There are literally hundreds of URL Shorteners to choose from. TinyURL was the first URL shortener to gain popularity, and because of Twitter, demand for URL shorteners has grown exponentially. There’s bit.ly, snipurl.com, owl.ly, cli.gs, su.pr, is.gd, badurl.com, tr.im, short.to, 6url.com, just.as, tiny.cc, kl.am, adjix.com, notlong.com, xr.com, and that’s just to name a few.
Who has time to sort through all of these links? Stating the obvious, these sites all pretty much do the same thing: shorten links. But there are some features that make bit.ly a step above the rest (and if you want to follow along, I suggest registering for a bit.ly account first):
1. Track Clicks
Being able to track all clicks makes us analytics dorks very happy. Let’s use one of my blog posts as an example: Free Twitter Badges for Your Website or Blog, for which I’ve created the bit.ly http://bit.ly/freebadges.
After creating a bit.ly, you access the click stats through your bit.ly history and click “Info+”. You can also access the stats by entering your bit.ly followed by a plus sign (http://bit.ly/freebadges+) as the URL. This comes in handy because after using your account for a while, it will be harder to find the link you’re searching for in your bit.ly history. So I like to keep track of my important bit.ly’s in an excel spreadsheet (yes, we’ve already established that I’m a dork).
The large number represents how many clicks were generated from your account. As you can see, 15 clicks were generated from my account. 136 clicks were generated in total, so 121 clicks were generated from other people going to bit.ly and shortening my blog’s URL themselves.
2. Customize your bit.ly’s
When you shorten a link on any link shortening site, it generates a link with random characters. When I initially shortened my Free Twitter Badges link with bit.ly, it gave me the link http://bit.ly/8CKeP. Unless you’re a pretty strange person, 8CKeP probably doesn’t mean anything to you. So I want my bit.ly to read http://bit.ly/freebadges. Simply enter your desired bit.ly URL, such as “freebadges” into the “Custom Name” field on the right:
And viola, my link is now http://bit.ly/freebadges. Try to keep your links as short as possible for sites like Twitter.
3. See tweets in real-time
Bit.ly lets you see people’s tweets that contain your bit.ly’s. This allows for conversation monitoring about the content you’re pushing into the Twittersphere.
I’m pretty excited that people think my holiday-themed Twitter backgrounds are “super cute.”
4. See your personal click stats
The Bit.ly click summary feature lets you see how people are interacting with bit.ly’s you’ve created for the past hour, seven days, or 30 days.
You can also see referrer details (most people click my bit.ly’s through Email, IM, and AIR Apps such as Tweetdeck, followed by Twitter, then Facebook), and location details.
5. The bit.ly sidebar
The Bit.ly Sidebar slides out to shorten your long link, then shows Traffic, Conversations, and History. You can also share your bit.ly link on Twitter, Gmail, Email, and Facebook. Add a link to your Favorites bar to quickly activate the bit.ly sidebar on any webpage you visit.
6. Makes sure your content is optimized for search
Your bit.ly’s info page will let you know how the search engines see your page, so you can double check that your post is SEO compliant in terms of your metadata, including keywords and description.
7. Other dorky cool stuff
Numbers 1 and 2 on this list are the main reasons why bit.ly is so awesome, but here’s a quick list of other notable features:
- Convert bit.ly’s you created when signed out to your account’s bit.ly history
- Bit.ly browser extentions (Firefox and Chrome) let you preview any bit.ly before you click
- The mobile bit.ly site is m.bit.ly, for easy URL shortening on your phone
- The bit.ly Gmail gadget lets you create bit.ly’s while writing email
- Amazon Affiliates bookmarklet lets you easily create bit.ly’s with your own affiliate link
With all these cool features, it doesn’t make sense to use any URL shortener besides Bit.ly.
Which URL shortener do you use most regularly? Or prove me wrong; do you think any other shortener has superior features?