The Lowdown on URL Shorteners

The Lowdown on URL ShortenersHave you ever shared a link and wondered who checked it out? Well there’s no need to wonder if you used a URL shortener to share the link. These handy social media tools convert a regular URL into a condensed format and some actually track live click through data for all your shortened URLs. Surprisingly, these tools are nothing new –only recently have they become much more popular.

The way it all works is pretty interesting. The URL shortener does a 301 redirect to the full URL. That number stands for the code a web server issues to a browser or search engine when a URL is requested. A 301 redirect says that the short URL has permanently moved to the long address. Since it’s a permanent redirect, search engines finding links to the short URLs will credit all those links to the long URL.

There are many benefits to using URL shorteners. The statistics you get when tracking the clicks and referrers with shortened URLs will help you understand what appeals to your audience and also help you optimize your social, email, and other click-through campaigns. This information is incredibly valuable when marketing your business or organization. Shortened URLs are easier to share and take up less space in your post or message. They are typically only 10 to 20 characters long.

You’ll notice there are many URL shorteners out there, so how do you know which ones are best? We’ve found a few that we think are worth using.

inBLOOM’s Picks for Best URL Shortners

Goo.gl is a URL shortener that allows you to track, in real-time, the clicks and referrers on any shortened URL. It’s a great tool to help you understand what appeals to your audience and to help you optimize your social, email, and other click-through campaigns. To keep track of your data, you must have a Google account. Goo.gl actually keeps track of the number of clicks for the past two hours, day, week, month, and all time. You can see the browsers, referrers, geographic location and platforms the clicks came from as well. There is also an app for goo.gl available for both iPhone and Android that allows you to shorten links and share them right from the app. All goo.gl URLs and click analytics are public and can be accessed by anyone. Although you are given the option to hide URLs and remove them from your history, they will still remain public.  This URL shortener is very basic, straightforward and the statistics are presented in a way that makes it easy to read.

Bitly is quite similar to goo.gl in that it tracks live click data, geographic location, the webpage where the shortened link was clicked. It is also valuable tool, as it shows where visitors are coming from, when they are coming, and what interests them –all things that help you optimize your campaigns. To keep track of your data on Bitly you must create an account, either with your Facebook or Twitter account, or create a username connected with your email. Bitly keeps track of the number of clicks from the past hour, 24 hours, and all time. You can see the referrer of the link, geographic location, and also other Bitly users who shared the same link on their own accounts. All statistics are public; however, if you don’t want them on your public profile you can mark them as private. There is an app for Bitly as well, but it is only available for iPhone. This URL shortener has a bit of a more elaborate appeal to it, but similar to goo.gl it is very straightforward and the statistics are presented in a way that makes it easy to read.

Ow.ly is HootSuite’s URL shortener. You can use it from within the HootSuite dashboard with a single click, or as a stand-alone URL shortener. HootSuite users are the only ones who can track the success of their ow.ly links. Statistics include total clicks per day, clicks by region, top referrers and the most popular links. To view the stats of an account, you must create a report through Hootsuite. In addition to shortening URLs on ow.ly, you can also upload files and images and generate short links to view them.

Tiny URL is a very simple URL shortener –all it does is shorten your link. It doesn’t track click data, so you don’t need to create an account. There is an app for Tiny URL available for both iPhone and Android that allows you to shorten links and share them right from the app.

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Danielle Thibault
Danielle uses her background in public relations, event coordination and fundraising to gain exposure for inBLOOM’s clients by establishing connections with the media and target audiences. She is most passionate about writing and networking. You’ll never find Danielle without her morning cup of coffee. She is a firm believer that a little caffeine goes a long way!

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