Site owners, bloggers and online marketers. The one thing they all share in common is the never ending desire to master the art of monetizing their content and audiences. While not all content and audiences are the same, the value in their traffic is always something that should is heavily sought after — no matter the country, focus or demographic.
One such method is for sharing content on social media and monetizing site traffic is through the use of link shortening services. In this article, we are going to take a look at what link shortening is, the different services out there you can use and how sites are making money link shortening services in the process.
What are Link Shorteners and Why Might You Need Them?
The concept of link shortening is just like what it sounds like. You provide a full website URL to a link shortening service, then you are instantly provided with a short URL redirect that sends users to your requested site location. A good example of this would be if you were to share a link on Twitter with your audience. You will likely notice that the long URL you provided is quickly turned into a shorter URL redirect so it doesn’t take up a lot of space within your Tweet.
This type of link shortening is automatically done through Twitter, but there actually several reasons what you might want to use a link shortening service for your own links or sharing on other sites, such as:
- Saving space and making ugly long links look pretty. Yes, the most common reason for using link shorteners is to simply shorten very long links. This is especially true when using social media, as shown above.
- Gain advanced tracking and statistics on your long links. Another great benefit to shortening links that you might be sharing in different locations is having the ability to track how many clicks you are actually getting, and from where.
- Hide affiliate links and target URLs. Sometimes you want to promote an affiliate offer or link to another site with a referral ID, but you might not want that information to be public. This is a perfect example of why other site sites are using link shortening.
- Linking to blocked websites and content through social media. Sometimes social networks like Facebook and Twitter block websites (for whatever reason). One method to get around this is to use link shortening services.
- Making money with your links. In addition to each of the benefits above, site owners can also make money by using link shortening services to display advertising in between the visitor process, thus generating a new source of revenue.
How Paid Link Shorteners Work
As mentioned in the many benefits of link shorteners above, the one that probably stands out the most is the concept of making money with your links. While not all link shortening services offer a monetization option, sites like Shorte.st, AdFly and LinkShrink are the most common sites that do.
The way link shortening services make money for users of their service is quite simple, and it goes something like this:
- A visitor will click on the shortened link from your site or traffic source
- An advertisement is displayed on an intermediate paid (this is how you earn money)
- The visitor then has the option to view the advertisement or click over (skip) to their final destination
This type of advertising has many advantages for sites that are looking to push a lot of high-traffic volume away from their sites. Examples of these sites are entertainment & gossip sites, file sharing, image uploads or any other high traffic site that is more focused on volume versus individual action.
You can see the full process of how this works through the image below.
Link Shortening Comparison Case Study
When a lot of bloggers decided to start paying greater attention to paid link shorteners, it was decided to give them a try as well.
However, with so many different solutions on the market, it’s hard to decide how to choose the right one.
Are link shorteners a scam? Or maybe they really allow to make money? Due to many contrary opinions among users, I reached out to a team to run their own link shortening campaigns to split test the results across top networks.
A few minutes with Google were enough to understand that Adf.ly and Shorte.st are the biggest players in paid shorteners niche. We also found some information about Bc.vc, so they were tested within this case study as well.
For testing purposes, non-bot traffic was purchased from 11 countries. There were:
- Spain (ES)
- Mexico (MX)
- Brazil (BR)
- Saudi Arabia (SA)
- Indonesia (ID)
- India (IN)
- South Korea (KR)
- Russia (RU)
- Malaysia (MY)
- United Kingdom (UK)
- Bangladesh (BD)
The study took place on April, 15th, 16th and 18th.
Popads.net was used to generate the traffic and to display an interstitial ad (online advertising that lasts a few seconds before loading a destination page. These ads are typical for links shorteners).
For the sake of clarity, 40K impressions were bought from the countries previously before.
Below, you can see specific countries that delivered the traffic:
It was best to choose a wide range of countries to see the differences in payout rates.
At first glance, all these numbers and definitions may seem difficult, but they’re really easy to understand.
Let’s start with an explanation of terms.
- Impressions – how many unique clicks were bought. A different number of impressions were purchased from each country
- Views – how many unique clicks were counted (recognized and accepted) by each link shortener
- Revenue – how much was earned with each link shortener
- vECPM is calculated by dividing total earnings by total number of impressions in thousands. It is an excellent performance measure for various ad units. Marketers use vECPM to compare their experimental results.
Data was also collected from the Adf.ly and Shorte.st publisher panels.
Due to the fact that Bc.vc counted scarcely any views, we will not focus on analysing this shortener any further. Below you can see the screenshot from Bc.vc publisher panel.
The next two images show views from Adf.ly and Shorte.st publisher panels.
Views and revenue achieved with Adf.ly
Views and revenue achieved with Shorte.st
To make the data easier to analyze, the stats from above were put into Excel sheets.
The number of impressions purchased from each country
Summary of test results
Don’t get dismayed with these numbers. The image below will clarify everything.
Explanation of summary of test results (on the example of Mexico)
At first glance you can see the differences in views counting. Overall, for 11 countries Adf.ly counted more views in seven of them. There were: Spain, Mexico, Brasil, South Korea, Russia, Malaysia and United Kingdom.
Shorte.st took the lead with the following countries: Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India.
Surprisingly, it turned out that Shorte.st paid more in most countries!
The exceptions were: Brazil (there was a draw) and United Kingdom (for this traffic Adf.ly paid me more).
It is worth noting that more was earned with Shorte.st although they basically counted fewer views. That means that Shorte.st has higher rates for each tested traffic.
And vECPM is a unit that shows this perfectly.
This study proved that Shorte.st allows to earn more for the same traffic.
If they only started counting as many views as Adf.ly, they would certainly leave all the competition behind.