bitly1The world of URL shorteners is too large to list.  Some sites only offer a simple shorten while others offer a range of features beyond that.  We take you through one of the most feature-rich URL shortening services that won’t cost you a penny.

To help manage each of your bit.ly shortens, you will need to setup an account profile which can later be linked to your Twitter account.  Once signed in, you’re greeted with the standard long link input bar with options below it to share it via twitter, directly from the bit.ly site.  You have the option to create a custom name that follows ‘http://bit.ly/’ to make it easier to remember and share.

Once shortened, bit.ly moves the link down into your history.  Here you can get more info on the shorten, which is it’s standout feature.  Bit.ly shows a preview of the long-linked page and thebitly2 long link itself for easy tracking.  Bit.ly shows you how many times your specific shorten has been clicked, followed by the total number of clicks from any bit.ly shorten that redirects to the same webpage.

Bit.ly offers even more details about the traffic for each of your shortened links.  You can view the number of clicks in real time, for the past week or month, and total all-time clicks.  It tracks the referring client (i.e. email/IM, twitter.com, facebook.com) so you can see how your link is spreading and how many times each referrer was received a click.  Bit.ly provides a chart of click locations that track and show which countries your shorten is being clicked from.  Both referrer and location statistics are also available the same time formats as the number of clicks.

bitly3To make URL shortening a snap, bit.ly offers two different bookmarklets that you simply click whenever you’re at a site you want to shorten.  The standard bookmarklet redirects you in a new window to bit.ly with long link added into your history, ready to be shared.  The alterative bookmarklet brings up a sidebar in overlapping the current site, with the shortened link premade with options to share the shortened link via twitter, email, or Facebook and information on the number clicks it’s received.  Both of these bookmarklets add any shortened links to your account’s history to help track all shortens in one place.

Analytics are available for any bit.ly short by simply adding a ‘+’ to the end of the address.  Users also have the ability to shorten any URL without bookmarklets or copy/paste simply by typing ‘bit.ly/’ in front of any web address.  This forwards you to the bit.ly site, with the URL shortened and ready for sharing.  Firefox users can download and install the bit.ly preview plugin to expand shortened links on any web page before clicking.

While bit.ly doesn’t offer the shortest URLs around, it does offer a host of features that aren’t available at many popular competitors.  We would like to see the ability to import shortened bit.ly URLs from twitter clients like Tweetie or anything beyond your web browser’s history.

Think your URL shortener is better than bit.ly?  Let us know why in the comments.