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What's in a URL?

What's in a URL?

You may have noticed some odd-looking web addresses gracing our magazine pages — whether in print, in our digital edition, or archived on our website. An example is

Alan Hitchcox
[email protected]

Bitly is a URL shortener we use to make it easier for readers of our printed magazine to access a specific page or section of a company’s website without having to enter a long string of characters. For instance, when a magazine prints a URL for a specific product, that URL generally just takes you to the supplier’s home page, not to the specific product. From the home page, you must navigate through the company’s website to find specific information on the material published in the magazine. If the website is well designed, you’ll quickly find what you need. If it’s not, you’ll either end up contacting the company by phone or e-mail for the details you’re seeking, or you’ll just give up.

Providing a URL to a specific page or section of a website would usually involve printing a long string (perhaps dozens) of characters that would have to be entered manually on the reader’s keyboard. I don’t think that happens very often. So the Bitly links serve readers of the print version of H&P. But the links also serve readers of our digital edition and archived issues. That’s because the Bitly URLs are deep links — they send you directly to the page containing the material we’ve referred to.

However, the Bitly links do even more. They allow us to count the times someone visits a company’s website from the Bitly link. Without it, if someone typed in a company URL printed in the magazine, the company would have no way of knowing that the lead come from H&P.

These Bitly leads compensate for the many leads that used to be generated by circling numbers on a Reader Service Card. And because leads help us sell advertising (essentially, our only source of income), using Bitly links helps ensure a successful future for H&P.