Making your research accessible

Customise your tiny URLs and track click statistics

By 6 August 2009

As websites have become more complex, the length of web addresses (URLs) has grown, and they have become increasingly unwieldy. Hot links and hyperlinks are fine if you are sure your reader will be online, but sometimes using a link that can be noted down easily and visited at a later date is more appropriate. Short URLs are good for printed publicity material, and also useful when including web links in Twitter, where messages can only be 140 characters long.

The website Tiny URL converts URLs of any length into much smaller ones (20 characters on average). It’s very simple to use, and has two great new features. You can now customise your tiny URL so that it is memorable rather than random. In addition, at the time you create your tiny URL you can activate a tracking option that will enable you to gather statistics about how many people click on the URL that you’ve created.

To make a tiny URL go to http://www.tiny.cc/. Simply paste into the box your long URL and click on the orange ‘Tiny it!’ button. Your new tiny URL of five random characters (for example http://tiny.cc/Px1My) will appear.

But before you click, why not customise your tiny URL? The standard URL for R4D’s Communications Corner is http://www.research4development.info/communicationsCorner.asp, but we made a tiny URL for the same page: http://tiny.cc/CommsCorner by putting ‘CommsCorner’ in the ‘Custom’ box. (Note you can also use www.tiny.cc/ as the prefix.) One warning: Don’t experiment with your preferred Custom phrase – once you’ve used it, it’s gone and you can never delete or edit it! Yes, I did lose one myself.

Finally, why not use tiny URLs to track your traffic statistics for particular marketing efforts? Note: you must set this up immediately after you create the tiny URL. After you click the ‘Tiny it!’ button, a line will appear that says: ‘Track how many people click your tiny link here’. Clicking the ‘here’ hyperlink at that time will take you to a traffic stats web page for that tiny URL. Save the address of that webpage somewhere safe, and you can return and check how many people have used your tiny URL. Each tiny URL has its own statistics page (with unique ID and code).

I’m going to make all the links in the R4D monthly e-newsletter tiny URLs from now on. A click will still take the reader straight to the news story or new document on R4D, but I will be able to see which links interest people most and try to respond. If you don’t already receive the newsletter you can sign up here.

Have you used Tiny URLs or other URL-shrinking systems?
Can you recommend especially appropriate ways to use them?
Have you used them to track your click stastics?