Why You Should Use a Link Shortener / Redirection Plugin on Your Website

by Nate Hoffelder

After a decade of running The Digital Reader, Nate is a veteran web publisher with experience in design, maintenance, recovery, and troubleshooting. What little he doesn't know, he can learn.

July 17, 2019

Earlier today I got a question over on The Digital Reader’s Facebook page that I thought deserved to be answered in a blog post.

I had posted a warning about how the latest version of the Pretty Links URL redirection plugin is causing issues on a lot of WP sites. Sites are crashing and/or links aren’t working, and anyone who uses this plugin is advised to avoid updating it until the next release after 3.0.0.

My post inspired author Shari Mahan to ask the following:

Can I ask why you use link shortening plugins in the first place? Personally, I don’t click on shortened links–too much of a security risk, because I don’t know where they’re going.

I am glad she did, because it gave me a reason to expound on link shortener/redirection plugins. I love having a redirection plugin on my site. It adds a lot of value, and I think everyone should use one (in fact, I think it should be a standard feature in WordPress).

Edit: I am going to call it a redirection plugin from here on out. That is how and why I use it, while “link shortener” is misleading (and it has negative connotations).

First, I should probably explain what a redirection plugin does. This type of plugin lets you send people to other places on the web. It might be a different page on your site, or it might be an ebookstore, or what have you.

You use the plugin to create a link to your site, say www.mysite.com/some-link, and then you tell the plugin to associate the link with a destination URL.  You can share that link, and whenever someone clicks it they will be automatically redirected to the destination.

It’s like Bitly, only you control all the parts.

I use a redirection plugin for two reasons:

  • branding, and
  • link management.

The first great thing about using a redirection plugin is that all the links start with my website address. I get to share links that start with The Digital Reader (or one of my other sites), and I also get to decide what the link says. This makes the plugin a boon to my branding and marketing.

Having a link that reads https://the-digital-reader.com/newsletter is much more appealing than https://www.subscribepage.com/tdr-newsletter, wouldn’t you agree?

The second reason I use a redirection plugin is that it makes it so easy to manage all of the links I share online. To name one example, the link to my newsletter sign up page goes through the plugin on my site. If I ever want to change the signup page to a new page, I don’t have to try to chase down all the links all over the web and fix them; I just need to change the link in one menu on my site.

If you are an author who puts links in the back of your book, just imagine how much time you could save if you used a redirection plugin. You could for example have a shortened link in the text “check out my next book”, and then change the destination each time you release a new book.

In fact, I just got off the phone with an author who was in the middle of changing the link to the newsletter sign up page in their backlist. They didn’t use a redirection plugin, which means they will have to edit and re-upload dozens of books.

A redirection plugin would have saved them a lot of work, and it will save you a lot of work, too.


So tell me, do you use a redirection plugin?

What is the best use you have found for it?

Hi, I'm Nate.

I build and fix websites for authors, and I am also a tech VA. I can build you a website that looks great and turns visitors into fans, and I can also fix your tech when it breaks. Let me fight with tech support so you don’t have to.

My blog has everything you need to know about websites and online services. Don’t see what you need. or want personalized help? Reach out.

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  1. jim

    Also very useful if you need to create a link for something that doesn’t exist yet. Like if you haven’t put your book up for preorder yet, but you want to include a URL to leave a review in the forthcoming paperback edition

  2. Rusty

    Sounds like a very good idea. (Grammer nit, I’d change the title of this article and take out the “to”.)

    • Nate Hoffelder

      the title was actually supposed to match the graphic, but I forgot to change it

      fixed it

  3. visigoth

    You can host your own shortener YOURLS

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I would rather run it in WP, Yes, it’s overkill for the purpose, but it also makes the web design and maintenance so much easier.

  4. S. J. Pajonas

    I now use Thristy Affiliates link shortener for my website. In the past I’ve used Pretty Links, Books2Read, SmartURL, and now back to a hosted solution of ThirtyAff. I’m happy with it so far. I like the tracking and cloaking options, plus the integration right into Amazon for pulling links. I’m almost done entirely switching over to it. 🙂 It’s taken a while!


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