Shortened URLs are a great way to make a message shorter and more readable for the recipient. However, it is crucial to understand some rules and best practices to ensure successful delivery, as well as a good user experience.
SMS and MMS messaging with shortened URLs - United States
When sending SMS or MMS messages containing shortened URLs to users in the United States, use a dedicated, branded short domain that belongs to your business.
Sending messages containing unbranded URLs is a common technique used for fraud/malicious messages. Because of this, consumers are less likely to click on the link, because they are not confident of where the landing page will take them to.
According to T-Mobile’s Code of Conduct, and US carrier expectations in general, a short link should be both:
- proprietary – a dedicated custom domain that belongs to your business, not a free shared public link shortener
- properly branded – the domain aligns with the message sender identified in the text message itself
What does "proprietary" mean?
"Proprietary" means the short URL belongs to your business and is not used by unrelated businesses or organizations. Do not send links that have been shortened using shared public URL shorteners, such as free TinyUrl or Bitly links. US carrier policies strongly discourage the use of shared public URL shorteners, due to the frequency of use by spammers, scammers and other bad actors. The use of these public shared shorteners will result in higher risk of filtering, with no recourse if filtering does occur.
What does "properly branded" mean?
For an example of what "proper branding" means, consider an imaginary political organization called Americans for Clean Air, sending call-to-action messages to opted-in subscribers.
This message contains a URL that is not properly branded, because it does not align with the organization name:
Hi, it’s John from Americans for Clean Air (ACA). Please contact your representatives today to let them know you care about reducing air pollution. For more info: abcd.com/1234xyz - Reply STOP to unsubscribe
The below message has a properly branded short URL that meets US carrier expectations:
Hi, it’s John from Americans for Clean Air (ACA). Please contact your representatives today to let them know you care about reducing air pollution. For more info: aca.com/1234xyz - Reply STOP to unsubscribe
How can I implement this?
Some URL shortener websites offer a paid plan which allows you to use a unique domain. Alternatively, you could use your own domain and run your own shortening system. In either case, you should adhere to the above rules to avoid higher risk of filtering on your messages.
SMS and MMS messaging with shortened URLs - Other Countries
When sending to non-US countries, the use of shared public URL shorteners is also likely to cause reduced delivery quality. When using a shared URL shortener, your messages may accidentally resemble harmful messages that a carrier has recently blocked, causing your messages to also be blocked. In addition, using generic shared URL shorteners may cause some message recipients to be suspicious about the links you are sending, and refuse to click on them.
However, it is generally not required by non-US countries to use a domain that matches your business name, although it is ideal to do so so that your end users have greater confidence in the URL you are sending.
WhatsApp does not forbid the use of shared URL shorteners. However, if possible, Twilio recommends using a dedicated short URL that is specific to your business. Recipients are more likely to trust a branded short URL, or even a standard long URL, than a generic short URL.