Using short links in texts - The benefits of URL shortening in SMS marketing

Team MessageFlow
15 min
SMS
March 22, 2024

SMS messages are one of the most important and effective channels for communicating with customers, showing an open rate of 97-98%, also pointing to its extreme immediacy. With that in mind, if a link is added in a text, it will significantly increase the effectiveness of the message. The inclusion of links in SMS allows the customer to get right to the website or mobile application, where they can take the desired action and hopefully convert. Let’s have a look at the benefits of short links in text messages and how they can make your communication strategy better.

What is a short link in SMS?

An SMS offers you 160 characters with spaces to get your message across. If you’re budget-conscious, you have to make sure you optimize the use of this limited space. Using regular full URLs drastically decreases the amount of other information you can pass on. Sending longer texts is of course possible, but it raises the costs of your SMS marketing campaign. One way around this is to include a short link which still serves its intended purpose but takes up way less space.

Advantages of using a URL shortener

Text messages offer no option to include action buttons. Therefore, you might want to add a shortened link preceded by a strong call to action if you want recipients to engage with your message. Some of the specific benefits of short links in SMS include:

  • optimizing marketing campaign costs by limiting the number of characters used for a link

  • measuring the effectiveness of the campaign based on link clicks

  • increasing the overall appeal of the presented content

Staying within the SMS character limit with shortened links

A single SMS offers only 160 characters with spaces for you to deliver your message, so being concise is key. If your campaign necessitates the use of a link, its full version will significantly cut the remaining number of characters at your disposal.

You can send longer texts indeed, but the SMS channel is meant to be concise anyway. If you go beyond the basic limit, you’re risking the campaign cost to skyrocket, depending on the eventual length of your message.

Measuring the effectiveness of an SMS campaign including short URLs

One of the most important metrics we can track is the click-through rate (CTR). It refers to the percentage of SMS recipients who clicked on the link in relation to the total number of those who received the message.

Overall, this metric is exceptionally high for SMS, with our customers’ campaign data showing an average of 15%. Interestingly, some target markets show an even higher CTR, Romania being one example, where we’ve seen the click through rate reach a whopping 60%!

Importantly, it’s also possible to shorten links containing UTM tracking parameters. These links are usually rather lengthy and pasting them into an SMS could look suspicious and lead to negative impact on the engagement and conversions rates. Shortening UTM links reduces their length and allows you to measure the effectiveness of your campaigns in two sources - Google Analytics and your SMS marketing platform’s panel.

Increasing the attractiveness of a text message using a short SMS link

Including a short link in a text message makes it look more exciting and credible to users. A succinct URL will look neat and will positively impact your marketing efforts. A short link won’t dominate the content of the message but will instead be an integral part of it. Preceded by a strong, relevant call to action, it will surely encourage people to click and head over to your intended destination like the app or website.

It’s also worth remembering that people by nature are reluctant to click on links that appear in an unknown or untrustworthy context. A shortened URL can alleviate some concerns by indicating that the link has been checked and is safe to click.

The impact of link shortening on security and brand’s reputation 

Using widely available link shorteners, although permissible, puts your company at risk, increasing the chances of an attacker taking over your brand to spread malicious links, thus harming your customers and your brand's reputation. 

Short links in a recognizable domain name on the other hand, can increase user trust and CTR. What’s more, this type of link shortening can protect against link rot, which can occur when URLs become outdated or broken over time. This allows you to redirect the existing links to new pages as needed, without having to update all your marketing materials and social media posts.

Branded short links

Shortening links within their own domain can be done using a variety of techniques, including using a URL shortening service or creating custom URL redirects.

One popular way to shorten links within your own domain is to use a URL shortening service, such as Bitly or TinyURL. These tools allow you to enter a long URL and generate a shortened version that redirects to the original one. This can be useful when sharing links on social media or in other places where character count matters.

Another option for creating short links within your own domain is to create custom URL redirects using your website's content management system (CMS) or web server software. This involves creating a new URL that redirects to an existing page on your website. For example, you could create a short URL like example.com/my-short-url that redirects to example.com/long-url-with-lots-of-words. This can be useful for creating easy-to-remember or shareable links that point to specific pages on your website.

Yet another way of going about this is using the built-in link shortening feature of the SMS marketing solution you’ve chosen, if it offers one. Ideally, it should allow you to clip any address you may want to share with the recipients via a text while still clearly communicating your brand name to gain trust among those receiving the message.

How does SMS link shortening work across European countries? 

Link shortening is a popular practice. This is because shorter links are easier to share, can fit into social media posts, and can be more visually appealing. The choice of a URL shortener is mainly dependent on the user’s preferences, with a plethora of options available out there.

Best link shorteners for SMS

  • Bit.ly - a popular link shortening service that is widely used in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, and Italy. It allows users to create short links and track clicks.

  • Ow.ly - another popular link shortening tool that’s mainly used in the UK, France, Germany, and Spain,

  • TinyURL - widely popular in the UK, Germany, and France, it allows users to create shorter links that are easier to share, 

  • T.co - a service used by X, popular in many European countries, as X is a widely used social media platform.

  • Redir - a Romanian link shortening platform that allows its users to create custom short links.

  • T2M - a link management platform that includes a link shortener and other features such as link tracking and analytics. 

The service which is perhaps the most popular is Bit.ly. Aside from turning a long link into a compact one, it also allows you to track links and provides insights on how many people have clicked on them, where they are coming from, and other metrics. Nevertheless, as mentioned above, many brands place a significant importance on link shortening within their own domain. 

The purpose of this is to maintain brand consistency, enhance the user experience, create custom short links that are easy to remember and reinforce the brand identity. Moreover, it can also provide an added layer of security, as users are more likely to trust a link that shows a brand domain they’re familiar with. 

In addition to country-specific domains, many companies and organizations also use their own domain extensions for link shortening. This can help reinforce their brand identity and make it easier for users to recognize and trust their links. Some examples of companies that use their own domain extensions for link shortening include The New York Times (nyti.ms), Google (goo.gl), and X (t.co).

Although it’s important to have a choice of service, please be aware that the use of publicly available link shorteners isn’t considered a best practice by the mobile carriers, since they’re often employed for a variety of fraudulent activities. That said, a branded link in your own domain, created within the messaging platform you’re using for your SMS campaigns, is always the preferred choice.

Examples of good and bad SMS with shortened links

To round off our discussion of link shortening in SMS, let’s have a look at two proper and two not so good examples of how brands clip their links before including them in their text messages.

It’s worth noting that just as it is the case with varying CTRs across specific markets, the rules for using link shortening services may vary as well. That said, some countries have regulations in place which simply don’t allow promotional SMS to contain clipped links. It becomes necessary then to use shortened links in own domain to actually reach your intended target audience.

Domino’s and Wish are making sure the URL conveys their brand name, reassuring the recipients they can safely click it.

dominos sms short link
wish sms short link

Kinda Hot Sauce and Rain City Games, on the other hand, are taking the easy route with publicly available shorteners, looking less professional and not looking as trustworthy as the two other companies.

kinda hot sauce sms short link
rain city games sms short link

A recap of using short links in text messages 

Link shortening in SMS works to save precious space and money, helping you stay within the character limit while still providing a complete set of information. Text messages containing shortened URLs drive user action and produce insights into the engagement level. 

Although there’s a number of link shortening services available, consider choosing an SMS marketing platform that has this capability baked in, saving you time and effort.

Using MessageFlow, you have two options available for link shortening and click tracking You can use:

  • Regular link shortener, trimming down the URL to just 17 characters, leaving you with 143 still available. 

  • Links in own domain (branded links), which are still shortened but also include the brand name for greater trust and credibility, translating into engagement. This, however, makes them a bit longer, depending on the exact brand name you’re going to use. A real-life example of this can be sms.sinsay.com/123456 where the post-slash part is a random shortened string.   

Using unique links in every SMS campaign makes it possible to track clicks and other user engagement metrics, as well as see which channel or campaign is the source of greatest conversion. MessageFlow removes the need to use any external URL shorteners, giving you the opportunity to efficiently deep link to a specific destination. 

Contact us today to learn more about our versatile cross-channel platform that can help you run engaging business communication via SMS with its built-in URL shortening tool. 

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