Using Bit.ly to Track Click-Throughs, Competitors & More
Bit.ly is an online service that allows you to take a long URL:
and shorten it to something like: http://bit.ly/BLine3. Which is very useful for a number of reasons. Rather than including a long, sort of vague URL, Bit.ly allows you to create a unique one that is easy to track. Bit.ly also provides an impressive number of analytics including the number click-throughs received by your unique URL, total click-throughs that all Bit.ly URLs pointing to the original page have received in total, number of times your URL was shared via a social network, and more.
What we love about Bit.ly is the ability to track the links that you have created. When someone clicks on the Bit.ly shortened version of your URL, they are redirected to your original long URL. Bit.ly uses 301 redirects which means that when search engines find links to your shortened URLs they credit the unique links to the long URL. The reason this is important to note has to do with link building and link juice. The quantity and quality of link that point to (for example) your web pages are large factors in the overall rankings given to your site by search engines.
One of Bit.ly’s great user-friendly qualities is its memory. The site will remember your previously created URLs without signing in. Though, if you create a profile and sign in each time you use the service, you have (free) access to great analytics and other tools. The benefit to Bit.ly’s memory is that you don’t run the risk of creating multiple Bit.ly links to the same URL. While other people can create their own unique URLs (which are considered in the overall click-through rate) any links created from your computer will not have a duplicate issue. So don’t worry about creating multiple short URLs for the same link.
Using Bit.ly for Tracking
As stated above, Bit.ly provides lots of great information on your short URLs’ traffic and other stats. What you can see are:
- Number of times your shortened URL was clicked on
- Number of times other Bit.ly shortened versions of the same page were clicked on
- You can watch in (almost) real time as people click on your Bit.ly link
- Referring sites/applications from which your shortened URL was clicked
- Location (country) of the person clicking on your shortened URL
- Conversations – like Tweets that include your Bit.ly link
When you create a Bit.ly account, you have access to a few other statistics including:
- History – Bit.ly keeps track of your shortened URLs and data about them. It also show you how many clicks for all of your shortened links you have received over the past 7 days, including which link received the most clicks in the last 60 minutes
- Twitter Integration – Tweet directly from Bit.ly
- Bit.ly Sidebar – An add-on to your browser so you can quickly and easily shorten and share your unique URLs any time
Customizing Your Bit.ly Links
Now, Bit.ly allows you the opportunity to customize your links. So rather than having http://bit.ly/12345 you can get something like bit.ly/BLineRocks. Just create the shortened link then click “Customize.”
How to Track Competitors with Bit.ly
Ever wonder how many click throughs your competitors’ Bit.ly links get? Well, here’s a really great way to find out! All you have to do to get their traffic, referrers, locations, conversations, and more, is type the short URL in to your browser and add a “+” at the end.
For example – Take http://bit.ly/BLineBlog and add a “+” like this: http://bit.ly/BLineBlog+
You’ll see a page with that link’s information, without having created it yourself. You can even see how many people have reTweeted or shared the URL and conversations with the link.
Bit.ly is a great tool for link building, tracking, and analytics. Now that it offers Twitter integration and a sidebar to create URLs directly from the active web page in your browser, it’s easier than ever to use. What we love about this free tool is that Bit.ly is constantly improving their interface, usability, and gadgets. Check it out and let us know what you think of it!