Avoid the scams, find out which Business Opportunities actually work
12th August 2009
Filed under: Domain Names,Internet Marketing,Useful Tools — Ben @ 11:55 am

Big news this week as the popular URL shortening service tr.im announced it was going to stop forwarding links from the end of the year.

In addition, it stopped allowing people to create new shortened links and prevented existing members from logging in to see what links they had made.

For those people that had used the service extensively it was a huge blow because, basically, they lost a load of links at the click of a mouse. There was no way to discover what links they had made and where they pointed to.

The reason for the closure given by the owners was that they were finding it difficult to make any money and were feeling hobbled by the fact that flavour-of-the-month social networking site Twitter.com pushed bit.ly to its users rather than their site.

Predictably there was a bit of a backlash from tr.im users – many who had plastered their shortened links everywhere – as their links would become redundant at the end of 2009.

The decision to close the website was reversed yesterday due to the owner feeling “absolutely overwhelmed by the popular response, and the countless public and private appeals I have received to keep tr.im alive“.

So it looks like tr.im will live on for the moment. However, this whole show (whether staged or not) teaches us a couple of lessons…

Lesson 1: Never rely on a free service to provide an important function for your business. These sites can disappear with no warning – or just shut up shop as we saw with tr.im.

Lesson 2: Not every website makes money on the internet, even if it is very popular. Even Twitter doesn’t seem to have any kind of monetisation in place and it intrigues me as to what they plan to do in the long-term to make any money. At some point if they are still not making any profit, they are also likely to close…

18 months or so ago I launched a URL shortening service using one of my domains – kliq.com – which I thought was perfect for the task (kliq, it’s like “click“, get it?).

It wasn’t hard to get some software to run it, or to install it.

I didn’t even promote the site and yet still got quite a few people to use it.

One problem was that sites like this attract spammers. After all, they can simply use your site to shorten a website address and then send that address in emails to hide their real website address from spam filters and blacklists.

Another problem is that it’s very difficult to include any sort of monetisation on a URL shortening site.

You can provide advertising on the front page such as Google AdSense or banner ads but they don’t tend to attract many clicks as visitors are there for a purpose – to shorten a link.

Some URL shortening services include a short delay in forwarding where they show an advert. Not many do this though, as it tends to put people off using their service. Let’s face it, if I want to use a shortened URL, I want the person clicking the URL to go to the website I specify. I don’t want them distracted by adverts. This is why using frames will not work either.

If you try to use advertising or frames, you’ll suffer a loss in users because there are plenty of services that don’t inflict this on visitors.

In short (no pun intended), URL shorteners are a great idea in practise but apart from hoping for another company to buy you out, it’s difficult to make any money from them.

And if you’re planning on using one to shorten a link, remember that the link could be useless tomorrow if the service decides to shut up shop on you. In many cases you’d be better off creating a redirect link using your own website so you control it.

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