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* image courtesy of Lorena Cupcake

There probably aren’t many reasons why you’d need to convert a bunch of short URLs to their original long URLs, but I can think of one reason. One of the techniques our link building team has found to result in some high-quality and easy wins is one from Seer Interactive on Using Twitter and Backlinks to Build Links. The basic idea is to find your followers on Twitter and compare their bio links to your own link reports to see who’s not linking to you. If they aren’t, your goal is to see if there are opportunities to do so.

A major part of this process is to get a free Twitter follower report from Simply Measured, which includes a list of URLs pulled from the bios of all of your followers.

The problem we’re having now is that it seems that just recently Twitter has started changing bio URLs to short urls, making it impossible to match up our own link reports to the websites pulled from Twitter.

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I went on a mission to find a way to convert a large list of short URLs to their originals so that we wouldn’t have to do this process manually, which would really suck.

Using an Online Redirect Checker To Convert URLs

My first idea was to search Google for a short URL converter, but I couldn’t really find anything, so then I started looking for a bulk redirect checker, since that’s what short URLs are actually doing – 301 redirecting to the original URL. That’s how I found this Bulk URL Checker from a company called Search Commander, Inc. It’s free, but it only does 50 URLs at a time. To paste the results into Excel, copy the entire table from the page and in Excel, right click and choose Paste Special > Text.

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Xenu Link Sleauth

I continued to search for a tool that could handle more URLs at once and I also wanted other alternatives just in case Search Commander’s tool ever breaks or goes away. Any internet marketer who’s been in the industry long enough knows how common tools just disappear.

Then I thought of Xenu Link Sleuth which is great at doing things like this and it’s free. It works perfectly!

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Place your list of the short URLs you want to check in a .txt file and upload it to Xenu, by going to File > Check URL List. Upload the file and wait for it to run.

When it’s done, it’ll ask you if you want a report. Say no, then go to File > Export Page Map to TAB separated File and name it with a .XLS extension so that you can open it in Excel. There you go!

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The only problem with this method is that Xenu Link Sleuth is a Windows-only program, so you’ll need a PC, or if you’re on a Mac, you’ll need to run Windows in virtualization software such as Parallels for Mac ($80 per license) or VirtualBox, which is free and open source. I love VirtualBox, so I highly recommend it.

Screaming Frog

Xenu also has a competitor named Screaming Frog, which works on PC, Mac and Linux. I tested this one out too and it works just as good as Xenu.

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Open up Screaming Frog and go to Mode > List. Choose the .txt file containing a list of your URLs and click the Start button.

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When it’s finished scanning, go to the Response Codes tab and choose Export and there’s your list in an Excel file. Screaming Frog is free, but it’s limited to 500 URLs per scan, so if you have more than that, you’ll need to run it more than once or purchase a pro subscription for £99 per year.

Batch Link Review Tools and Tab Exporting Browser Plugins

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The final option I could think of, and most likely a last resort because of the amount of time it would take, is to use a tool like Ontolo’s URL Reviewer or Linkbun.ch, which are tools that take a list of URLs and open them all up at once in your web browser. Once they’re all loaded up, you’ll need to use a browser plugin such as Send Tab URLs for Firefox. I’m sure there’s a similar plugin for Chrome, but I haven’t used one.

How Would You Use a Tool Like This?

This is the only time I can think of where I needed a tool that could do something like this, but I’m really interested hearing about how someone else might need it. Let me know in the comments!

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Update: If the URLs you’re checking go through multiple redirects, the only tool here that will show you all of the redirects and the final URL is Xenu Link Sleuth. See the picture below of a test I did using my own website. The “/aimlessdirection.com/listing/” is the starting URL, and it runs through several other URL’s before finally returning to my home page.

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