When it comes to URL shortening services, bitly is probably the ‘Google’ of its niche. It offers a slew of features; and releases more new ones with the same briskness as the search giant. You probably never stopped to ponder that so much could be done around a shortened URL.
Bitly has been king of the heap for some while, but thanks to Robert Herzog (one of GT’s enthusiastic readers) and his gentle knock, we went over to the web app for a fresh look at the features bitly has now thrown open to the ‘free’ world.
URL Shortening – The Bread and Butter
Most of you who have ever used an URL shortener would have come across bitly and its blue face. Without a sign-up, you can paste in a long URL and get a short URL with a click on the Shorten button. This URL can be used anywhere from blog posts to tweets. It will exist as long as the service does. Free registration opens up many more tools and choices. Let’s take a look at few of them.
Bitly’s Tools Page – Choices Galore
The Tools page gives an overview of the extra features that show that so much more could be done behind the scenes with a URL shortening service.
Sidebar bookmarklet and extensions: The bitly bookmarklet is standard issue for most browsers and it easily lets you share your bitly link on Twitter, Gmail, Email, or Facebook. For instance, you can shorten a link and include some highlighted content with the bitly link in a Twitter post.
The browser extensions do pretty much the same job but also enhance URL shortening by allowing you to set up link sharing on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Any page that has bit.ly shortened links can be expanded and previewed before you click on it to get to the source; quite useful when you are going through the stream of your tweets. The preview shows clicks, long URL, and page title.
Trend notifications could be a handy utility if you are a webmaster or are into internet marketing. You can set a ‘popularity threshold’ for a link and bitly will let you know when the link gets the clicks.
Sidebar Bookmarklet: It coolly slides out and gives you all the regular features like customizing your shortened URLs and sharing them across on Twitter, Gmail, Email, and Facebook. Plus, it monitors link clicks received. You could really dig the conversations that the sidebar catches in real time from Twitter and other social sharing web sites that contain the bitly links.
Bundle your URLs: You can customize individual URLs and make them more understandable. If you have a bunch of links to share, create a bundle. The bitly bundle can be shared with a common link. A user is redirected to a bitly page where he can view all the links with a description and a thumbnail.
Stylize your links with custom short domain names: Brand your shortened links by setting up custom short domain names. You can use this domain in place of “bit.ly,” “bitly.com” or “j.mp” when creating shortened links. (For example, The Telegraph uses the short domain “tgr.ph”).
You can track how the links are performing with real time analytics made available by bitly. This was a Pro user feature but now has been made free. Read more about it here on their blog post.
All good things come in ‘short’ packages. That’s certainly true of bitly and all its features. Do you think any other URL shortening service beats it at the curve?