and have it create a shortened version. All URL shorteners allow you to do that. It also creates a dashboard of URLs as you go, so you can see your existing links and avoid duplication.
Those existing links also get analytics. You can see when you created the link, how many people have clicked on it, and a few more details. You can also hide existing URLs from your dashboard. This only hides them. It doesn't disable the redirect.
Google set up the goo.gl/spam-report address for users to report any sort of URL shortening abuse.
Shorten an URL
- If you want to shorten an URL, simply log into your Google account and then go to goo.gl.
- Enter your long URL.
- Press the Shorten button.
- Press Control - C (Command - C if you're on a Mac) and the URL is copied to your clipboard. Paste the URL where you'd like it to go, and your'e set.
- Check back later to see the statistics on how your link did.
Links are public, so anyone is free to pass that link to others. However, if you log into goo.gl and ask for a short URL, goo.gl will generate a unique short URL, even if someone else already requested a link to the same website. That helps you track to see who follows links that originate with you, which means you can track your viral marketing impact - or just give yourself an ego boost. Clicking the Details link will show you a graph of visitors who used that shortened URL.
Analytics Are Public
One important caveat. You can track anyone's goo.gl URL by adding .info to the end of it. For instance, the analytics to the URL goo.gl/626U3 , which points to google.about.com, can be seen at goo.gl/626U3.info. Since the link only exists here, and you're visiting this site right now, I doubt the click rate is that high. Let's talk about what that link doesn't show you. You can't see who posted it. (Ok, I confess. It was me.) You can't see how many visitors visit google.about.com total. You can only see how many clicked on the specific short URL to get there.
You can view the same information by using + at the end of a URL instead of .info.
That in mind, if it bothers you to have public analytics on your short links, don't use goo.gl!
Hiding Old URLs
Sometimes you don't really want to track analytics for a URL or you just want to clean house and get rid of the old links. When you're logged into your Google Account and viewing your goo.gl URLs, you can check the box next to old links and click the button marked Hide URL. It's that simple. The link will still work. It just won't show up in your list. You can still view the analytics with the .info or + trick, but you'll need to remember the short URL.