What is a URL tracker or URL shortener?

I recently began the migration from Pretty Link Pro to Linktrackr. If you don't know what this means, then read on. I'll explain briefly what these two apps are, what they do and why you probably need to be using one or the other.

Have you ever seen on Twitter, or Facebook, a link that looks really short? Some people call them "bit-ly's" after one of the most popular link shortener services out there. Bit.ly or officially, http://bit.ly

Pretty Link Pro and Linktrackr both perform similar functions as bit.ly does. They allow you to create a short link and track how many clicks they get. I have used Pretty link Pro for over a year now and have been using Linktrackr for some of my clients for about 4 or 5 months now.

But what do they do?

URL shorteners and trackers allow you to create friendly looking links to be used on social media, your blogs and other places. More importantly, URL trackers allow you to measure the clicks that a specific link gets. They also allow you to do something called A/B testing.

Isn't that what Google Analytics is for? Yes and no. Google Analytics and other web statistics tools let you keep track of visits to a website, but it can be tricky to set them up to measure exact clicks to a specific link.

Why would you want to use one of these?

Why would you want to use them? I will tell you a couple of reasons. But first you should know this: historically bit.ly was used when you wanted to share a link on Twitter without taking up a lot of your precious 140 characters. Recently Twitter started using their own short version of links with http://t.co so the actual need for a short version of your url on Twitter is nil. Doesn't matter if your url is as long as it can possibly be, Twitter will make a short version of it.

Friendliness is next to coolness

So really, what's a URL tracker for then? A link tracker allows you to create friendly links to resources you want to use on a regular basis. For example, let's take my own link tracker as an example. I bought a domain a few years back specifically to use as a link tracker. I chose one that was short and somewhat related to me.

My URL tracker is http://oglink.it I use Pretty Link Pro for WordPress to create special links within the WordPress admin. These special links allow me to send people to any page I want. For example, my contact information can always be found on this link: contact -- always.

Link redirect systems work like  a railroad track switch.
Link redirect systems work like a railroad track switch.

The way a link redirect works is that I can create the link contact and make it go anywhere I want. And I'll always remember it so I can tell people on Twitter, on instant messenger, on Facebook, how to find me. I simply tell them to go to contact and they'll find all my information there. I can use this link on social media profiles, blog comments, emails, newsletters, anywhere I need to put a link. Currently that link goes to my contact page here at Notagrouch.com

But what if tomorrow I want to change my contact information and I no longer want you to see it from notagrouch.com? Instead I would like you to just go to my Facebook page.

It would be a nightmare going to find all the places where I posted or shared the link contact. Instead, I just go into the dashboard for http://oglink.it, find the "contact" link and change the destination from https://notagrouch.com/contact directly to my facebook page http://facebook.com/notagrouch. Done. Now, that's cool.

But there are other benefits

Besides being able to use a short link as a way to redirect people to the correct location, there are other reasons why you want to use one of these tools. Link tracker and redirect systems are very useful when you promote affiliate products.

Say, for example that you have a blog that talks about dog products. And in one of your posts you have a link to a dog bed. The link could look something like this: . I totally made that up, but it's a lot like an Amazon affiliate link or other affiliate links, ugly. When your reader visits and is just about to click on your cool dog bed link, they see that and get nervous.

What if it's a virus? What if it has a pop-up, what if... And they won't click on it. But if instead you could use a link like then it not only would be shorter, prettier and easier to use, but it may actually inspire a little more trust on your visitor.

They can see what the link is about just by looking at it. It should take them to the cool dog bed you've been talking about. By the way, in case you didn't guess by now, I made that link also.

I already explained that you can change the link from one location, so if a few months later you find that there's a better model of that cool dog bed, you just change the link in one place and all the links you've set on your blogposts will be updated.

Oh yeah, analytics and split testing

When you post a link on Twitter, you really don't know if anybody clicked on it. The same thing goes for Facebook. But a link tracker lets you see this information. Take this scenario: You're trying to promote your company's latest newsletter and you are sharing the information on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. The link you want people to see is http://example.net/newsletter

If you were to just post the link to the newsletter directly, you would not know which one of the three networks is working. But instead, you can create one link for each network, Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin; all three links would redirect to the same location. You could create something like Now you could see if one of the three links is getting more attention. A good link tracker will show you how many clicks each link received.

Split testing is very useful for businesses, bloggers and affiliates. If you have two landing pages for example, and you want to see which one can make more sales, you can create two similar pages with different colors or different wording. Then you use the link tracker system to send 50% of the clicks to one page and 50% of the clicks to the other page. This will let you share one link, but test two pages at once. After your test is done, you'll know which page is better. This is the basic premise behind doing A/B split testing and a link tracker system will help you with this.

What's next?

Deciding between the two systems I mentioned will come down to your personal preferences but I recommend you take a look at Linktrackr. I will be doing a comparison of between Linktrackr and Pretty Link Pro in an upcoming blogpost, but in short, Linktrackr has more features and serves serious bloggers and affiliates much better. I don't have many complaints about PLP, but I know that Linktrackr is far superior and you'll see why soon.

6 Comments

  1. Thanks for the post Oscar. I am just starting using affiliate links etc on some of my blogs. But as of yet, I have not even thought about using one of these trackers. Now I am adding to my “todo” list to try out both to see which one I like better.

    • Right on Joanne! Pretty Links has a free version but it’s limited. And Linktrackr is a monthly membership system. To get used to the idea of working like this with links, you could use a plugin in WordPress called Redirection and create your own links which redirect out to the right link.

  2. Oscar, thanks for the advice of using a URL shortener. I am going to check both of these out and see what works best for me.

  3. I’m a fan. Sensible advice clearly given. Thank you!

    • Jeff & Sarah, glad you found this useful. I think I’ll be adding a couple more posts on this topic to explain a couple other options like the one I mentioned to Joanne above. Interested?

  4. […] Twitter0 Pinterest0 LinkedIn0 I covered a little bit about Pretty Link Pro and Linktrackr on a previous post. So you should be familiar with URL trackers or URL shorteners. I use the terms […]

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