STILL Not Tracking Your Social Links?

by Helen M. Overland July 23rd, 2009 

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.

 

bit.ly 7,339
tinyurl 4,307
is.gd 3,378
cli.gs 392
su.pr 168

 

Of course, I could have also done this the easy way, and used tweetmeme, which gave the following results:

 

bit.ly 4,813,778
tinyurl 1,343,147
is.gd 191,307
cli.gs 81,471
su.pr 1,078

 

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.

 

http://bit.ly/

Positives:

  • Browser Bookmarklet to shorten URLs from anywhere
  • Custom name the URL
  • Stats for clicks, referrers, locations
  • Simple and easy-to-use interface
  • tracks conversations

Negatives:

  • Can't think of any

Cool Feature:

  • Has an API available for developers

 

http://tinyurl.com/

Positives:

  • Browser bookmarklet available

Negatives:

  • No tracking

Cool Feature:

  • Has been around forever – since at least 2002

 

http://is.gd/

Positives:

  • Browser bookmarklet available & plugin for Firefox

Negatives:

  • No tracking

Cool Feature:

  • Has an option to show users a preview page for the URL

 

http://cli.gs/

Positives:

  • 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

Negatives:

  • 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)

Cool Feature:

  • 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

    http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/how-to-guarantee-anything.html

    to
    Twitter http://www.searchenginepeople.com/blog/how-to-guarantee-anything.html

    …and sending this link only through Twitter, you know for sure that traffic through this URL was generated originally from Twitter

 

http://su.pr/

Positives:

  • 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

Negatives:

  • 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)

Cool Feature:

  • 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?

Helen Overland

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.

http://focusedmarketer.com/

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7 Responses to “STILL Not Tracking Your Social Links?”

  1. [...] to: Helen Overland Related Posts SEMPO Institute Adds Summer SessionsSocial Media And Internet MarketingHow Finally [...]

  2. Tips says:

    yes many of the people do not track there social links. we must track the links. you have provided very useful information. i must say you have done lots of hard work in finding out the positives and negatives of various link shortners. thanks for the information. this will help a lot of people. good luck

  3. I think it is important for all online marketers to really track how well their links work.

  4. So many of my clients don't even know what a URL shortener is, no less how to track it? This is an ever growing tool.

  5. I'm guilty of not tracking those types of links… I don't like them really as they hurt SEO. I wish I could turn them off in TweetDeck!

  6. John A White says:

    nice blog post helen! i never really got into that url shortener stuff except on twitter posts. Have a good night and thanks for the awesome info :)