Sharing a link is common in today’s internet – everyone using a social network does it. It’s nice to know how to shorten a URL for sharing on social networks (especially for those that don’t shorten them automatically).
For folks with online businesses or those marketing their businesses on the internet, it’s very useful to track how your shared links are performing. Seeing what works and what doesn’t helps us to get our message out more effectively.
Bit.ly offers a free and reliable service for shortening URLS and tracking their performance. They’ve been around since 2008 and used to be Twitter’s default URL shortener (until Twitter launched their own shortener). While there are other options for shrinking links, I use Bit.ly exclusively and recommend it.
Bit.ly’s benefits are:
- Free – The base service is free to use and includes link shortening and (with a free account) stats & link customizations. The paid service offers custom domains, deeper analytics and support.
- Real time statistics – Stats can be checked from your Bit.ly dashboard or by pasting the bitlink into your browser with a ‘+’ at the end.
- Customize your link (free account required) – Instead of links like http://bit.ly/1y8Kne1v they can be customized to something like http://bit.ly/mylink or http://j.mp/mylink. This is a great option for A/B testing.
- Archived links (free account required) – Keep track of ALL of your shortened links – and analyze or reuse them as needed.
Sound good? Let’s get going!
How to shorten a URL with Bit.ly
Step 1: Create an Account
To create a free account, go to Bit.ly and click on the Sign Up link in the nav. You can easily create an account with Facebook or Twitter. While this is optional (you don’t need an account to shrink a link), the extra benefits are well worth it.
Step 2: Shorten Your URL
Paste your URL on the top left corner of the website where it says Paste a long URL here to shorten. You don’t even have to click anything or hit enter. Just wait a few seconds and VOILA – a window will slide out of the right side of the screen with info on the bitlink as well as options to customize it:
Step 3: Customize Your Bitlink
You can choose from the domains available such as bit.ly, bitly.com, and j.mp. I prefer j.mp since we might as well shrink the url to the smallest possible size. Enter your custom text into the customize field then click Save. You’ll get a notification if the custom link is already taken.
STEP 4: View Your Link Statistics
Click on the list of Your Bitlinks found on the left side of the page to get more information about your link’s traffic & statistics. You can now gauge the effectiveness of your shared and shortened links.
Shortening a URL and tracking performance with Bit.ly is easy and useful.