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Some users have resorted to using 'shorter url' sites, and while I have no problem with this, I was considering offering my users my own 'shorter link'. Essentially, where the article will still be linked internally on my site to the SE friendly URL, and this SE friendly URl will be included in the sitemap, etc, I'll add some kind of 'get shorter link' functionality.
I plan on doing a rewrite via Apache to route the shorter link to a bootstrap script that will then forward the user to the main url, but am worried that by having multiple url's to the same content I may be punished by search engines, especially in that the shorter url will be published right on the page. Should my bootstrap script send a 301 header so that the page doesn't get indexed? Any thoughts?
What you definitely should do is include a rel='canonical' reference on all your articles with the full search engine friendly URL in it. That should prevent Google from penalising you for duplicate content.
For reference, here's Google's usage of canonical: