As we all know by now, URL Shorteners are essential tools not only for online marketers, but also for our friends, family, and pretty much anyone who uses the Internet nowadays.
But I'm surprised – shocked, really – at how many marketers still don't seem to be tracking where their links go and how people respond to them on a regular basis.
Every link you post on twitter, facebook, LinkedIn, etc. is an opportunity to find out more about what content and links are interesting to your audience. Even when you're on twitter and linking out to a news story or something else you just thought was interesting, a URL shortener that tracks clicks can give you invaluable feedback on what your audience clicks on and finds interesting.
To track only your own URLs is to miss vital opportunities to find out more about your audience.
Popular URL Shorteners
To find out which URL shorteners are the most popular, I decided to use 2 tests on twitter to see which ones were being used most often. Of course, in my oh-so-accurate tests the results are biased towards people who use twitter and it's platforms.
In the first test, I searched on twitter for a few popular URL shorteners, and let the search page sit for 35 minutes. When I came back from lunch, the "x more results since you started searching" number is shown below. Note that I didn't search for digg, since that is not exclusively a URL shortener.
Of course, I could have also done this the easy way, and used tweetmeme, which gave the following results:
It's interesting that both tests came back with basically the same results in terms of ranking the use of these URL shorteners. Surprisingly, 2 of these shorteners offer no tracking at all. Now, granted these stats include everybody, not just marketers. But a quick search of marketing twitter feeds shows that many people are still tracking their own URLs but not links to other content, missing opportunities to see what is interesting to their followers.
Overview of Popular URL Shorteners
Following is a very brief overview of some of the most popular URL shorteners out there.
- Browser Bookmarklet to shorten URLs from anywhere
- Custom name the URL
- Stats for clicks, referrers, locations
- Simple and easy-to-use interface
- tracks conversations
- Can't think of any
- Has an API available for developers
- Browser bookmarklet available
- No tracking
- Has been around forever – since at least 2002
- Browser bookmarklet available & plugin for Firefox
- No tracking
- Has an option to show users a preview page for the URL
- Unique tracking URL for each long URL, for each user
- So you can track which people visited the URL from only the links you sent
- Cligs is working on tracking only human clicks, and excluding bots
- Custom name the URL
- Tracking includes graphs, geotargeting tracking and other useful data
- Support is very fast through Twitter
- There have been some rough spots on the system lately, with system upgrades and design issues (which seem to be resolved as of this writing)
- You can edit your Clig and rename it. This is really handy when sending out the same URL to multiple services, to test which network is specifically driving which traffic. So by renaming
…and sending this link only through Twitter, you know for sure that traffic through this URL was generated originally from Twitter
- Tracks clicks
- 301 Redirect
- Shows you Retweets, clicks, traffic graph over time
- Tracks the URL as your own: If someone else shortens the same URL they get a different shortened URL to track seperately
- Schedule posts in advance
- Post to twitter and facebook at the same time
- No Custom URLs, but ability to use your own domain
- StumbleUpon toolbar at top of page on shortened URL
- Shortening a URL twice generates the same shortened URL (can't create seperate tracking links for facebook, twitter, etc)
- See Stumbles to the URL tracked on the same graph as clicks, while also seeing the actual referrers of traffic where people clicked from
So there are a lot of choices out there for URL shorteners with and without tracking, and they are pretty much all free. So why are you still not tracking your outbound social links?
Vice President at Search Engine People, helping clients with Conversion Optimization, Analytics, and On-Page SEO.
Online Marketer since June 2000, Internet geek since 1994. Follow me on twitter at @semlady to see what I'm reading now.