If you’re a small business owner with your eye on the ever-expanding reach of social media, odds are high you’ve heard of Bit.ly, the popular free URL shortening service. If you’re not familiar, Bit.ly is a web service that provides users who have a long URL (e.g. “http://www.weddingwire.com/vendor/VendorHome”) with a shorter URL that is easy to share (in this case, “http://bit.ly/JfPqh”).
Why is this valuable? With the rising tide of micro-blogging tools like Twitter, Facebook status updates, Google Buzz and more, web users are starting to put a premium on every single character they type. Twitter, for example, only allows 140 characters per “Tweet”, which means if you had used our original “long” URL to share, it would have taken up over one quarter of the space you could use in your Tweet (44 characters out of 140). That means less space to get your message across to readers, which ultimately could translate to fewer customers for your business.
As a result of micro-blogging’s growing importance, URL shortening services like Bit.ly have become more relevant than ever. In the last year, Bit.ly has emerged as the web’s premier URL shortening service, shortening 40-50 millions URLs a day. In addition, links shortened on their site this past March received over 3.4 billion clicks. Short URLs, however, are just one part of Bit.ly’s appeal to users. The second, and possibly more valuable aspect of Bit.ly, is the service provides free comprehensive link tracking analytics so you can see how effective your links are.
Bit.ly gives you the ability to track:
- How many people are clicking on your links,
- When they are clicking,
- Who is re-sharing your links,
- What geographic location they come from, and more.
They even make the tracking process simple. All you have to do is add a “+” sign to the end of any Bit.ly link (e.g. “http://bit.ly/JfPqh+”) and you will be able to see the complete analytic data for that link’s effectiveness.
For small businesses, Bit.ly provides a great, free way to see how effective your online marketing efforts are. You can track and monitor the stats for your links, and based on the analytic data, optimize them for better performance. You can see whether you get more traffic from your Twitter account or Facebook page, what time of day is best to launch an email campaign, whether or not people are re-tweeting your links on Twitter, and much more.
To get started, simply head to http://bit.ly and start shortening!