Twitter’s Link Service & You
Twitter recently announced a couple of updates that caught my eye. The first one deals with new authorization rules for Twitter applications. Although this one is less interesting to me, it does explain why Twitterrific stopped working on my iPhone this past Monday. (They may have fixed it by now, I don’t know. I already switched to Twitter’s own Twitter iPhone app, which I actually like better anyway.)
The second update that potentially has more impact, from an SEO and analytics perspective, is regarding their link service. Here’s the section of the e-mail they sent out that explains this update:
Update 2: t.co URL wrapping
In the coming weeks, we will be expanding the roll-out of our link wrapping service t.co, which wraps links in Tweets with a new, simplified link. Wrapped links are displayed in a way that is easier to read, with the actual domain and part of the URL showing, so that you know what you are clicking on. When you click on a wrapped link, your request will pass through the Twitter service to check if the destination site is known to contain malware, and we then will forward you on to the destination URL. All of that should happen in an instant.
You will start seeing these links on certain accounts that have opted-in to the service; we expect to roll this out to all users by the end of the year. When this happens, all links shared on Twitter.com or third-party apps will be wrapped with a t.co URL.
What does this mean for me?
- A really long link such as http://www.amazon.com/Delivering-Happiness-Profits-Passion-Purpose/dp/0446563048 might be wrapped as http://t.co/DRo0trj for display on SMS, but it could be displayed to web or application users as amazon.com/Delivering- or as the whole URL or page title.
- You will start seeing links in a way that removes the obscurity of shortened links and lets you know where each link will take you.
- When you click on these links from Twitter.com or a Twitter application, Twitter will log that click. We hope to use this data to provide better and more relevant content to you over time.
This raises some questions.
They say “when you click on a wrapped link, your request will pass through the Twitter service…” Does this mean a series of redirects? How will this effect the referral data and any potential link juice or other social signals the search engines may take into account?
Also, that third bullet point at the end got me excited. So Twitter will be collecting click-through data on links (if they weren’t already). Unfortunately, they won’t be sharing that data with just anyone. You’ll have to be signed up for one of their “eventual commercial accounts service,” according to their blog post on this topic.
Where does this leave URL shortening services like Bit.ly?
Take a look at the second bullet point above, where Twitter talks about removing the obscurity of shortened links. That certainly doesn’t sound too friendly toward Bit.ly, ow.ly, tinyurl or any other link shortening services. Twitter does make mention of this in more depth on their help center page about the link service. Specifically, they state:
You can still use a URL shortener (like bit.ly) to shorten links.
If you’re wanting to shorten links to share with others, please see this help page on using URL Shorteners. You can continue to use a URL shortener to shorten links, and any tracking metrics (like those from bit.ly) will continue working as before.
The link service at http://t.co is only used on links posted on Twitter and is not available as a general shortening service.
Confused yet? I sure am. Will my bit.ly link be wrapped in a t.co link (whatever “wrapped” means)? Will the t.co link redirect to the bit.ly link which will redirect to the actual page? That doesn’t seem very efficient. Will link juice pass through the t.co service? Too many questions and not enough answers.
Not to be all negative, I have to give Twitter credit for trying to make the web a safer place. The primary purpose of this link service is to “protect users from malicious site that engage in spreading malware, phishing attacks and other harmful activity.” That’s a noble directive and one that I can support.