Shortlinks came about as utilitarian ways to provide shorter URL links on social media platforms like Twitter that limit characters. The idea; by reducing the number of URL characters one can post more content. This might include more text, an additional image, or even a video. Beyond this simple utilitarian usage, shortlinks can also be used to help boost a website’s SEO when used properly.
Redirects & SEO
Shortlinks are essentially just 301 redirects from another domain to content on your website. In most cases shortlinks are going to offer you a 301 redirect, letting search engines know that it’s a permanent relocation. Google used to diminish some of the Page Rank that flowed through 301 redirects (estimated to be around 15% per redirect) though have since changed their stance. Today, the full amount of page rank passes through 301 and 302 redirects onto the final URL. When using shortlinks, that means that any amount of links your point at them will pass their full SEO power through a shortlink to your website.
Domain Authority Leeching
Domain Authority is the measure of a website’s overall likelihood to rank for most any keyword term. Sites with high Domain Authority are those that receive lots of backlinks, like large News organizations, Popular Non-Profits, and widely-used services like Kickstarter. Links from these websites carry a lot of defacto SEO power simply because of the overall Domain Authority of the website. Two backlinks, created of equal quality and merit, can have their SEO value easily distinguished by looking to the referring domains overall Domain Authority. Those with higher domain authority will carry more ranking power, as a general rule of thumb. Many websites that allow user content to be generated possess a high domain authority. Examples of these are Blogger, LiveJournal, and even Facebook. By creating a link on these websites you’re able to capitalize on their Domain Authority without them having much Page Authority. On their own these links aren’t very valuable in most cases but when their Page Authority is boosted by building additional backlinks to them they can be very powerful.
Using Shortlinks to Boost SEO
Shortlinks are like the WordPress.com websites out there in that they generally possess lot of Domain Authority. Popular shortlinking services such as Bit.ly often have Moz DA scores of 80 or more. If you build a lot of links to shortlinks that link to your website, you’ll end up creating a backlink that has a high Domain Authority (DA) value and a high Page Authority (PA) value. These can offer some tremendous SEO value, though shouldn’t even be considered as valuable as editorial links, manual outreach links, or other contextually-rich backlinks. Essentially, these links are redirecting a lot of other links (when PA is boosted) to your website. Using such boosting techniques to link directly to your main website is slightly risky. Risky in that you’re throwing what is often a lot of spam towards your website separated only by a single redirect, but still easy enough to remove since there’s a single breakpoint. The safest means of using this type of shortlinking approach is to build them to other sites that link to your primary website. For example, building a shortlink to each of 5 Web 2.0 links linking to your website, then blasting the shortlinks with automated links to boost the Page Authority scores.
Shorlinks shouldn’t ever be considered as fundamental pillars of quality SEO. Their main use is for posting on social networks or other use cases where shorter, more concise, URLs are preferred. Custom shortlinking with a branded domain name like Google does with goo.gl is fun way to add a bit of flavor to your marketing campaigns. When using shortlinks from authoritative domains like Bit.ly there’s an opportunity to siphon some of that Domain Authority for your website. By hammering shortlinks that redirect to your website you can effectively boost their overall Page Authority, thus making them more powerful. For sake of comparison, I’d say adding this approach to your overall SEO would be like adding an extra coat of water-proofing to your already water-resistant boots before playing in the snow. Sure, it’s likely to help things out a bit but you’re not going to see any major improvements in overall performance. Such is the benefit of shortlink leeching—if it’s easy to do it can be of some benefit. One final word of advice, try using custom urls or shortlinking services that allow you to change the destination to avoid having unwanted backlinks should things not go as planned!