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How to Shorten URLs on Twitter

Even if you are marketing on Twitter, not everything you tweet is going to point to a blog, let alone your blog. Maybe you find an interesting photo or song, or you want to refer people to another article someone else wrote. You may still want to track your URLs to see how well your tweets are performing. Many URL-shortener services offer the option to track how many clicks each link gets.

TweetDeck and Seesmic (TweetDeck’s direct competitor) both offer numerous URL-shortener options (bit.ly, is.gd, TinyURL, and twURL), but only bit.ly offers click tracking. Therefore, as a Twitter marketer who needs to track link performance, you should use bit.ly.

In addition to using bit.ly as a tool integrated into third-party tools you can also use it directly at the bit.ly website. Simply enter your long URL and click the Shorten button. You can copy the resulting bit.ly link and use it in your tweets, in your e-mail, or even on your website.

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If you click the shortened link on bit.ly, you get access to detailed traffic information related to number of clicks, referring Web sites, and geographic locations of the users who clicked. You can also find out how many clicks your particular bit.ly link got compared to the total clicks on the long link. You can expect a 4 percent click-through rate (four clicks on your bit.ly link out of 100 total clicks on that blog or content link) for a well-crafted, valuable, interesting tweet.

You need to be signed in to your bit.ly account before you can enter tracking data for the link.

Recently bit.ly announced the addition of a premium service to its URL-tracking system. Creatively called bitly.Pro, the site allows you to customize short URLs. You can use your own short URLs to point to different pages on your site. An example of this is from the New York Times. The service includes all the custom bit.ly features plus real-time information about the page you are “shrinking.” You can also track clicks to the page and how many times that page was shared and by how many people.

When you are using HootSuite, you can shorten any URL to an ow.ly or ht.ly link. HootSuite also allows you to view a dashboard that tracks clicks for each shortened link shared in the management system.

HootSuite ow.ly statistics shows different clicks on links shared through the management system.
HootSuite ow.ly statistics shows different clicks on links shared through the management system.

How do you view your shortened links in HootSuite?

  1. Go to your HootSuite dashboard.

  2. Click the owl head in the upper-left corner of the screen.

    A drop-down box appears with different options.

  3. Click the Stats button to show the Summary tab.

The Summary tab shows all clicks on different ow.ly and ht.ly links shared over the course of seven days. You can always view clicks over a period of 24 hours, a month, and a custom date range. Within this tab, you can also search locations, referral tweets, and popular tweets shared.

The secret to high click-through rates involves some of the principles that apply to search engine optimization: Write a descriptive and catchy headline that’s relevant to most of your followers and have a network of people who are truly interested in hearing from you.

Don’t fall for one of those “build your Twitter follower count fast” programs. You just end up following other people who fell for the same thing and you’re all tweeting to each other, without any of you really listening to what the other ones have to say.

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