Home T.co Will Reveal Twitter’s True Traffic Referral Power

T.co Will Reveal Twitter’s True Traffic Referral Power

On August 15, Twitter turned on its t.co link wrapper for all links longer than 19 characters. The t.co URL shortener was first announced in June of last year, and it was implemented on Twitter.com this June. Eventually, Twitter plans to wrap all links, regardless of length. Prior to that, it will increase the link length to 20 characters to accommodate the ‘s’ that will be added as Twitter moves to secure HTTPS service by default.

From the user’s perspective, t.co links appear as the first 19 characters of the real URL, without the HTTP or HTTPS visible, and they trail off into ellipses. When everything’s working properly – unlike several periods of time today – users won’t see an obscured t.co shortlink but rather the actual linked domain. One problem this aims to solve is the concealing of malicious links behind external URL shorteners. Twitter checks all shortened links against their list of malicious sites. But t.co also solves another less visible problem: it reveals Twitter’s true influence as a referring traffic source.

Since so many Twitter users use third-party clients or apps, Twitter.com gets short shrift as a referrer of traffic. Some client apps show up as referrers, but not all do, and even so, it’s more trouble than it’s worth to dig through Google Analytics counting Twitter clients. Consequently, Twitter has long been deemphasized as an important traffic source just because Twitter.com shows up low on the referrer list in analytics. But when every tweeted link gets passed through t.co, Twitter.com may not benefit in the referrer standings, but t.co certainly will.

T.co referrals will show how many clicks came from tweets read anywhere, not just on Twitter’s website, and only then will we know the full extent of Twitter’s reach as a way of sharing links. Twitter could, if it so desired, also launch its own analytics product using t.co, competing with leading link shorteners like Bit.ly. But while that would be a great idea, we can only speculate as to whether it will come to pass.

Just since last week, when Twitter turned on t.co for links longer than 19 characters, Twitter has leapt ahead of Facebook as a referrer to ReadWriteWeb. Our links tend to be considerably longer than 19 characters, so t.co probably hasn’t missed anything.

Have you noticed the new wrapped links on Twitter? Do you like them, or do you prefer regular shortlinks? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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