Link Analytics: How to Use bitly and Google URL Shortener

You’ve undoubtedly heard of bitly and Google URL shortener, but perhaps you don’t know all the details of how they work and what they can do. These are both tools that are used to shorten URLs before they are placed into Tweets, Facebook posts, emails, texts, or instant messages.

Because of the 140-character Tweet limit, Twitter users in particular need ways to economize on the number of characters. URL shorteners are very popular because of Twitter’s character limitation. URL shorteners can also neaten up long, unsightly URLs before they are displayed within Facebook posts, emails, texts, or instant messages, making them more pleasing to the eye and easier to click.

Originally, URL shorteners were designed to shorten longer URLs that would break within the body of emails. Now, URL shorteners such as bitly and Google URL shortener do more than just shorten URLs. They also provide users with important analytics for each of their shortened links.Link Analytics

A URL shortener can be leveraged by an individual user of one or more social media channels, but a shortener can also be shared by a group of users. For example, an organization can have potentially dozens of users sharing the same URL shortener account, which means that analytics for an entire organization’s social media activity are aggregated into a single view.

Viewing Link Analytics With bitly as a Single User

Bitly is a good choice for a single user such as a freelance blogger who wants to publish links to their posts, or the social media manager for a small company.

Let’s say that a marketer wants to Tweet a link to a recent blog article. In the absence of a URL shortener, the marketer would compose a Tweet and paste in a link to their blog post:

Link Analytics

In this example, the Tweet is under 140 characters even with the post’s long URL in it, but the Tweet will be more concise through the use of a URL shortener. Without a shortened URL, added text in a Retweet might exceed the 140 characters. It’s simple to set up a bitly account at http://bit.ly

Link Analytics

Bitly first asks a visitor to sign in or register. Once an account is set up, a user can enter their long URL into the box at the top of the screen. Bitly will automatically shorten into a bitly link:

Link Analytics

Next, the user can prepend the URL with some text, and then click on “Share” to Tweet it.

Link Analytics

This is what the published Tweet looks like:

Link Analytics

To view link’s analytics, the user can look under “Real-time stats” within bitly and click on Info Page+. Below is an example Info Page+:

Link Analytics

It’s possible to see how many times the link was clicked, how many times it was Retweeted, how many times it was shared on Facebook, and more. The InfoPage+ even shows where users found the link (“Referring Site”), and where in the world they are located.

Bitly users can set up integration with more than one Twitter account and/or multiple Facebook accounts. These options are found in “Settings,” which is in the top left drop-down menu under the username.

Viewing Link Analytics With Google URL Shortener as a Single User

The Google URL Shortener works in a similar way to bitly. This shortener is another appropriate tool for a single user. While logged into a personal Google account, the user needs to go to http://goo.gl

A user can paste a long blog link URL into the top box and then click “Shorten URL.” After that, it’s easy to copy the shortened link that appears on the right and then paste it into a Tweet, just as with a bitly link. To look at the analytics for the link, the user can click the “Details” link next to the shortened URL. Here is an example of the analytics page:

Link Analytics

Google URL Shortener also gives an in-depth look at link traffic.

Shortening a URL with Google URL Shortener can be made even easier by installing a browser plugin from the Google Chrome Webstore. Here is what a Chrome browser window looks like with the plugin installed:

Link Analytics

Clicking on the green icon to the right of the address bar will capture and shorten the URL for the webpage of the active browser tab. For immediate publishing on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and more, a user can click on the wrench icon, choose “Settings,” click on “Extensions,” and click on “Options” under goo.gl URL Shortener. A user can click on the checkbox next to the social media platforms to which they’d like to publish the link. This example will show Twitter integration. With Twitter checkmarked in Settings, its logo will now show up in the plugin menu:

Link Analytics

Clicking on the logo will pull up the Twitter interface with the shortened URL in a new Tweet, ready to publish:

Link Analytics

Third party applications like MediaFunnel have bit.ly and goo.gl integration built into them so users don’t have to “copy/paste.” Below are some screenshots of MediaFunnel URL Shortening:

Link Analytics

Link Analytics

With just a couple clicks within the application, URLs are immediately shortened. To learn how to set this up, read on.

Sharing a URL Shortener in MediaFunnel

MediaFunnel is an application designed for multiple users and multiple social media accounts. One of many use cases for MediaFunnel is for a group of employees in a marketing department that all need to continually interact with the company’s social media accounts. Within MediaFunnel, multiple users can all use the same URL shortener account or accounts concurrently.

By default, MediaFunnel shortens URLs using bitly. However, the ability to view an analytics dashboard for all shortened URLs requires setting up integration with a URL shortener account.

In MediaFunnel, each social media channel has its own URL shortening settings. The following are instructions for integrating a social media channel with a bitly account in the new version of MediaFunnel:

1. Click on the Settings icon for a channel

Link Analytics

2. In the Edit Channel box, click on the URL Shortening tab.  Make sure the URL shortening active checkbox is checked. Under Use customer URL shortener?, click on the Yes radio button.

Link Analytics

3. Generate a bitly API key here: http://bit.ly/a/your_api_key

4. In the New Url Shortening Provider box in MediaFunnel, set the provider to bitly. Then, enter a Name, your bitly API key and your bitly Username. Click the Save button.

Link Analytics

5. In the Edit Channel box, click the Save button and then click the Close button.  Note that there can be multiple URL shorteners set up for a channel, but only one shortener can be active at a time. Link Analytics

For brands that have Custom Short Domains configured for their bitly accounts, MediaFunnel will shorten URLs with the Custom Short Domain once the bitly username and API key are entered.

MediaFunnel also offers integration with Google URL Shortener and BudUrl.com. To use Google URL Shortener, a business or a personal Google account is needed. A personal Google account can be created here. Steps 1 and 2 from the bitly instructions above are the same. The next steps specific to Google URL Shortener are:

3. Generate a Google URL Shortener API key here: http://code.google.com/apis/console/

4. In the New Url Shortening Provider box, select goo.gl as the Provider. Then, enter a Name and paste in your goo.gl API key. Click the Save button.

Link Analytics

5. In the Edit Channel box, click the Save button and then click the Close button.  Note that there can be multiple URL shorteners set up for a channel, but only one can be active at a time.

To integrate a BudURL Shortener, follow steps 1 and 2 above, and then continue with the following steps specific to BudURL Shortener:

3. A BudURL API key can be generated here: http://budurl.com/page/budurlcom-api Visit the Profile Page.

4. In the New Url Shortening Provider box, make sure the Provider is set to budurl.com. Then, enter a Name, your BudURL API key. Click the Save button.

Link Analytics

These analytics tools are great for seeing what kind of social media content is most popular with followers, as well as who is repurposing social media content. With a URL Shortener, marketers can have important information right at their fingertips.

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2 Comments

  1. Heinz May 24, 2012

    I need the Google API key for Bitly.
    I have the API key for Bitly itself (a long string of numbers and letters combined) but the form which I need to fill in requires the API key for Google as well.

    Your help would be greatly appreciated,
    Heinz

  2. Steve Chipman May 24, 2012

    The API key for bitly is separate from the one for Google. Here are instructions for the Google URL shortener:

    http://support.mediafunnel2.com/knowledgebase/articles/65445

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