Bit.Ly URL Shortener for SEO

URL shortening services such as Bit.ly make a lot more sense for search engine optimization and website promotion purposes than you might think. Keep reading to find out how you can make effective use of such services when you want to get access to particular statistics in your next campaign.

There are times when you find yourself using very long URLs, for example: http://www.google.com/
#hl=en&q=bit.ly&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=bit.ly&gs_rfai=&fp=e6a647c08c5cebc9

Typically, long URLs introduce a lot of problems with regards to SEO.

First, the longer the URL. the more difficult it is for the user to become familiar with the URL. That’s likely to serve as a hindrance to repeat visits and word-of-mouth advertising.

Second, longer URLs make it very hard to create user-friendly links, such as those used for web pages with the URL as the anchor text. It can also be difficult to read the URLs. A potential visitor might hesitate to click on a link if he or she can’t decipher it.

Third, Twitter’s increasing popularity makes the use longer URLs problematic. Remember, the microblogging website limits the number of characters per post to 140. 

Fourth, very long URLs can get broken when used in email messages. If you are considering an email strategy as part of your marketing strategy, then this can become an issue.

This is where URL shortening services like http://bit.ly can be very useful. They can solve the problems listed above. In this tutorial, you will learn how to use URL shortening services in search engine optimization, as well as other important tips and techniques for getting the most out of bit.ly.

Bit.ly works by 301 redirecting the bit.ly to the target URL (which is the long URL). So you can simply use the bit.ly version of the URL (which is shorter) on behalf of the longer URLs.

Bit.ly URL versions of the long URL can be created on http://bit.ly/. You will need to copy and paste the long URLs and then click the ”Shorten” button.

However, you should take not of the following items when using bit.ly:

1. Once the equivalent bit.ly URL has been created for a specific long URL, it will be permanent and never expire. It is also unique (see point 2).

2. If another person creates a bit.ly URL for a long URL that has already been assigned a bit.ly URL, then that original bit.ly URL will be used. This means bit.ly will not create a separate new URL for that new user.

Example:

Person X create a bit.ly URL for http://www.seochat.com/ = http://bit.ly/aVV7L1

Person Y create another bit.ly URL of http://www.seochat.com/ = http://bit.ly/aVV7L1 (the original bit.ly URL is reused).

3. However, bit.ly treats the following URLs (with or without trailing slashes as well as the www/non-www URLs) as non-unique URLs, so even though they are really the same URL and feature the same content, they can have different bit.ly URLs:

http://www.seochat.com/ = http://bit.ly/aVV7L1

http://www.seochat.com = http://bit.ly/wmihk

http://seochat.com = http://bit.ly/cNqanP

http://seochat.com/ = http://bit.ly/907krT

This is one disadvantage of bit.ly. If different users create bit.ly URLs for non-canonical URLs, bit.ly will create a separate URL for each URL given.

This problem can be solved, however, by fixing canonical issues on your website. So if someone uses bit.ly to 301 redirect to your non-www version, your server should perform another 301 redirect to the final, canonical URL, or use the link rel canonical tag.

Google Analytics allows you to monitor the percentage of click throughs for your internal pages, but not external links (links pointing to another domain). In Google Analytics, you can see the click through data for your home page by going to Dashboard => clicking the website for which you would like to see the data => Content => Site Overlay.

For example,

Under “Recent Post” are the latest blog posts. This means they are internal pages/links. Google Analytics report the percentage of click throughs (4.0% for the post “Five Serious PHP Development Mistakes Commonly Done by websites”).

However, under “Recommended,” Google Analytics does not report click through information, because they are classified as external links.

The good news is that bit.ly provides detailed statistics about the shortened URL. For example, in a bit.ly URL such as http://bit.ly/cpSmfU , to get statistics, you will need to simply add a “+” sign to the end of the URL. So if you enter this in the browser:

http://bit.ly/cpSmfU+

You will get detailed click through statistics in terms of total clicks. So how are you going to implement this in your website?

Step 1: Convert all external URLs (the original long URLS) into their equivalent bit.ly URLs. The linked site should never be worried about lost link juice, since they are 301 redirected to their website.

Step 2: To make the URL SEO-friendly, you should use the correct anchor text, the title element of the link should be set to the original URL, and the href element to the bit.ly URL. For example, if a certain website links to the websites shown below:

http://www.php.net/

http://www.devshed.com/

http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/

The hyperlink code that you will use in your sidebar should be:

<a title=”http://www.php.net” href=”http://bit.ly/3tcJjx”>php.net</a>

<a title=”http://www.devshed.com/

” href=”http://bit.ly/4ByoF”>devshed</a>

<a title=”http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/” href=”http://bit.ly/UNHP5″>webmaster blog</a>

Once those codes are embedded in your web source code, it will look like a normal link. And the user will not get confused as to the target link location, since the actual URL has been declared in the hyperlink title element.

Step 3: Monitor how many people are clicking from your site to the websites you are planning to track by click through using bit.ly’s link shortening services.

To monitor, simply turn on the statistics of the bit.ly link by adding “+” to the end of the bit.ly URL.

For example, to get the bit.ly stats of googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com , enter this in the browser:

http://bit.ly/UNHP5+

Next, under Traffic, click “Referrers” and then click “Total.”

See the screen shot below:

Step 4: Monitor how many of the recorded clicks are from your website. For example, iconfactory.com has around 24 clicks to  googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com.

You can repeat the third step above for the rest of the external websites for which you are planning to monitor the click through. Then you will know which websites are popular or related on your website (popular and related externally linked websites often get high click through rates).

Since bit.ly URLs disguise the original URL, there are times when this service gets abused by spammers and hackers to spread viruses and spam.

The following are the important tips for preventing infection and checking the integrity of the target URL of a certain given bit.ly URL:

Step 1. In order to know the 301 redirected/target URL of a bit.ly URL, you can use a server header status checker, such as the one you can find here: http://www.seoconsultants.com/tools/headers  

Step 2. Enter the bit.ly URL in the text box and then press “Check Server Headers.”

Step 3. The result will then show the redirected URL under #2 Server Response:

Example:

#1 Server Response: http://bit.ly/UNHP5 ====> This is the source URL

HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 301 Moved

Server: nginx/0.7.42

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 07:08:53 GMT

Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8

Connection: keep-alive

Location: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/

MIME-Version: 1.0

Content-Length: 305

Redirect Target: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/

#2 Server Response: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/ ==> TARGET URL

HTTP Status Code: HTTP/1.1 200 OK

Content-Type: text/html; charset=UTF-8

Expires: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 07:08:53 GMT

Date: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 07:08:53 GMT

Last-Modified: Tue, 27 Jul 2010 07:01:26 GMT

ETag: "70708e3d-e377-4d66-bd4f-0c2757d0ea74"

X-Content-Type-Options: nosniff

X-XSS-Protection: 1; mode=block

Server: GSE

Cache-Control: public, max-age=0, must-revalidate, proxy-revalidate

Age: 0

Transfer-Encoding: chunked

=================

Summary

The following are the source and target URLs based on the above report:

Source URL : http://bit.ly/UNHP5

Target URL: http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/

Step 4: You will then need to check to see if the target URL is clean. You will need to use Google’s Safe Browsing service, and simply replace “REPLACETHISWITHYOURDOMAIN.COM” with your exact domain name:

This is the exact URL:http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=REPLACETHISWITHYOURDOMAIN.COM

So in the example above,

http://www.google.com/safebrowsing/diagnostic?site=googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com

Step 5: You can determine whether the page or domain is malicious because it will be shown under “What is the current listing status for googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com?”

If the site is NOT currently suspicious, then it is safe to browse.

Other important SEO related statistics

You already know how to determine the clicks data based on the detailed statistics provided by bit.ly URL by adding a “+” at the end of its URL.

Now, using the same method for getting statistics, you can also determine in which country your website is very popular in terms of bit.ly click statistics.

Under “Traffic” click “Location” and then click “Total” (see example here: http://www.php-developer.org/screenshot/bitlystatistics.jpg )

From an SEO perspective, it shows that the country is the geographic target of the website or where the website is officially located or based (where it gets the most click through).

Other surprising statistics that you can get from bit.ly are the number of tweets, number of shares and likes in Facebook, number of BT comments, and other essential marketing statistics that can be hard to get in one place.

You can see those statistics beside “conversions.” Example: http://www.php-developer.org/screenshot/bitlystatistics.jpg

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