Monday, February 25, 2013

Measure Campaign Effectiveness with Link Shortening

Posted by: Britt Ehrhardt, Feb. 25, 2013

What Are Shortened Links?

Federal Communicators Network Twitter feed
FCN Twitter feed
bit.ly/xyz, ow.ly/xzy, go.usa.gov/xyz...
Shortened hyperlinks are everywhere these days. They are written as the domain of a link shortening service provider followed by a brief string of alphanumeric characters.

People create shortened links because they are easier to use in places where space is limited, like Twitter. In the past, a full-length hyperlink could consume half or more of the characters available for a tweet. (Now, Twitter will help shorten links, but it can still be a good idea to shorten them yourself, for reasons outlined below.) You can see shortened links in action in the Federal Communicators Network Twitter feed.

Sometimes, shortened links are also easier to remember than the original link. For example, ow.ly/go goes to the Monty Python YouTube channel. For those emergency situations in which only a Monty Python clip will suffice, isn't ow.ly/go easier for you to remember than http://www.youtube.com/user/MontyPython?

How Can Shortened Links Help You Measure Your Campaigns?

You're planning a digital campaign. Maybe you want to get people to check out your agency's online job ad or training program application. Maybe you want to turn the volume up on a particular webpage that's contains high priority information that your organization wants to communicate to the public. When starting a new campaign to push users to a webpage, create a new shortened link. This will allow you to separate campaign-driven traffic to your page from other traffic to that page. It gives you metrics measuring your success: "Look boss, I got 1,000 people to look at our webpage in the last 3 days."

Most link shorteners will tell you the number of users who clicked on your shortened link. Some link shorteners also offer detailed information about the number of clicks over time, the websites users were browsing when they clicked your link, and the geographic locations of the users who clicked. All of this is helpful information that can tell you if you are achieving your campaign goals and reaching your targeted audience.

Asking partners to tweet on your behalf? Create a new shortened link for the campaign, even if your organization won't be doing the outreach itself. If you're asking others to promote your information, request they also use your shortened link, so you can measure the effectiveness of your work together.

Link Shortening Tools for Government Communicators

Screenshot of the go dot usa dot gov website
Screenshot of the go.usa.gov website.
I'm most familiar with go.usa.gov. For those with a verifiable federal, state, or local government email address, it's extremely easy to sign up and use this tool--less than 5 minutes to fill out the registration form, confirm your email address, and start shortening links to government webpages. Go.usa.gov provides some of the helpful metrics described above, including the number of clicks since you created the campaign.

Other tools are also available. Here's a helpful article from HowTo.gov comparing go.usa.gov and 1.usa.gov.

Using one of these tools for government is a great idea, not least because it retains the .gov part of the URL. This helps your audience identify your information as reputable government information. It might give your campaign additional credibility, helping you stand out in the social media cacophony.


Do you use other tools, or do you watch other metrics? Share your insights in the comments, below.

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