URLs aren’t pretty. To be honest, they’re often awkward and unwieldy, especially when they include a UTM tracking code. That’s the great thing about Google’s URL shortener: it can turn any web address into a short, compact URL that is much easier to share on social media and print materials.
But recently, Google announced it is ending support for its goo.gl URL shortener service to focus on another product called Firebase Dynamic links.
According to a press release on its developer blog, Google has already shut out users who have never used the URL shortener before April 13, 2018. For the rest of us, the goo.gl console will close on March 30, 2019.
Will goo.gl Short Links Still Work?
If this is the first you’ve heard of it, you are probably having the same thoughts we did: what does this mean for goo.gl users?
Fortunately, Google has given assurance that all existing short links will continue to redirect to their intended destination. The change will ‘break’ your goo.gl short links.
But the other intriguing part about Google ending the goo.gl IRL shortener is the company’s emphasis on Firebase Dynamic Links — a term mostly unheard of outside the world of mobile app development.
What are Firebase Dynamic Links?
If you browse the web on your phone (and if you’re like 75% of the world, you do), you have probably encountered links that automatically open a mobile app when you click them. This known as deep linking, which are great for brands who want to promote a mobile app. For example, you can send users an email containing a deep link that will take them straight from their inbox to the feature in a single click.
Trouble is, deep links are prone to a few bugs:
* They do not always work perfectly on both iOS and Android devices.
* If the user has not installed the app or clicks it from a desktop computer, the link might behave differently (or not work at all).
* Users who do take the step of installing your app after being prompted will land on the app’s generic welcome screen. To get to the content they want to see, they’ll have to click the link again.
These are the issues Google’s Firebase Dynamic Links are meant to solve. Firebase Dynamic Links are designed to ‘survive’ the app installation process and take users directly to their destination after installing the app.
As for desktop users, Firebase links will direct them to the equivalent content on the brand’s website. The link’s destination depends on the device: one for desktop users, another for iOS users, yet another for Android users, and so on.
The continuing momentum of mobile browsing makes Firebase Links an incredible tool for marketers and companies that want to reach customers online. Check out these uses cases for examples of how you could potentially leverage dynamic links.
Alternatives to Google URL Shortener
Short URLs are great. They look cleaner, take up less space, and are easier to copy from print media without making typos. What makes the goo.gl console especially awesome is that it automatically tracks how many times the link gets clicked, which is vital in any digital marketing endeavour.
So as we prepare to bid farewell to goo.gl, it’s time to get to know the Google URL shortener alternatives out there.
Most social media scheduling software, like Hootsuite, have a built-in URL shortener tools that also track link clicks and shares. Many require a subscription, but Hootsuite’s Owly shortener is available to users with a free account as well.
As for free goo.gl alternatives, the go-to at the moment is Bitly, which has the added bonus of customizable URLs and social media titles in addition to click tracking.