FREE Tracking (and More) With Bit.ly

By on April 22nd, 2011

You may have noticed that more and more URLs are being shortened with bit.ly. If you’re still using TinyURL or other non-trackable shortener, you’ll want to check this out. Not just for your email marketing, social media, and e-newsletter efforts, but also for creating QR codes to add to print.

Log into bit.ly and put the URL into the box. Hit “shorten” or, better yet, “shorten and share.” The “share” option allows you to automatically post the shortened URL to your Facebook profile or Twitter account. Built in social media marketing!

Now sit back and watch. Bit.ly not only shortens and posts to social media, but it also tracks. It provides you with the number of clicks to each link, when those clicks occurred, and where they came from. It gives you referring sites and the countries where the clicks came from. On the reports page, there is also a QR code you can download to add to blog posts, email, print, or any other marketing medium you might be using. It’s all free.  (Google offers goo.gl, a trackable shortener, too.)

For my previous Digital Nirvana post on mobile websites, I created QR codes for readers to check out the differences between traditional and mobile sites themselves. I used bit.ly to do it. Not only did I add the QR codes to my post, but I also used bit.ly to share the mobile link on my Facebook profile and my Twitter account. By the time I uploaded the post (about 40 minutes later), bit.ly told me that I had 5 clicks already — 40% direct, 40% Twitter, 20% from Facebook — from two different countries. Not from the post itself (since it was scheduled for two days later) but from my social media connections.

As John Foley of interlinkONE / GrowSocially likes to say,

“In marketing, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.”

Bit.ly is a powerful tool that allows you to measure the success of your marketing efforts. Instantly, you know what’s working, what’s not, and what’s working better than something else. Not only this, but it has sales implications, too. Imagine the value to clients in saying, “Sure, you can create your own codes for free, but we’ll create them for you and provide you with tracking and results measurement.” It’s a powerful value-add.

It’s a great tool that doesn’t cost you a dime!

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6 Responses to “FREE Tracking (and More) With Bit.ly”

  1. Gee Ranasinha Says:

    As a heads-up: note that not every URL shortening service does as good a job as bit.ly.

    One consideration is with regards to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) issues. Search engines have increased the importance on links broadcast via social media in their search algorithms, so ensuring that such links get considered is becoming more and more important.

    When you shorten your link with a URL shortening service and broadcast that link using social media channels, you probably want that link to generate SEO credit back to your website. Well, not all URL shortening services create a so-called “301 redirect” back to the source address, as bit.ly does (which is what you’re after). Instead, they perform either a “302″ or “303″ redirect, which means that search engines such as Google won’t pass on the link credit.

    Remember that the other side of the coin when using a URL shortening service is that you are totally reliant on this “third party” to deliver the resolved web page in the way that you were expecting. If the service stops for any reason – their servers go down, the company goes bankrupt (as was the case with both idek.net or zi.ma) – then your links go down with them.

    Also, while some sites and services allow you to preview either the content or the long version of the link (or both), the issue with shortened URLs is that the reader has no real idea where the link is going to take them, opening-up concerns over malicious links. There has to be an element of trust with the sender – since you can’t trust the link – before clicking.

    In the interests of balance, it should also be mentioned that services such as tr.im, is.gd and tinyurl.com also offer tracking features and 301 redirects as part of their services.

    Perhaps you like the idea of a URL shortener, but don’t care for the cons – or for publicizing the services of another company. In which case (with a little work) you can build your own service using your own domain name using Yourls, Google Short Links, Phurl, or su.pr

  2. pmhapp Says:

    I’ve never seen it referred to as “.bitly”. I believe the common nomenclature is “bit.ly”.

  3. Heidi Tolliver-Nigro Says:

    Yes, I suppose it is! Too busy using it to see how it’s used in running text! Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Patrick Whelan Says:

    “In marketing, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it.”

    Great article but this statement is simply overused and drives me nuts. How precise can McDonalds be in measuring the value of their brand? Precise is the key word here. And on the flip side, just because a company can’t measure something, doesn’t mean it can’t be measured.

  5. Dave Fields Says:

    There was an interesting article in The Wall Street Journal about bit.ly and the connection with Libya.
    You can find it at:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704530204576235192926377066.html

  6. Paul White Says:

    David,
    Thanks for sharing this WSJ article about the .ly connection. You bring up an important point that this service could also potentially compromise a user’s links in the future, when using a service with a .ly suffix.