URL Shorteners and Analytics: Which Ones Deliver Results?

by 18 06/14/2012

Since its humble beginnings in 2002 with the launch of the TinyURL service, the URL shortener has evolved to become more than just a convenient way to save characters and trim unsightly web addresses.

These days, the best URL shorteners come with a full suite of analytics tools so that you can not only redirect users via a more memorable address, but also track where your traffic is coming from and what they’re doing once they get there.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most-used URL shortener analytics and find out which ones live up to the test.

Bitly

Recently the victim of a firestorm of controversy over its redesign, Bitly, one of the most popular URL shorteners (originally thanks to Twitter) is backpedaling to address its users’ concerns and keep things simple – the way they started.

Focusing on ease of use, Bitly has added several features that allow users to save, customize and update their shortened links to be public and private.

Currently, Bitly only tracks the number of clicks your shortened link gets – not pageviews or any other data beyond referrer and location:

For simple, straightforward analytics distilled into an at-a-glance format,
it’s hard to beat the popularity and user-friendliness of Bitly. 

An enterprise (“Pro”) service is also available, however the blog hasn’t been updated since October 2011 (announcing the Beta launch) and things are eerily quiet on the website.

Goo.gl

Bitly may be the  reigning champ of URL shorteners in the Twitterverse (before t.co was launched last year), but Goo.gl has analytics covered.

Like many of its services, if you have a Google account, you can track much more information than Bitly offers through its service, including clicks, referrers (and their relationship to each other), browsers, computer platforms and geographic locations. You can even see which time period brought the most clicks (although there is a 2 hour delay) and get a QR code for the shortened URL.

Keep in mind that all your analytics data for shortened goo.gl URLs is public. To access your analytics for a particular URL, just add .info after it, such as http://goo.gl/l6MS.info.

goo.gl

Goo.gl URL analytics tracks valuable information on clicks and referrers
including what browser and computer platform they’re using.

Awe.sm

Rather than being yet another cool URL shortener, awe.sm takes things a step further by concentrating exclusively on social analytics.  With its platform, you can not only track the number of clicks, referrals and other assorted information – but you can see which of those clicks drove conversions according to goals you set in the Awe.sm dashboard.

Awe.sm’s social analytics gives you a variety of ways to track
social engagement through their URL shortener

Techcrunch illustrated the potential of awe.sm by examining one of their users, StockTwits (a service which provides real-time updates on stocks through Twitter.

According to the Techcrunch article, StockTwits uses awe.sm to…

“track how its users react to things like quarterly earnings reports for public companies. Awe.sm can look at any link that contains its tracking code in any tweet or other mention of a company produced by StockTwits users, auto-detecting the link and letting StockTwits track all of the metadata around who is doing sharing and when it happens. StockTwits can then use this data to generate more sophisticated data around reach and engagement for how word spreads out among users, and alter its product accordingly.”

Awe.sm isn’t free like Bitly or Goo.gl, but there is a 30 day trial. Prices start at $15/month per user for one project.

Are URL Shorteners Right for You?

After Twitter introduced default URL wrapping with its own t.co service, many SEO providers have found that using a URL shortener for the sake of just a shorter link doesn’t make much sense – especially when a direct link is viewed as being more trustworthy.   The trust issue rears its ugly head when scammers use URL shorteners to hide spyware or other scummy sites.

But when your direct link is simply too long and cumbersome to remember, and you want a quick, direct way of getting measurable results from your social campaigns – URL shorteners and analytics bundle the best of both worlds.

All of the aforementioned URL shorteners have their own approach to analytics.  Your decision will depend on what type of information you need – whether it’s simple clicks and referrers or more in-depth social sharing statistics.

Overall, you can expect that the best URL shorteners will continue their gradual shift to becoming more of a social analytics platform rather than a service to promote a more memorable URL.

Do You Use a URL Shortener?

Which services have you tried? Do you have a service I’ve missed? Tell me about it in the comments below:

About 

Sherice Jacob helps website owners improve conversion rates with custom design, copywriting and website reviews.  Get your free conversion checklist and web copy tune-up by visiting iElectrify.com.

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18 COMMENTS

David Gadarian

I use both Bit.ly and on occasion goo.gl but I think the one I’ve seen the most results from is the Stumble Upon URL shortener Su.pr – which hooks directly into Stumble Upon – if I have a post that I think their audience will enjoy that is usually the way I’ll go.

June 14, 2012 Reply

Robin Cannon

Excellent piece. Have to admit that I just tend to use bit.ly by default (and particularly because of the easy link with Twitter clients such as TweetDeck). But this article definitely opened my eyes to some of the more in-depth analytics available from some of the other services. Suppose at that point it’s a case of immediate convenience (I don’t even have to *think* about using bit.ly) versus additional information. Definitely bears extra investigation on my part.

June 14, 2012 Reply

Sherice Jacob

I’ve used su.pr myself in the past (never underestimate the power of share-happy Stumblers!) but mostly, I’m like David – using Bit.ly for the sheer convenience and easy integration with Tweetdeck.

Hootsuite has a great set of tools for monitoring but it’s a little weak on the analytics side of things.

June 14, 2012 Reply

Brandon Line

I’ve been using gu.ma – they have a bunch of useful features.
Regarding traffic monitoring – they simply let you paste your own tracking code (taken from Google Analytics for example).

June 15, 2012 Reply

Avinash D’Souza

I currently use Bit.ly and I’m really happy with it. It does what it’s supposed to do and ties in with other services I use like timely.is and Buffer. Awe.sm seems like a winner for a dev who’s willing to integrate it into his/her product like Timely has…

June 16, 2012 Reply

Sherice Jacob

Bit.ly seems like it’s miles ahead of the others in terms of use, although I wonder how the redesign is affecting their conversions…

June 18, 2012 Reply

Dan

I’m using a heavily modded version of “YOURLS” to run my own service on my own branded domain (thedan1984 is my name domain, my shortern is db84.us) – I can track total number of hits, hits by time, hits by phsical location, and hits by virtual location (referrer)

I’m big on self-hosted whenever possible because it gives you total control. You never know when a third party service is going to up and change it’s policy or flat out close. Google is notorious for closing services and I’d have to have 100s of URLs saved in Goo.gl if and when they decide to shut it down.

August 4, 2012 Reply

Brad

I use http://www.ttwi.st which is a premium URL shortener made for Internet Marketers. They are Clickbank friendly, have great tracking and have their own API. Your stats are also your own rather than having links shared with other people like some other URL shorteners.

October 15, 2012 Reply

Alessandro

I use http://glurl.co which is the best in my opinion. They have browsers addon, an efficient API that allows integration with your website to create shorts permalinks, tracking, QR code, statistical analysis, page previews without having to access it and others reliable security mechanisms.

December 28, 2012 Reply

Logo Design

I am using both goo.ly and bit.ly Both seems great to me. But bit.ly offer custom url but google don’t

Thanks

July 6, 2013 Reply

rishidevdas

I use both ow.ly and goo.gl – Different sharing platforms for differnet implementations.

July 7, 2013 Reply

Dean Suther

bitly and owly are some of the best goo.gl great for SEO,but there are many others useful… This tool reveals almost all the url shortenrs http://besturlshortener.net

September 20, 2013 Reply

Andrew Weisman

I am using yam.im , they provide API for integration and their site is responsive so i can use it easily on my mobile phone or tablet

December 15, 2013 Reply

Vikrant

Hey every i just tried a new product recently: tuq.in

It’s surprisingly simple and the analytics it showed was way too awsome. Also it was offering URL control along with overall stats for all the links shared too which no one gives yet.

June 3, 2014 Reply

    neil

    Vikrant, we’ll have to check it out. Thanks for the heads up :)

    June 4, 2014 Reply

Lavneet Sharma

The one I like is meto.in, where you can get short links generated for any text you share, any file you upload/share, or any URL your share.

November 16, 2014 Reply


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