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Short URLs and Measuring your Audience

Short URLs and Measuring your Audience

Having worked with the world of advertising for several years, I learned how important metrics are in measuring audience, reach and response. This is one of the contributing reasons why digital advertising spend in the UK eclipsed that of TV for the first time in 2009. On the internet, everything can be measured and increasingly you can trace your audience back to a locale, a company, even back to an individual. It’s not surprising therefore that many online services have powerful analytical engines behind them and that almost every web page contains tracking code from the likes of Google Analytics, Omniture or Open Source player Piwik.

Following this trend, one of the main differentiators between URL shortening services is the reporting that they offer back to you. URL shortening services have been around for several years but were made hugely popular with the arrival of Twitter. With a 140 character limit on posts, you don’t want URL’s taking up over half of your allocation! It’s also not surprising that in backing http://bit.ly that Twitter have pushed that service to prominence ahead of all the others. There are plenty of alternatives out there including one of the earliest players, http://tinyurl.com, and http://tr.im. As well as appearing in Tweets, they are commonly used in print publications, partly to give readers a shorter URL to type in, but also so that editors can track reader response.

If you want to choose between URL shortening services, there are several things to consider:-

  • The overall length of the URL: the difference between ‘tinyurl.com’ and ‘j.mp’ might make all the difference to you!
  • The reliability of the service: the service has to be running for anyone to follow your links
  • The reporting metrics behind the service: what statistical breakdown do you get and how reliable are the stats?
  • The viability of the service: in August 2009 http://tr.im announced that they were closing; they reversed their decision days later but neither their, or any other operator’s, long term assurance can be guaranteed

Here’s another issue to consider…who can view your metrics? Stats made available by http://bit.ly and sister service http://j.mp are available to everyone! To view stats on any of their URL’s, just add a ‘+’ onto the URL and see just how many followers there have been. This may not bother you, but there are plenty of instances where you may not want your information available to the world! It does make interesting data though. Legendary Tweeter Stephen Fry currently has well over 1 million followers, and links in his posts and direct messages attract somewhere between 12,000 and 30,000 clicks…many advertisers would be pleased with a response rate of 2%!

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