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Customer link shorteners, rabbit holes, and a massive pile of dead-end marketing data.

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I’ve been approached a handful of times by the good folks behind the “.ski” domain.

It’s great that such a domain exists and I’ve suggested to some of you specific, unique use cases, but I’ve never seen enough general insight within the topic to cover it. Sure you could buy the domain and forward it just so nobody else can squat, but that’s a rabbit hole if there ever was one.

More commonly suggested, however, is the concept of a custom link shortener for your domain. For example, Telluride uses the nice, clean for their links.

So should you buy a clever .ski domain, grab a Short Switch account, and do the same?

That, as it turns out, is the angle that got me to finally write about this topic.

Speaking of Rabbit Holes
If you ask someone about custom link shorteners and the results of using one, you’ll likely be referred – as I was – to this article on VentureBeat with this infographic.


At this point there should only one thing on your mind and it’s not, “whoa, let’s get a custom link shortener,” the thought should be:

“Okay, what’s the source?”

If you started to dig around you’d find that the third paragraph goes as follows :

“While it’s hardly a disinterested observer, RadiumOne says that URL shorteners that offer vanity domains result in an increased volume of sharing — up 25 percent — compared to simple shares of standard, longer URLs.”

Nevermind that one stat says “25% more shares” and one stat says “25% more clicks”, one stat says “fact, average of 25%” and the other says, “up to 25%”, nevermind that the first word addresses deeply held bias, the biggest problem where is that there is no link to any study or research project or whitepaper.

There is no source.

Now, if you were really determined like I was – most people are not – you’d start searching around the web for that original data set. If you did, you’d eventually find this article on RadiumOne’s blog with the same infographic and the same findings.

Again, at this point there should only one thing on your mind:

“Okay, what’s the source?”

For which you’d find the answer in the second paragraph:

“ has dug through our social data and found some surprising information that debunks several social sharing ideas you may have assumed otherwise true. Check it out our findings in the feature article on VentureBeat.”

Yes, the blog post is quoting VentureBeat and VentureBeat is quoting the blog post.

Please take it from someone who spends way too much time trying to connect these dots that the vast majority of marketing data you read leads to a dead end where the source, methodology, and accuracy are all unknown. If I had to put a number on it, I’d say 90% of the “amazing stats” I see are completely bogus.

A Reminder
Let me be clear. My point here is NOT about .ski. That’s great and fine. Do whatever you’d like with that.

My point is that we’re all basing decisions (or pitching sale prospects) on data whose source is completely unknown. We sometimes snicker at the “__% of all stats are made up on the spot” joke, but the fact of the matter is we marketers usually don’t care whether it real or fake. If it looks good, if it confirms our bias, we roll with it.

When we base marketing decisions on such numbers, that’s isn’t data-driven marketing. That’s putting a completely random variable into your marketing equation and hoping for the best.

It doesn’t take much than asking “what’s the source” but I think you’ll find that simple act alone will save you the misstep of basing big decisions on baseless claims.

About Gregg & SlopeFillers
I've had more first-time visitors lately, so adding a quick "about" section. I started SlopeFillers in 2010 with the simple goal of sharing great resort marketing strategies. Today I run marketing for resort ecommerce and CRM provider Inntopia, my home mountain is the lovely Nordic Valley, and my favorite marketing campaign remains the Ski Utah TV show that sold me on skiing as a kid in the 90s.

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