Shall I use URL shortening?

Shall I use URL shortening?

Let's begin first with two definitions:

  • URL Shortening - this is a service that converts http://your-very-long-url.com/and-some-more to something short like http://bit.ly/ABCD. Some services may also allow you if you create an acocunt to change the URL. Before you use them always check do you have this ability if you would like in future to change the content of your QR Code (see Dynamic QR Codes).
  • QR Code Tracking - for the purpose of actually collecting the data these services also employ shortening like http://t.azon.biz/ABCD. These services as a rule offer you to change the content of the QR Codes, provide statistics oriented to mobile devices and also help you manage your QR Codes.

In the general case you would like to use a tracking service, not just URL shortening service. As both replace your URL but the former provides you also with Dynamic QR Codes and Statistics.

Let's proceed with the details. To answer the question of this article from now on we will not distinguish between URL shortening and Tracking systems as they both in fact use shortening.
The three benefits of the shortening are:

  • as the name implies, to make the target URL shorter. Having URL like http://my-long-domain-name.com/the-latest-mobile-campaign will produce a big code even on the lower error correction levels so you may need to get something shorter like (http://t.azon.biz/ABCD) that produces a nicer QR code. You can compare these two (fig 1):
  • changing the content of the QR code. If you have the QR code set to http://short.url/ABCD which now points to http://t.azon.biz/campaign1 later you can update it to http://domain.com/campaign2. It is important to note that not all URL shortening services offer the option to change the URL later so if you are not using a tracking platform but another shortening service, make sure it provides this functionality. This also will require you to login and then generate the code.
  • providing statistics - this is how the QR Code Tracking platforms work - the user is redirected to this intermediary URL where the appropriate data is collected (and extra functionality is provided as Geolocation or Password Protect are provided). This functionality of course requires you to have an account

Why I may not want to use URL shortening?

When the users scan a QR Code that uses URL shortaning (or a tracking) they will see the URL and domain name of the shortening/tracking service instead of your domain (see the image above). The QR codes can potentially lead to harmful locations and when the user scans the QR Code and gets a short URL he/she can't know where does it lead to. Even if it is a well known shortener as bit.ly - there is no guarantee whatsoever that the target location is safe. Assuming that you are handling brochures on a corporate event, the users would assume this points to a website of yours and they would scan the code. But consider the case where you have a QR code that is not clearly related to you - yes, you can put your logo on it/next to it, but anyone else can do that too! And in this case the potential customer will scan the code but may not opt to open the URL. Which is where your campaign fails. In this case it would be much better when they scan the code to see http://your-domain.com/campaign-name.

Another reason why you may want not to use URL shortening and tracking for your QR code is that you depend on a 3rd party service provider. If the case of service being down all your QR codes are rendered useless until the service is restored. You should also consider that this provider may go out of business too!

But how do I get the benefits of the short URL without loosing potential customers?

Surely you want this and thats why we came with a solution - Self Hosted Tracking. From our platform you can generate a QR Code that provides you with tracking and dynamic URL and in the same time doesn't use URL shortening. This is achieved by doing the tracking on your server and providing the data to our platform for processing.

To solve the credence issue the QR Code no shortening is used and the QR Code points to a domain of yours that your customers know and trust. When you generate the code from our platform you set the target URL as usual - let it be http://known-domain.com/campaign. The important thing is the short URL (or in this case its equivalent) that you set - an example location could be http://known-domain.com/qr-code. When you generate the code you will be provided with a tracking script that you need to install on this location. This way when your customers scan the code they will see your brand and in the same time you get the scans statistics and dynamic content - our platform allows you to change the content and the only thing you have to do is to reupload the tracking script.

Pointing the QR Code to your server and hosting the tracking script guarantees that in the unlikely event of our platform experiencing availability issues, your QR Codes will continue to work without any impact on your users. When the platform goes up all your scans data will be processed and you will have again access to your statistics. But most importantly - your codes will always work without any dependence on 3rd parties.