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Which Link Shortener Will Make You Earn More Money? – A Case Study

No matter if you want to be disgustingly rich or just looking for some extra money to spend on partying hard (or maybe you find yourself being a responsible internet marketer who is building an investment portfolio), let me introduce you to a great possibility of monetizing your traffic using a link shortener technique.

If you run a website with some traffic, you probably have an idea how you can earn a profit from it. There are plenty of popular and well-known opportunities like selling an ad space, being an affiliate, running Pay Per Click advertising or maybe selling your digital products. Some of the monetization methods are more or less passive, some require ongoing work. Some seem to suit a particular website well, others not so much.

Creative website owners can combine the variety of methods and use them simultaneously. Once different strategies are tested, it is more likely to find out which of them are the most profitable and should be used later on.

In this article, I will explain what link shorteners are, what idea behind paid link shorteners are and finally you will see the result of my test –  the shorteners that are the most profitable.

So, read on if you would like to add another great weapon of choice to your website monetization arsenal!

But first things first…

Introduction to Link Shorteners

Link shortener is a website or application that turns long links into short ones, in such a way that both of them direct to the same page.

Here is an example of a long URL that points to the Amazon store (where you can buy Anakin Skywalker’s Force FX Lightsaber if you need one):

http://www.amazon.com/Star-Wars-Signature-Lightsaber-Removable
/dp/B003I86C8U/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-gamesie=UTF8qid=1430138565sr=1-1

and here is its short version:

http://amzn.to/1OvdSOz

Using shorteners is extremely easy: When you want to shorten a particular URL, you just paste it into the field, hit Shorten (or a similar button) and, as a result, you will get a ready-to-use short URL. That’s all.

Link shortener classic

Common reasons why people use link shorteners

  • Save space and “beautify” links. Short links look better and are more user-friendly. For some types of communications like text messages or Twitter posting it’s crucial to keep links short to leave room for a message (as you probably know a tweet is 140 characters long)
  • Short links just work. Have you ever tried pasting a long URL into an email? It’s the easiest way to break the link and make it unusable.
  • Tracking Statistics. Some companies give statistics about clicks and impressions, and even more analytics information that can be helpful if you don’t have time or skills to set up more advanced solutions.
  • Hide a target URL. When you see a shortened URL, you don’t know where you will land after you click it. So, some people use this to disguise the target URL.

and finally, Ladies and Gentlemen:

  • Making money. You can earn money each time a short link is clicked! Ayeuhayueuhayueuh!

Making Money With Paid URL Shortener:

Now, when you have general idea, let’s focus on how to use shorteners for your additional income stream.

Not all shorteners let you earn. There is a group called Paid Link Shorteners, and they give you almost all advantages of classic shorteners (except advanced tracking and statistics) but with earning functionality.

These are our weapon of choice for earning more money.

How Paid Shorteners Work

If you add an advertising layer to a classic shortener, you get paid link shortener. The layer is added between a shortened URL and destination page, and this is how money comes into play and then goes to your pocket.

How it works in practice:

  1. Visitor clicks a shortened link (shortened URL)
  2. The ad is displayed on an intermediate page – you earned.
  3. After a short while, the visitor is redirected from the intermediate page to a destination page.

This method of earning money has some interesting advantages. What I like most is that it doesn’t consume advertising space of websites – the ad will appear on the intermediate page. Secondly, you turn into profit your leaving visitors and last but not least, short links can be used everywhere, e.g. on Facebook pages, Twitter, emails, etc.

How Paid Shorteners Work

 

Mission objective: Choosing the Best Link Shortener To Earn Money

When I discovered paid link shorteners, they appeared to be a great additional stream of revenue for two of my websites. I decided to try, but, the problem which I was exposed to was that I couldn’t find any credible information about performance of different brands (there are a few), and there were many contrary opinions among users.  Not to mention that I’ve seen a lot of new players entering the market like rock-stars (offering extremely high CPMs) and vanishing like ghosts after a month or two.

As I trust numbers and stats more than opinions of casual users, I decided to conduct my own tests and compare the results.

Now I’m much wiser, and I’d like to share this knowledge with you.

Choosing shorteners for tests

I started with Google and did some research to pick up brands to test.

Finally, I selected four brands:

  • Adf.ly
  • Shorte.st
  • LinkShrink
  • Ouo.io (decided to add this later, in the 2nd test phase)

Adf.ly and Shorte.st seem to be the biggest players on the market: quite a good reputation, decent payout rates and long time in business.

LinkShrink and Ouo.io (how do they even pronounce this name?!) are relatively smaller services and new in business comparing to the other two. I included them in the test because of good payout rates and my curiosity about their performance as they fight with two strong players and want to earn themselves the biggest possible slice of this cake.

As we have our targets, the best part begins here. Enjoy!

Building Page and Driving Traffic

For benchmark purposes, I quickly built a landing page with movie trailers. When a visitor clicked a movie cover, a  shortener displayed an ad and then the visitor was redirected to a desired page to see a movie trailer.

To test this fast, I bought some traffic and displayed my landing page as a pop-under advertising.

I drove traffic to shorteners for four days altogether:

  • 1st day – 13th of April – only US traffic
  • 3 following days – 21, 22 and 23 of April – mixed traffic: US + other countries

Other countries included:

  • United States (US)
  • Spain (ES)
  • Indonesia (ID)
  • Saudi Arabia (SA)
  • Poland (PL)
  • Mexico (MX)
  • Brasil (BR)

and here you can see my landing-page with movie trailers:

Landing Page

How I Collected and Analyzed Data

To analyze performance of each shortener I collected:

  • Unique Clicks: How many unique visitors Link Clicks generated. This was the most important information for me, as performance of my websites (and most websites which use paid link shorteners) base on unique visitors. I used Unique Clicks (visitors) to calculate eCPM.
  • Revenue: How much money I earned with each shortener during the test.

and additional data which could be useful to compare shorteners’ performance:

  • Link Clicks: How many times my landing-page was clicked.
  • Counted Views (by shortener): How many views (of the intermediate ad page) were counted by a shortener.
  • Counted Visitors (by shortener): How many unique visitors were counted.

The data comes from:

  • Link Clicks and Unique Clicks I tracked on my landing-page with Google Analytics.
  • Revenue, Counted Views and Counted Visitors is shown in Dashboard of each shortener.

Tracking traffic with Google Analitycs

Collection data

  • Event Category (traffic divided by country. E.g. shortest/MX is a link clicked by visitors from Mexico)
  • Unique Events (Unique Clicks)
  • Total Events (Link Clicks)

Data from URL shorteners’ dashboards

I created a few links and sent them traffic, one link per country. Knowing that, I could observe how many views were generated from each country and correlate this data with shorteners’ stats.

For example:

  • 1962 unique visitors (Unique Clicks) were sent from Saudi Arabia (SA)
  • $ 1.09 earned

Data collection 02

Money and eCPM 

As I knew how many Unique Visitors I’d sent to each shortener (my Google Analytics data) and how much money I earned from this traffic I was able to calculate performance of each shortener.

Performance of each shortener is defined by eCPM.

eCPM is calculated by dividing total earnings by total number of impressions in thousands.

eCPM

Data Analysis: US Traffic

On the first day of testing I decided to send traffic to shorteners exclusively from US. In the screens below I present the number of Unique Clicks (how many unique visitors were diplayed an ad) and how much money I earned from those uniqe visitors.

ADF.LY

Adfly Unique Clicks  earning

SHORTE.ST

Shorte.st Unique Clicks  earning

LINKSHRINK

Linkshrink Unique Clicks  earning

RESULT AFTER FIRST DAY OF TESTING  (eCPM)

 

eCPM US Traffic

Taking into consideration all data the conclusion is:

  • Shorte.st is a winner when it comes to eCPM and earnings. For each 1000 users I earned 4.04 USD.
  • Adf.ly got the 2nd position and there is a small difference in earings comparing to number one – Shorte.st
  • LinkShrink’s earnings look like a joke 🙂

(Please note, that there are no stats for Ouo.io at 13th of April. I decided to try this shortener later.)

Data analysis: Mixed Traffic

At that time, for the next three days, I sent mixed traffic from different countries (including US). Please note that I included countries with extremely low rates so eCPM in the end is much lower than we would like to see.

OUO.IO

Mixed traffic data - Ouo.io

ADF.LY

Mixed traffic data - Adf.ly

SHORTE.ST

Mixed traffic data - Shorte.st

LINKSHRINK

Mixed traffic data - Linkshrink

RESULTS FOR MIXED TRAFFIC  (eCPM)

Mixed traffic data

Again Shorte.st is the winner and Adf.ly is very close. LinkShrink again is a joke and Ouo.io looks like dreary grotesque.

If you studied data carefully, you probably noticed one thing:

My revenue from Adf.ly with US traffic was only $0.02. I wrote to Adf.ly customer service asking why they counted almost no traffic! I got an answer which pointed me to their FAQ:

For us to be able to pay you for your traffic, the following criteria must be met:

Must have JavaScript enabled
Must have Flash enabled
Must have Cookies enabled
Must view the advert for at least 5 seconds
Must not being using a proxy server (unless we have advertisers wanting this traffic)
Must not have viewed more than 5 links already that day
Must be an advertiser willing to pay for traffic from their country

Well… I checked in Google Analytics and my traffic looked good enough. Java and flash were enabled almost everywhere, other technical requirements were met. I thought that the result was very strange because I’d sent exactly the same traffic to Adf.ly as to other shorteners. It appears (and it’s a bit scary) that with Adf.ly you can’t earn any money even if you send good quality traffic and there is no clear reason for that. Really confusing…

Which URL Shortener Pays the most?

There are two leading paid link shorteners on the market: Shorte.st and Adf.ly. Shorte.st performs slightly better when it comes to earnings and I didn’t have any surprises like with Adf.ly (when my traffic for US stopped to be monetized without any reason).

Other tested shorteners – LinkShrink and Ouo.io – are not so good. They claim high eCPM rates, and as my test showed, this is not true.  Actually they converted really, really bad.

Shorte.st won and is my shorterner of choice.

Highest paying URL Shortener

If you have used these any of the above Paid URL Shortener, I would love to know your experience. Let me know in the comment section below. Don’t forget to share this case-study with your internet marketing friends.

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