URL Shortener services are services that take a long web address and create a shorter address that is easier to share with others.
Why use a URL Shortener?
There are two primary business reasons to use a URL Shortener service. The first reason is to simplify your sharing. Twitter and text messaging are notorious for the limited number of characters that you can send in a message. By using a URL Shortener you can share a long web address and still have room for your message.
The other business reason is to gather analytics on your shares. In the past I have talked about campaign tracking with Google Analytics. At the time I showed how you can track campaigns on the different social media networks. This is great, but you cannot use Google Analytics to track when you share a non-web page (e.g. a JPG or a PDF). You also cannot use Google Analytics to track when you’re sharing someone else’s website. Most URL Shortener services offer some form of analytics.
There are many URL Shortener services out there. They all have similar features, but slightly different interfaces. There is no one best service. Try out a couple and find what fits you best. I will cover two services in this article.
URL Shortener: Goo.gl
Goo.gl is Google’s URL Shortener. While Google has become notorious for killing non-services lately, I believe this one will survive. My primary reason for believing this is that Google uses this themselves. Companies that eat their own dog food tend to believe in a service and want to make it better. Killing this service would create a great deal of work for themselves. True, they could just kill the ability to add new links, but that wouldn’t make life easier for them.
Goo.gl offers their own analytics. These analytics are publicly available to all users. Simply add “.info” to the end of any Goo.gl URL to get access to the analytics. The analytics for the Goo.gl URL include:
- Total Clicks
- Browser statistics
- Operating System Platforms
You can cut these statistics over the last two hours, or the last day, week, or month. Additionally, the analytics page includes a QR code that points to the Goo.gl URL. Simply save that QR code and include it on print documents for a user to scan with their mobile device.
URL Shortener: Bitly
Bitly is my personal favorite URL Shortener. I’m not really sure why I stuck with this one. I think I just started using it early on when I first needed a URL Shortener. And I found “Bitly” easy to pronounce.
Bitly’s analytic feature breaks down you’re the referrer section to account for popular services. It will help you distinguish between Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Surprisingly, it does not have a custom section for Google+. For Google+ it lumps it in with the no referral section like email and IM messages.
Bitly allows you to create your own custom short domain. This lets you create your own URLs that look like your brand. Additionally, you can set up your site to gain further analytics about short URLs that point to your domain. Both are helpful features that increase your branding and give you insight into how people use your site.