If you share URLs via email, Twitter, newspaper ads or print publications, and you want to know if anyone following up on them, bit.ly is a great way to monitor them. It's free too.
For example, here's a bit.ly link to the 'About us' page of their website:
I track the number of visitors who read this page of usability-ed. As I do for all my blog pages. Google Analytics tells me is the number of visits I get and the percentage of these that resulted in the visitor leaving the site. I don't know from this whether they left to go to the article or resource I was writing about though. For all I know, the next page they visited was to log into their email, or to check the football scores.
However, by quoting a bit.ly link rather than the real URL, I can see how many people used my shortened URL. If I only ever quote it here, I can be reasonably sure of the number of people who left my blog at this point and headed over to the bit.ly site to find out more.
And you can too. Check out the stats for this link: http://bit.ly/byngoJ+. Notice it's the same link as I quoted above with a plus sign at the end.
I'm going to try using it for key outgoing links from key points on the University website. We already have Google Analytics running on pages managed by our content management system but there are tons of other pages in the University that aren't. I'm hoping that bit.ly will start to give us an idea of how many visitors are leaving the corporate website to explore our many independent satellite sites.
And of course, if you're playing with Twitter and trying to justify its use to managers, or just decide whether it's worth the effort for business promotion, bit.ly is the way to go.
Bit.ly - learn more and sign up
Multiple bit.ly URLs for one webpage
You might be concerned that your bit.ly URL is in use elsewhere, meaning that the stats you're collecting for clicks from a particular webpage are inflated.
Try creating a new bit.ly URL adding a comment after a hash to your destination URL.
So for example, I've created the following bit.ly for this URL:
Click the links above and you'll see that it goes to this article. Your browser looked for an anchor called 'demoforthisartcle' and when it didn't find it, it just delivered the page as normal.
So, yes, someone might quote or use the URL: http://bit.ly/J5LMYt elsewhere, but it's far less likely than someone quoting my original shortened URL http://bit.ly/JobxPt which I've used all over the place and redirects to:
And of course you can create as many as you want, so if for example, you're offering a document to download in multiple locations you might want to establish which is the most effective place to quote it. Or if you're emailing several email lists with a link, you could establish where the best uptake was.
Follow up - October 2010 - Google get involved
I've just learned that Google have recently launched their version of the trackable URL shortener. Seems to work in pretty much the same way as Bit.ly - a few subtle differences between the services in terms of what you get when logged in.
Google's URL shortener - goo.gl