Shortened affiliate links look great on social media, and are a lot more attractive than long affiliate links full of query parameters and tracking IDs.
However, there are problems with shortened affiliate links that prevent many publishers from getting the best tracking and attribution from their links.
In this article:
- What is a shortened affiliate link?
- When and why shortening affiliate links can be bad for your website
- Popular affiliate link shorteners (to avoid!)
- When should you shorten affiliate links?
What is a shortened affiliate link
A shortened affiliate link is a redirect from a short URL to the longer affiliate link containing all your affiliate tracking IDs and query parameters. Typical shortened links have just a few letters in the domain, a 2-character TLD, and a few letters and numbers at the end of the URL to make them unique.
Shortened affiliate links are extremely popular on social media, but are also often used on publisher's websites.
However, this can cause problems for tracking and attribution of the conversions that result from clicks on those links. Here's why.
When and why shortening affiliate links can be bad for your website
The problem with link shorteners is that they do not allow external parameters to be passed in from the outside.
For example, let's say you have an affiliate link to ShareASale, which looked like this:
Then, you shortened it using Bit.ly:
Looks beautiful, but if I want to append SubID tracking to this link, bit.ly will not accept and merge those parameters...unless you are paying for the add-on to the Enterprise plan.
Which means, what we expect to happen is:
bit.ly/abc123?afftrack=my-campaign -> http://shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=123&m=456&afftrack=my-campaign
What actually happens is:
bit.ly/abc123?afftrack=my-campaign -> http://shareasale.com/r.cfm?u=123&m=456
Our campaign tracking is lost, and we have no idea where our affiliate conversions are coming from.
Popular affiliate link shorteners to avoid
This issue is widespread among a huge number of link shorteners, many of which are using bit.ly under the hood:
When should you shorten affiliate links?
Shortening links for social media is fine! Because you are using that shortened link in a single place, a single time.
This is a very different situation than having affiliate links on your website or blog, where the link may exist on a bunch of different pages.
However, you need to remember to manually fill out a SubID (also called a campaign ID, tracking ID, or TID) when you create and shortened your affiliate link.
This will help you attribute any sales back to the campaign you were running.