How To Shorten Links And Earn Money With Paid Link Shorteners

Did you know that anytime you share your link or link to a piece of content…

 You are leaving money on the table if you ignore this post because you could shorten links and earn money.
 
Paid link shorteners are overlooked by many but I’m going to show you how I use them to make extra money with my sites and put them all to the test once and for all.

What You Will Learn

  • What link shorteners are and why to use them
  • How paid shorteners work
  • How to shorten links and earn money
  • Which shortener is the most profitable
  • And how much money you can make

Most websites make money through things like selling ad space, affiliate products or their own digital products and so on.

Some 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 a variety of methods and use them simultaneously. You have to test a combination of strategies to see what works best for you.

But today I’m going to explain a new layer with paid link shorteners and the results of my own tests –    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!

An Introduction to Link Shorteners

A Link Shortener is a website or application that turns long links into short ones, that redirect to the long link.

Here is an example of a long URL which points to the Amazon store-

http://www.amazon.com/Star-Wars-Signature-Lightsaber-Removable/dp/B003I86C8U/ref=sr_1_1?s=toys-and-games&ie=UTF8&qid=1430138565&sr=1-1

and here is its short version:

http://amzn.to/1OvdSOz

The short version just redirects you to the long version – which makes for easier sharing especially on social networks like Twitter.

Using a link shortener is very easy. Just paste in the URL you want to shorten, click go and you are done-

Bit.ly link shortener screenshot

That’s all there is to it!

Why Use A Link Shortener?

  • 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)
  • Tracking & statistics. Some shorteners give statistics about clicks, impressions and a range of other trackable data.
  • 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!

Show Me the Money – How To Shorten Links And Earn Money

Now you have general idea of how link shorteners work, let’s turn our attention on how to use them to make extra money!

Not all shorteners let you earn money.

So we will focus entirely Paid Link Shorteners that give you all the advantages of a normal shorteners but with the added ability to make money.

I’m going to put all of the best ones to the test in this article!

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.

How it works in practice:

  • Visitor clicks a shortened link (shortened URL)
  • Ad is displayed on an intermediate page – you earn money.
  • The visitor is redirected from the intermediate page to the destination page (long URL)

This method of earning money has some interesting advantages.

What I like most is that it doesn’t consume real estate space of your websites that are better put to use for improving email conversion.

How to shorten links and earn money

Secondly, you transform leaving visitors into profit and last but not least, short links can be used everywhere, e.g. on facebook pages, twitter, emails etc.

Choosing The Best Paid Link Shortener

When I discovered paid link shorteners, they appeared to be a great additional stream of revenue for two of my websites, so I decided to give them a try.

The problem was I couldn’t find any credible information about the performance of the different companies 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 to find the highest paying URL shortener that actually pays out.

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

Choosing Paid Shorteners For Testing

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

Finally, I selected four brands:

  • Adf.ly
  • Shorte.st
  • LinkShrink – They are now out of business
  • 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 good reputation, decent payout rates and a long time in business.

Ouo.io (how do they even pronounce this name?!) are a relatively smaller service and new in business comparing to the others.

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.

Building My Landing 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.

My landing-page

To setup a quick test I launched a paid campaign (PPV) with a run of the mill pop-under ad to drive traffic.

I drove traffic to the paid shorteners for 4 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)

How I Collected and Analyzed Data

To analyze the performance of each shortener I collected:

  • Unique Clicks: How many unique visitor Link Clicks were 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 Analytics

I took advantage of Google Analytics event tracking best practices to track all of my traffic.

How I collect and measured data (Analytics example)

This can be broken down as

  • 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 Paid Shortener 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

Shorteners screenshot

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 explained

Data Analysis: US Traffic

On the first day of testing I decided to send traffic to shorteners exclusively from the 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

Unique clicks and earnings @ Adfly

SHORTE.ST

Unique clicks and earnings @ Shorte.st

LINKSHRINK

Update: Linkshrink went out of business in early 2020.

Unique clicks and earnings @ Linkshrink

RESULT AFTER FIRST DAY OF TESTING  (eCPM)

Results after one day of testing - eCPM

Taking all data into consideration-

  • Shorte.st is the highest paying url shortener 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.

ADF.LY

Mixed traffic @ ADF.LY

SHORTE.ST

Mixed traffic @ SHORTE.ST

OUO.IO

Mixed traffic @ OUO.IO

LINKSHRINK

Mixed traffic @ LINKSHRINK

RESULTS FOR MIXED TRAFFIC  (eCPM)
Results for mixed traffic - eCPM

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

If you studied the 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…

Final Thoughts

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.

Final chart

Wrapping It Up

Ads served by paid shorteners are not usually of high quality and that’s the reason why they’re not for everyone.

Most website owners prefer AdSense because of ad quality and conversion.

However, not every website can be accepted by Google and some of them are even banned after a while because of their content.

As a result many choose to make money online with link shorteners.

So if you struggle with Google or your website is similar to the above ones, you may consider trying out a paid shortener and I hope that my benchmark will be useful for you.

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