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Customize Your Links and Simplify Social Stats Tracking with Bitly

Bit.ly is a service that allows you to shorten links for social sharing and stats tracking.Customize and Track Links with Bitly

With the 140 character limitation of Twitter, it’s important that we shorten the links we share in order to save space, yet Bit.ly actually does more than just shorten links. Bitly allows you to edit the shortened links you create so that you can customize them and make them more appealing.

You also get stats for all of the links you create with Bitly that keep track of the number of shares and clicks coming from Twitter, Facebook and Google+.

Here’s more About Bit.ly
“bitly is the easiest and most fun way to save, share and discover links from around the web. We call these links bitmarks, and you can use bitly to remember, curate and share them.

bitly is available via our website, browser extensions, mobile web, and numerous third-party tools integrated with our open public API. bitly also powers more than 10,000 custom short URLs and offers an enterprise analytics platform that helps web publishers and brands grow their social media traffic.”

Tracking PDF Download Stats Using Bitly

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for tracking stats, however there are some limitations when it comes to tracking PDF downloads. You can set up Goals in Google Analytics but you are limited in the number of Goals you can configure for each profile. The other option is to use Google Tag Manager which is for more advanced users, but using Bitly is a much simpler, commonplace solution. The interface provides easy access so you can see how many times people have clicked to download your PDF.

For example, I used a Bitly shortened link to track the PDF downloads from the link in my most recent blog post. In order to see the stat for the shortened, custom link I created, I simply add the + sign to the end of the URL.

This video demonstrates how easy it is to Shorten, Customize & Track Bitly Links (find the transcript at the end of the post)

In the video, you’ll notice there is a category for “other”. To get more details about the other referrers, click the info link for details.

Other bitly link referrers

When NOT to use Bitly

I give a couple of warnings in the video and the biggest one that I want to stress is that you should not use Bitly to shorten affiliate links. It’s against the TOS. But there is a simple solution for that, you can use a WordPress plugin called Pretty Link Pro. You can even check out the free version and I know that a lot of Podcasters use this to create links for their show notes. It’s much easier for podcast listeners to remember the short link when it’s being mentioned during a podcast and my friend Daniel J. Lewis from The Audacity to Podcast is a real pro when it comes to doing this.

UPDATE:

Thanks to a comment that came in from Ankur I’m adding this screenshot. Ankur asked about using Bitly with Buffer and the screenshot below, shows how to connect your Bitly account to Buffer. If you’re not sure what Buffer is, you can read the tutorial here. In short, it’s available as an extension for Google Chrome and once you install it, you can share any webpage to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or your Google+ business page.

connect bitly to buffer

Log in to Bufferapp, go to Settings > Link Shortening > bit.ly. Next you need to authorize your bit.ly account and you’re done. All of the links you share using Buffer will be shortened with Bitly.

Are you using Bitly to shorten and customize links? How often do you check your stats?

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT FOR CUSTOMIZE AND TRACK LINKS IN BITLY

download video transcript

Hey friends it’s Ileane from Basic Blog Tips. In this video you’ll learn how to customize and track links using Bitly.

Before we get started I wanna say that if you’re using affiliate marketing you don’t want to use Bitly to track your links. At the end to the video I’m gonna show you a different tool that you’re gonna use if you’re doing affiliate marketing.
Now I created a PDF and this PDF is a transcript of a video that I did and the reason I want to use Bitly to track these links is because Google Analytics doesn’t do a great job of tracking PDF clicks. So I wanna simplify the process using Bitly.

The first thing I do is come up here and grab my URL. Next, I’m going to go over to Bitly.com. Now if you don’t have an account you simply sign in with your Twitter. Go up to this box here and paste the link there. You see this little pencil, this is where you’re going to customize the link. Now let me warn you ahead of time. If someone else already has your link you won’t be able to use it. So you have to pick something that’s unique. Keep in mind you also want to keep your link short so that people can easily Retweet it.
In this case I’m just gonna name it “chromePUvid” because its the Chrome Power User video. And it accepted it – because nobody else would think to use that URL. Now let’s copy that link and go back over to our WordPress dashboard.

Now I’m on WordPress and I’m editing the post. I created this download button and I’m going to add the Bitly link here. I want it to open in new window so I just go over to “Advanced Settings” and click on “open link in a new window”. Now update the post.
In order to track any Bitly link you just add a plus sign at the end of the URL. Of course there’s no hits on this because we just created it so let’s take a look at some other Bitly links. Just go to STATS and you can sort these links by the total number of clicks so you can automatically see what links got the most clicks okay. And if you want a little bit more details just click on the tracking details. And when you’re in the stats page you’ll be able to see stats for any Bitly links you ever shared, doesn’t have to be ones that you’ve customized. So for example, it tells you when you created it. I created this one back in November and you see that over time they start to trail off. But you also get to see Facebook clicks, Twitter clicks, Google+and other. It’ll tell you who shared it.

And in this case, let’s take for example Adrienne Smith. She shared a different Bitly URL but to that same content. And just click on that number and that will give you more details about the exact Bitly link that she shared, and where it was shared. Okay that’s it for Bitly.

I just wanted to give you a tip that I mentioned earlier. If you’re doing affiliate marketing you don’t want to use Bitly. You want to use a plugin for WordPress that’s called Pretty Link. They have a lite version as well as the Pro version. Well that’s it for today guys and I’ll talk to you on the next video.

Where ever you are watching this video, on your desktop, or your laptop, or your tablet or your phone, just look for that red SUBSCRIBE button and subscribe to my channel. I’ll have more videos for you coming up real soon.
Peace

Recommended Reading:
The Tao of Twitter, Revised and Expanded New Edition: Changing Your Life and Business 140 Characters at a Time

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Welcome! I'm Ileane and this blog was created to help you learn about WordPress blogging, Social Media Optimization, YouTube Tutorials and more. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and be the first to know when I upload a new tutorial.
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52 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. I have only used bit.ly when sharing through buffer. So, I don’t have much experience about it. I have used Buff.ly and tinyurl and both work great. But I will give bit.ly a try and this article will help me a lot while working with bit.ly.

    Thanks for sharing this informative article, Ileane.

    • Hi

      When tweeting links and articles I let Buffer handle the URL shortening through Buff.ly because that gives stats within Buffer. For all other things (G+, etc.) I use Bit.ly because of the stats, as discussed in great detail in this post (thanks @Ileane).

      Although Buffer does allow you to link and post to other networks, I prefer to use it only for Twitter.

    • Ankur! Thank you so much for mentioning Buffer.
      Based on your comment I have updated the post with instructions for connecting Bitly to Buffer.

      Awesome feedback my friend!

  2. Hi Ileane,
    Thanks for the helpful guide and video on using Bit.ly! I’m wondering whether you can think of a few more ways to use Bit.ly’s tracking feature and could share them in the comment section on BizSugar. The tracking feature is something some people overlook and it would be great for our community to get a look at how versatile these little links can be!

  3. Ileane, I am using bit.ly from last one year and for sure it is very good service to shorten tweet links. Recently they have changed their design too, which is looking very attractive now.

    I have one question – Can we select any particular shortner as default? so that when anyone will tweet our url then it will be converted into that shortner automatically.

    • Great question Kulwant.

      What plugin are you using for the share buttons on your blog? I’m sure some plugins have the option for bitly. But to be honest there are so many browser extensions these days that I think that a lot of people are using those instead. For example the Hootlet from HootSuite is very popular for scheduling and they have their own link shortener – ow.ly

    • Kulwant,
      I did some additional research and found out that bit.ly has a WordPress plugin. I installed and it and it did shorten the links from DiggDigg but the Tweet counts went to zero so I removed it. :)

      If you want to take a look at the bitly plugin here’s the link http://wordpress.org/plugins/bitly/

  4. Great post on bit.ly Ileane. I am using it to shorten the URLs. I had a couple of questions.

    1. When you shorted an URL and use it to tweet; are tweets counted and displayed in the diggdigg counter.

    2. You mention about prettylinkpro, does this plugin cloak Amazon links?

    • Great questions Shalu!
      For your first question the answer is yes, the bit.ly shortened links are part of the counts you see on DiggDigg.

      Second, about Pretty Link Pro – you have different options for what you can do with links. You can Cloak links, do a Temporary (307) Redirect, a Permanent (301) Redirect and there are a couple of other options.
      However, you don’t want to Cloak Amazon affiliate or ClickBank affiliate links because you won’t get the commission. So if you are an affiliate don’t use the cloaking feature use the 307 Redirect. Hope that helps.

  5. Wonderful post Ileane, bitly is definitely a good tool to track social stats, I have been using this tool for long time and I am very happy with it. It is an awesome tool

  6. Vukasin

    I’ve been using Bit.ly when I start using Twitter. I figured out that limit on Twitter is really stupid but I needed to change someting. I decide that I need to shorten my links. And then I explored more features that Bit.ly have and I fall in love. I will never stop using it.

  7. Hey Ileane,

    I use Bitly as you probably already know from the mention in your video, thanks for that by the way. I use it to track the different links I share in different groups on Facebook and Google+. I also shot a video about that last year I believe it was now and I’ve been using this service for awhile now.

    I agree with you that Google doesn’t track the clicks so to me it’s important to see which posts are getting the most attention.

    Great video and thanks again for using me as an example. Always appreciate that! ;-)

    Enjoy your week young lady.

    ~Adrienne

    • Adrienne,

      I linked to that post in the video transcript at the bottom of the post, but I guess you didn’t get the trackback yet.
      I remembered some of it but I watched your video again yesterday because it was so good!

      Thanks and you have a good week too!

  8. There is no gainsaying Bitly is the best when it comes link shortening for tweeting, cloaking URLS,etc. The tutorial you shared on how one can customize and track link performance is so explanatory.
    Thanks for sharing this….I really appreciate!

  9. Hi Ileane,

    As you said, shortening the Affiliate links is against the TOS, how it won’t violate if we use PrettyLink? Does it not shorten? Confused.

    The problem of bit.ly short links, especially for download links is that the readers who are little aware are scared of clicking on it. They think the link is disguised. It won’t matter for a reputed blog and authority blogger, but often I’ve discovered that direct links converts better than shortened.

    Anyway, the importance of short links for twitter message can’t be overemphasized.

    • Suresh,

      Shortening of affiliate links is against the Bitly TOS. On Twitter we should indicate that the link is for an ad – I’m not sure of all the terms behind this but if you use hashtags like #ad or #spon to indicate that the link is for an affiliate product you should be ok.

      I assume that you are referring to using a download link on social media, However, I’m referring to using the download link on your blog with a download button. I agree with you and I wouldn’t post the link on Twitter.

      Hope that makes things more clear.

  10. Hello Ileane,
    I have never use bitly to shorten my blog post before. Then i was using su.pr before they shot down and now, i am using goo.gl but their tracking is not accurate as supr.
    Thanks for re-introducing this to us. i’ll be using it now :)

  11. hi Ileane,
    i use bitly from regularly,but i was not aware about these kind of services of bitly.this post and video give me more depth about bitly.Keep sharing..!

  12. Hey Ileane,
    Love Bitly and Buffer. It makes it so easy to do so many things. have you also been playing with the UTM params. Kristi Hines did a great post on that a while back. I have not had a chance to really put that into practice, but it’s great to know how easily you can track something with Bitly.
    I am also doing a post on Buffer tomorrow where I also blow Bitly’s trumpet a bit (opps, not pun intended).
    Thanks for sharing
    ashley

    • Hi Ashley,
      I use the UTM parameters from Google’s URL builder for some of the email campaigns I do at work. I’m sure Kristi did a fantastic job explaining them, she always does.

      I’ll be sure to look for your Buffer post and share it. Feel free to embed my video if you like.

  13. I tell you that bit.ly is one crazy app, infact I don’t know what to qualify it. Though I recently signup for bufferapp, and it has been so wonderful using this app because it’ll help u auto tweet your old post on schedule and I’m loving it. ☂HªŋKs ILeane for this fine piece of information.

  14. Really great post guide, Ileane.

    I’ve never paid much attention to the tracking stats feature on bit.ly. I mainly use it as a URL shortner, however, it seems that it’s tracking and stats reporting can be very useful and powerful.

    Thanks for taking the time to create this neat guide and share it with us. :)

    Ti

    • Hi Ti,

      My pleasure to share the info about bitly. It’s a great way to track those PDF downloads and other special links you want to keep track of outside of Google Analytics.

  15. Hello Ms Ileane,

    This is one of those articles you need to bookmark and keep it for later use in your special bookmark directory for useful things and tips.

    Bitly is a very good tool and it can really shorten and customize your link to make them more appealing. I wrote an article about Bitly, myself and I liked those many features offered.

    It is very important to know about your warning: do not use Bitly for your affiliate marketing links. I know about Prety link but haven’t used it. When the time comes… .

    By the way , I am interested in Podcasts and I know you have a separate blog for them. Do you have some guidelines about how to create, distribute and promote podcasts?

    I know how to create podcasts with Audacity and host them with Amazon S3 but I want more options. Especially, I want to know how to create podcasts with pictures and video podcasts. If you have such kind of materials, please tell me where to look for.

    Have a wonderful day

  16. Bitly is one of the finest URL shorteners to cut down the long urls and the best part about is that we can track how many clicks are being made on it.
    I have used Bitly a long time ago, but now I use Pretty link and Ninja affiliate for the link tracking purpose.

  17. Hello Ileane,

    Great blog post! I didn’t know you couldn’t use bitly to shorten affiliate links.(learn something new everyday). I love bitly. I use it to shorten my blog post links. It really comes in handy. Thanks for sharing this with us!

    • Hi Maketta,

      Are you using the bitly extension to shorten your links or are you using Buffer? Most of the time I use Buffer unless I want to customize the link. That’s when I go right over to bit.ly.

  18. I have been using Bit.ly for a while now. Other than from tracking how your post URL is shared, the one feature I like the most is the ability to have my own custom short URLs. I can brand my own short URL and use it to shorten the long post URLs. Today this tool is supported on almost any social platform especially on Twitter where 140 characters is the limit. So yeah! it comes as the best tool to get your Post URL shorten and track it better!

  19. Hi Ileane,

    I have only really used bit.ly links to track my solo ads and it has worked wonderfully. I actually didn’t know either you couldn’t shorten affiliate links with it but I haven’t tried to either though. That’s my excuse for not being aware of the TOS, ha ha!

    Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

    Laura

  20. Hey, Ilene.
    You made me do research! LOL I thought I remembered URL length not being important any more and that is pretty much right.

    From the twitter support page here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/78124-posting-links-in-a-tweet
    “A URL of any length will be altered to 22 characters, even if the link itself is less than 22 characters long. Your character count will reflect this.”

    Just an FYI. I still use Bit.ly for tracking purposes. It helps me see which sharing place I get the most clicks from and I am starting to use the bundling feature just to make some important urls easier to find.

    Now I need to start playing around with the customizing as I figured that was a paid feature of some sort! thanks for the heads up and the great walk through.

    ~Jenn

    • Hi Jenn,

      Thanks for sharing that info.
      Have you ever looked at the stats Twitter provides? I always forget to go back and take a look at them. The last time I checked they were available for anyone who ever used the Twitter ad platform.

  21. I am using Bitly. I have a good experience with it. It is not so that people wont click that shortened link. Thanks for the post Ileane. Really informative.

  22. Bitly is wonderful for those especially who most rely on Twitter to publicize their post; I used it for my social media sharing and I am quite happy with my SMO results

  23. Hi
    I always get frustrated with some of the formats such as twitter with the only allowed 140 character limits getting what you want to put in can be a bit of a headache

    Lee

  24. Great post on bitly, you can even see in the stats countries where the shorten URL has been click on. Keeping track on what is working in where you are getting your traffic from is very important. You then can increase or decrease your marketing.

    • Juan, I use the goo.gl shortener on occasion but I haven’t really found a good extension for it. Which extension are you using – can you shorten links on the fly?