Close-Up With Google’s New QR Code Generator

At first blush, generating a QR code while shortening a URL seems like a great idea. If you need to generate unique QR Codes for your printed or mobile advertising strategy this is one way to get the job done.

The process is straightforward. You simply type or paste a URL into the text box, press the shorten button, and your new short/long URL is displayed at the top of your URL list. You then have the option to track click activity for each of the shortened URLs that you have created.

Google QR Code Generator

To access the QR Code you will need to click on the details link to get to the following display. You see what you would expect, the long URL, the short URL and the QR code.

Google QR Code Results

I found this somewhat confusing; I could click on both the long and short URLs, but there are no graceful options for directly accessing or saving the QR Code. You actually have to highlight and copy the green link under the QR Code (in this case,, and paste it into a browser. This is the only way to generate a clean QR Code that can be saved as a JPG file. It seems logical that Google should provide the functionality to generate and save codes as an option on this page, but they didn’t. This section needs some help from their usability team, as it feels like it was thrown together at short notice.

Google’s QR code generator is limited to encoding URLs only. If you have other marketing needs such as encoding contact information, or using the QR Code as a dialer, you will have to go elsewhere. There are other limitations: you can not specify levels of error correction, or use other options commonly found in QR code generators, such as the ability to specify display size. This is what you see. For a simple URL, this is just fine.

Google QR Code

Just to be clear, the following QR code URL that is produced with the Google platform is of little value for inclusion in a tweet or an email, as it does nothing but take you to the new QR code (which also has to be clicked on), thus inserting a second step between a customer and your content.

This service is clearly a step in the right direction, but this functionality falls short and will not meet the needs of marketers who have requirements beyond encoding URLs. Google is asking that marketers use two QR code platforms to meet their entire range of needs, and that is unlikely to happen. There is no recognized 2D code leader in the US yet, and it will take the telecoms or companies like Google to step forward to champion a 2D code standard. Google can do this, but they will have to expose more of the QR Code platform and functionality in a user-friendly format to take the lead.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: URL Shortener | How To: SEO


About The Author: was a founder of the Northern Light search engine, advises clients about how to improve website performance by understanding the practical impact of search behavior, SEO and search technologies on content at Lexington eBusiness Consulting. You can follow him on Twitter @CMarkSprague.

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  • shively

    For a better QR generator try the free QR Code Generator at:

    A downside to how Google’s QR generator used to work was that the QRs took the user to the Google Places page and not the actual website.

  • ben.griffiths

    The QR codes generated for shortened URLs are generated by the Google Chart API. You can tweak the parameters of the QR Code URL to do everything you’ve mentioned in the article.

    You can use the ChartTool to experiment with the URL parameters here:

    Shameless self promotion:

  • srowen

    This isn’t Google’s QR code generator. They generate QR codes via their Chart Server ( That’s the raw tool, and it can generate a QR code of any sort you like.

    The front end for this Chart Server really lies in the generator from the ZXing project (, I’m a developer), which is from Google too:

    It probably meets your expectations of a QR code generator more — what you’re reviewing here is simply one use of the generator from a different service, a URL shortener.

    By the way you can make a QR code link without copying and pasting and such. Just put “.qr” on the end of the URL. Of course, you can right-click to save the image as with any image, etc.

    No, you would not embed such a link in a tweet, why? It’s like tweeting a picture of data rather than data. You’d use the generated code in print or on a web site where one might plausibly want to, or have to, read it via phone.

    I also don’t understand why you think there isn’t a standard — it’s QR code. Google, for one, has always only backed QR.

  • Mark Sprague

    Srowen, my argument really had more to do with what a strange way this is to generate a QR Code. I think you folks have an opportunity to make QR Codes the go-to standard – but it’s going to take more than this gimmick. I disagree that QR Codes is the standard in the US. It’s there for the taking, but the jury is still out. From where I sit it looks like Google is dabbling in this technology, not championing it…and look what just walked in the front door – Microsoft Tags.

  • Gila Beckermann

    Here is another free one and it also makes a virtual business card for free:

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