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Bit.ly for Beginners

Bit.ly Education – Part 1

This is the first of a 2-part post on using Bit.ly. Part 2 – Advanced Uses of Bit.ly – takes a deeper dive into this URL shortening service and shows how you can be Super Spy. Eat your heart out Bond.

I’ve talked previously about using Bit.ly to measure traffic from Twitter. Now let’s take a closer look at this URL shortening service. Bit.ly is an online service that allows you to take a long URL (http://www.example.com/blog/page/category/year/month/day/article/id=123456) and shorten it (to something like http://bit.ly/8FapX). Why would you want to do that? Simple. When you’re tweeting a link to your latest blog post, you have only 140 characters. Every character is precious, and if you can tweet a link that has 19 characters instead of 74 characters (like in the example URLs above) you have more space to craft a catchy line to get people to click through.

When someone clicks on the Bit.ly shortened version of your URL, they are then redirected to your original long URL. Bit.ly is kind 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 (quantity and quality) weigh heavily on how high your page and site rank in the search engines.

But wait, there’s more!

In addition to providing a short URL for your page, Bit.ly also gives some great information on traffic to that short URL (hence, your page). Here’s the rundown of what you can see:

  1. Number of times your shortened URL was clicked on
  2. Number of times other Bit.ly shortened versions of the same page were clicked on
  3. Watch in (near) real time as people click on your Bit.ly link
  4. Referring sites/applications from which your shortened URL was clicked
  5. Location (country) of the person clicking on your shortened URL
  6. Conversations – the tweets that include your Bit.ly link

(click to view larger)

Bit.ly Info Detail

Bit.ly Referrers

Bitly Locations

When you create an account with Bit.ly (which takes about 30 seconds and only requires a user name, email and password) you also get access to these nice features:

History – Bit.ly keeps track of 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.

Twitter Integration – You can tweet from straight from Bit.ly

Bit.ly Sidebar – A nice tool to quickly and easily shorten and share links from any web page

Bit.ly Sidebar

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Advanced Uses of Bit.ly – where I’ll show you how to use Bit.ly to spy on your competitors and find influential Twitterers.

BONUS: As a sneak peak into the next post, try this: find a tweet that interests you that includes a Bit.ly link. Click on the Bit.ly link. Copy the page’s URL and go to Bit.ly. Shorten the long URL. See how many people have clicked on that other person’s Bit.ly link? We’re just getting started…

Jim Gianoglio

About Jim Gianoglio

Jim Gianoglio is a Senior Digital Analyst at LunaMetrics. He works with implementation and analysis of Google Analytics, and spearheads the LunaMetrics Google Analytics seminars across the country. Want to see him in action? He'll be leading some of our upcomingGoogle Analytics trainings. Before succumbing to the siren song of analytics, he led the SEO campaigns of Fortune 500 companies in the insurance, retail and CPG industries. Things you didn’t know about Jim: he has biked from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, photographs weddings, and roasts his own coffee beans.


6 Responses to “Bit.ly for Beginners”

Tim Wilson says:

Great summary! I’m looking forward to part 2 — can’t tell from the teaser at the end if that will include the tip that you can just drop a “+” on the end of a bit.ly link and get the summary of traffic to the link. At least one company who’s product includes a URL shortener has told me that a downside of using bit.ly is the “+” public availability of traffic to the link. That seemed like a pretty weak point — do I care if a competitor knows how many people clicked on a link I shared? Not really. But, for companies that are highly sensitive about their internal data, I could see them having reservations (of course, those are the companies that are going to struggle to be successful with social media, too, but there are plenty of them out there!).

Jim says:

Shhhh… don’t spoil the ending ;)

Very good points Tim – and yes, adding the “+” to the end of the Bit.ly links is one of the tricks up the old sleeve (although there are a couple more that I’ll be pulling out). It’s true that any intelligence through Bit.ly is limited to the people using it to shorten their links. Although Bit.ly is on of the most used shorteners, there’s certainly no shortage of options for people to use – is.gd, kl.am, tinyurl, cli.gs, ow.ly, goo.gl, etc.

Don Blair says:

I was using bit-ly.com for a couple of days–now when I try to get to “bit-ly”, I get a message “Waiting on google-analytics” with a green progress bar that NEVER COMPLETES (never gets me to) the “bit-ly” site. Any ideas concerning the solution to this problem? I really like bit-ly and want to utilize it. Thanks,
Don Blair
donuslblair@live.com 08/19/10

Jim Gianoglio Jim says:

@Don -

I’m able to get to the site – are you still experiencing that issue?

Don Blair says:

Yes, Jim–still experiencing the issue. The Bit-ly home page flashes on my screen for a fraction of a second–then a message with a green progress bar appears near the bottom of my screen:

..”connected to google analytics”…

The progress bar advances about half-way but never finishes or completes.


Joe says:

October 15 here and still the bit.ly site is doing exactly for me what Don Blair describes in his posting. I’m using Firefox 3.6.10. I stumbled along this LunaMetrics site looking for a solution.

Tried it in both Chrome 6.0 and IE 8 and bit.ly works fine.