Bit.ly For Beginners

February 10, 2010
By Jim Gianoglio

Bit.ly Education – Part 1

This is the first of a 2-part post on using Bit.ly. Part 2 – Advanced Uses of Bit.ly – takes a deeper dive into this URL shortening service and shows how you can be Super Spy. Eat your heart out Bond.

I’ve talked previously about using Bit.ly to measure traffic from Twitter. Now let’s take a closer look at this URL shortening service. Bit.ly is an online service that allows you to take a long URL (http://www.example.com/blog/page/category/year/month/day/article/id=123…) and shorten it (to something like http://bit.ly/8FapX). Why would you want to do that? Simple. When you’re tweeting a link to your latest blog post, you have only 140 characters. Every character is precious, and if you can tweet a link that has 19 characters instead of 74 characters (like in the example URLs above) you have more space to craft a catchy line to get people to click through.

When someone clicks on the Bit.ly shortened version of your URL, they are then redirected to your original long URL. Bit.ly is kind enough to use a 301 redirect, which means that when search engines find links to the short URLs, they’ll credit those links to the long URL – your page. Don’t forget, links (quantity and quality) weigh heavily on how high your page and site rank in the search engines.

But wait, there’s more!

In addition to providing a short URL for your page, Bit.ly also gives some great information on traffic to that short URL (hence, your page). Here’s the rundown of what you can see:

  1. Number of times your shortened URL was clicked on
  2. Number of times other Bit.ly shortened versions of the same page were clicked on
  3. Watch in (near) real time as people click on your Bit.ly link
  4. Referring sites/applications from which your shortened URL was clicked
  5. Location (country) of the person clicking on your shortened URL
  6. Conversations – the tweets that include your Bit.ly link

(click to view larger)

Bit.ly Info Detail

Bit.ly Referrers

Bitly Locations

When you create an account with Bit.ly (which takes about 30 seconds and only requires a user name, email and password) you also get access to these nice features:

History – Bit.ly keeps track of your shortened URLs and the data about them. They also show you how many clicks (across all shortened links) you’ve had in the past week and your most clicked Bit.ly links in the past hour.

Twitter Integration – You can tweet from straight from Bit.ly

Bit.ly Sidebar – A nice tool to quickly and easily shorten and share links from any web page

Bit.ly Sidebar

Stay tuned for Part 2 – Advanced Uses of Bit.ly – where I’ll show you how to use Bit.ly to spy on your competitors and find influential Twitterers.

BONUS: As a sneak peak into the next post, try this: find a tweet that interests you that includes a Bit.ly link. Click on the Bit.ly link. Copy the page’s URL and go to Bit.ly. Shorten the long URL. See how many people have clicked on that other person’s Bit.ly link? We’re just getting started…