Bit.ly Gets Better with New Data…Are You Using It Yet?

Lately, I’ve been using bit.ly for shortening the URLs I tweet, on the advice of Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb. I started using it instead of is.gd, which had been my previous favorite.

Why? Because bit.ly offers an array of useful data. Who knew that a simple URL shortener could open up so much interesting data?  I can’t believe people still use tinyurl and other services that “only” shorten URLs. The tracking of metadata around a posted URL – for free – makes bit.ly really powerful.

Here’s what bit.ly was offering before the latest data features…

  • Last 15 URLs: Bit.ly knows your last 15 shortened URLs, courtesy of a cookie.
  • Post to Twitter: Post shortened URLs from bit.ly to your Twitter account
  • Archived web page: Yup, see that page anytime because there’s a cached version of it, even if the source link changes or disappears.
  • Traffic sources: See how much click action that bit.ly URL got once you put it out there. And from what apps.
  • Conversations: Tracks which users on Twitter and FriendFeed put the URL out there. This is really cool, as you can see others who liked the same thing you did.
  • Browser bookmarklet: Easy way to create a shortened URL, stay on the page you’re reading.
  • Semantic metadata: According to Marshall’s July post, bit.ly was going to add semantic analysis via Reuter’s OpenCalais API. Looks like it’s there. Cool to see per link, probably more interesting with a critical mass of URLs.

On October 30, bit.ly announced several nice additions to their service.

  • Full referring domains: Not just the top-level domain.
  • Graph of click activity by time: The dates and times that a URL got clicked.
  • Clicks by Country: The countries of people who click on your URL. This is really fascinating.

Seriously, if you’re not using bit.ly, why not?

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New Kid on the Shortened URL Block: is.gd

Quick post. I’m seeing more long URLs shorted with the service is.gd. I, like most people, use tinyurl.com to shorten URLs. It’s great. But if you’re posting a URL on Twitter, those extra few characters in a TinyURL eat into your 140-character limit.

is.gd goes even further. Here’s an example comparing the two services:

Blog post: FriendFeed RSS Is a Fantastic Discovery Tool

Full URL: https://bhc3.wordpress.com/2008/04/05/friendfeed-rss-is-a-fantastic-discovery-tool/

  • 82 characters

TinyURL: http://tinyurl.com/6qhk4n

  • 25 characters

is.gd: http://is.gd/7oc

  • 16 characters

So there’s a pick-up of 9 characters via is.gd. Can be quite valuable on Twitter, eh?

It doesn’t have a toolbar button, which makes converting URLs really easy with TinyURL. That’d be a nice addition.`

For a nice read on several different URL shorteners, check out Carlo Maglinao’s post on TechBays.

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The First 20 Blog Posts Are the Easiest

A few random thoughts on blogging after writing 22 posts and hitting 4,000 views.

Blogging is fun. I’ve enjoyed this more than I realized I would. Writing really is its own reward. I guess a paper journal might be a good outlet, but the social aspect of this is great. You get to join the conversation at large.

Blogging is work. Figuring out what to write is an ongoing activity for me. Seth Godin said, “I spend most of my blogging time deciding what not to post.” I wonder when I’ll hit that stage.

Long-form blogging. Most of my posts are long form. I enjoy writing through and around a subject. But others seem to be quite talented at delivering posts that are short and a good read. I may have to mix some of those in here.

Spamming Marketing your blog. I’m experimenting with ways to get the word out about this blog. Just the act of publicizing my blog was a hard thing to take on. I don’t like a lot self-promotion, but if you don’t do it, who will? Of course, one could ask, “why do you need to market it?” I’ll answer that a bit more below. To get word out about my blog, I do the following:

  • Add posts to del.icio.us, LinkRiver, StumbleUpon, reddit
  • RSS on FriendFeed
  • Share posts, which turns them into news feeds on Facebook via Feedheads
  • Twitter
  • Comments on other blogs

Marketing via Twitter. The 140 character limit of Twitter requires a bit of creativity. But I try to avoid just putting the blog post title and tinyURL. How do you capture the blog post in a way that makes someone want to read more? This is actually kind of fun.

Marketing via comments on other blogs. This is one that must be done with care. I’ve seen godawful attempts to spam blogs. My favorite poster over at TechCrunch titles himself “I’m not commenting to spam my blog” (or something like that). Here’s my philosophy on this:

  • Your comment should be able to stand alone. The comment should be such that it adds to the conversation, not just link to your blog. After all, you’re a guest on someone else’s blog.
  • If your comment is relevant and useful, someone might actually want to click on the URL you include to read more on your blog.

Karma. Share the blogging love. Add new blogs to your RSS reader. Add links to interesting posts on other blogs. Post on others’ blogs. Add others’ posts to LinkRiver, del.icio.us, StumbleUpon, etc. And do it for the smaller bloggers, not just the A-list. This is something I need to improve on.

You Can’t Win If You Don’t Play. You never know how things will turn out when you blog. This blog continues to get a lot of hits off the search term “peanut butter“. My post about writing a farewell email is the most-read post on the blog. Pay By Touch had a following out there, and this was one of few blogs talking about it. I’m sure there will something in the future that will surprise me. Marketing the blog is a great way to figure out what people are interested in, and I treasure every comment and link to this blog.

No clue how to land on Techmeme. This is apparently a big deal for bloggers. No idea how that happens. May not ever for this blog. I’ll sleep at night.

Don’t put a period after the TinyURL. I use the TinyURL service to shorten the URLs for my blog posts. This is handy for putting a link to a post on Twitter or on a comment at some other blog. Well, it turns out if you put a period at the end of the TinyURL, you get a 404 page. Quite embarrassing, to tell the truth.

That’s it for now. Gotta think about my next blog post.