Linking to relevant information in blog posts has been standard practice since hyperlinking became a thing. I will not rehash the merits of linking in a blog post here. We all know.
But lately I’ve noticed people doing it wrong. Some bloggers are actually using shortened URLs within their blog posts. This is straight up baffling. Shortened URLs are genius for a format like Twitter, where space is at a premium. But here’s an insider tip: WordPress lets you go on for as long as you like, plus it accepts HTML. Including a shortened link in your blog entry (or anywhere outside of Twitter, for that matter) is more than just dumb. It is terrible practice and down right wrong.
1. Links are content. Treat them like it!
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you put a lot of thought into each of your blog posts. You craft your sentences, you choose your words carefully, and you make sure your points are clearly articulated.
Choosing where and how you embed your links is just as important as the links themselves, the words you pick, and how you construct your points. Dumping a bit.ly link in the middle of a masterpiece ruins it for everyone. It’s like buying a $200 pair of blue jeans that already have holes in them. What the hell are you thinking? You’re just doing it to try to look cool.
2. I really want to know where I’m going.
The default setting in Firefox is not to show the status bar in the bottom of the browser, so most of you might not follow this practice. Still, I like to inspect just about every link I come across, especially if I’m considering clicking on it. When I hover over a link, it’ll show me in the status bar the entire URL, so I can know if it leads to another page on the same blog, a different website, or a PDF (always label links as PDFs within the text no matter what!). In other words, I know where this goes, but I don’t know where this goes http://bit.ly/cqWEAi. This helps me decide if the link is worth going to right away, opening in another tab for later use, or if the link is basically useless to me right now. This is important information.
3. Better technology exists! Use it!
The hyperlink is just about the oldest, simplest piece of Internet code around. It allows an author to put at least two layers of meaning in one written line (more if the line is a pun!). It keeps you from needing to provide the URL, so why on Earth would you provide a naked URL? That is madness!
4. Shortened URLs are ugly, even the custom ones.
Do you see that link up there? What about http://bit.lycqWEAi is attractive to you? URLs exist behind the text for a reason: they are very often long, ugly, and add nothing to the content of a blog post (or any other page on the anywhere on the Internet). Even a custom bit.ly link like this one that leads to my Twitter account, http://bit.ly/punsultant, is significantly less useful than just linking to my Twitter account.
5. More granular tracking.
“But bit.ly allows me to keep track of who clicks on my link!” I hear you. That’s why it is my URL shortener of choice when I want to share a link on Twitter. But you know what else lets you track who clicks on your link? Any other analytics software ever invented. And if you’re actually tracking clicks for a reason (as your job, for example), you will want to know if someone clicked through on Twitter or if they clicked through from your blog. Using one bit.ly link for all of this tracking tosses all those details right out the window.
But I’m no jerk. I realize some people just don’t know how to embed a link. A useful tutorial can be found here: http://bit.ly/bElp5V.