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Bit.ly Has Features Beyond URL Shortening

Whether you love it or hate it, Twitter can be a valuable tool to send traffic to your site. But how do you know if all that time spent tweeting is worth it? You can look at your Google Analytics and see some referral traffic coming from Twitter.com, but there’s much more to the story.

Twitter user’s typically send and receive their tweets from an application on their desktop or smart phone. However, if you tweet a link to your site and someone clicks on that link from within one of the popular desktop apps such as Twhirl, Tweetdeck or Twitterific, it will show up in your analytics as a direct visit – no referral data.

How can you track the number of people that visit your site from links that you send out via Twitter? Enter the world of URL shorteners. You’re most likely already aware of URL shortnening services, like TinyURL, Bit.ly, kl.am, Snurl, and there are many more out there. Essentially, what they do is take your long URL and compress it into a shorter version. This is particularly important for Twitter, where you only have 140 characters per tweet. The short URL just redirects to the page with the long URL.

A number of URL shorteners also have elaborate features that let you track key stats – like how many people clicked through. It’s really simple to use Bit.ly to track your Twitter Click Through (TCT) rate. Before you tweet a link to your latest blog post, use Bit.ly to shorten the URL, then copy and paste the new, shortened URL in your tweet and send it on.

Bit.ly is thoughtful enough to use a 301 redirect, which means that when search engines find links to the short URLs, they’ll credit those links to the long URL – your page. Don’t forget, links weigh heavily on how high your page and site rank in the search engines.

In addition, Bit.ly gives some great information on traffic to your shortened URL, such as:

Location (country) of the person clicking on your shortened URL

Number of times your shortened URL was clicked on

Number of times other Bit.ly shortened versions of the same page were clicked on

Watch in (near) real time as people click on your Bit.ly link

Referring sites/applications from which your shortened URL was clicked

Conversations – the tweets that include your Bit.ly link

You can also get access to additional features when you create an account with Bit.ly. It takes about 30 seconds and only requires a user name, email and password. One of these elements is  a detailed history. Bit.ly tracks your shortened URLs and the data about them. They also show you how many clicks (across all shortened links) you’ve had in the past week and your most clicked Bit.ly links in the past hour. You can get information (traffic, referrers, locations, conversations) about any Bit.ly link simply by taking the short URL and adding a “+” at the end (minus the quotes).

If you were so inclined, you could use Bit.ly to track how effective your competitors are at leveraging social media and see if specific campaigns they are running are having success. Or you can compare your own campaigns to theirs to see how you stack up.  Just take their Bit.ly URLs and add the “+”. Viola! You can see how many clicks they’ve received, how many people have retweeted or shared the short URL and the conversations surrounding the link.

This useful information is terrific, but it’s limited to the people who use Bit.ly to shorten their links. While Bit.ly is one of the most used shorteners, there’s definitely no shortage of options – is.gd, kl.am, tinyurl, cli.gs, ow.ly, goo.gl, etc.

Furthermore, just because someone uses Bit.ly to shorten their links, doesn’t indicate that they’re a registered Bit.ly user. Many apps (TweetDeck, twitterfeed, etc.) integrate Bit.ly to shorten links. This means you won’t be able to ascertain a person’s influence as easily through Bit.ly.

  

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