Which URL shortening services play well with web analytics?

Search Engine Land recently had a great analysis on which URL shortening service to use, particularly when considering SEO. Shortly afterward, Winning the Web had a great post about how Twitter drove significant website traffic for them.

Together, these posts got me thinking – which URL shortening services play well with web analytics? That is, do they tell you the originating website for each visit they send to you? The results for the top five URL shortening services (according to an informal survey by Search Engine Land) were surprising.

My test was simple – I found Tweets on Twitter that contained shortened links from each of the top 5 services, clicked on the link, then checked the referring source using a simple Javascript command. I checked at least two links for each URL shortening service to confirm my findings. My web browser is Firefox.

The Results

  • tinyurl: no referrer data (will appear as direct navigation)
  • bit.ly: twitter.com/daveculbertson
  • is.gd: no referrer data (will appear as direct navigation)
  • cli.gs: twitter.com/daveculbertson
  • tr.im: no referrer data (will appear as direct navigation)

Referrer data is critical to accurately tracking your website’s sources of visits. bit.ly and cli.gs are definitely recommended. (I use both.)

Some people will argue that it doesn’t matter which URL shortening service you use since most Twitter users use mobile device apps (e.g., TwitterFon on iPhone) or desktop clients (e.g. TweetDeck) that don’t pass referrer information anyway.

I say so what – partial information about visits referred from Twitter is better than no information. And you can solve the Twitter tracking dilemma with URL tagging, but that’s a discussion for another post. :-)

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3 Responses to Which URL shortening services play well with web analytics?

  1. Debbi A. Ballard says:

    Thanks for reporting your results. Do you have any info regarding the use of budurl.com?

  2. Chief Light Bulb says:

    Debbi,

    Budurl fails the test!

  3. David Hughes says:

    Thanks for the post. I have been using budurl up until now with url tagging. Which has been great. But clearly having additional referrer data would be an advantage.

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