November 24, 2014 vsbly

60-second Digital Media Hack #1: Customize a Single URL Multiple Times Using bit.ly

This series provides ideas you can implement immediately to add to your organization’s bag of digital tricks.

IMAGE: GIF 60-second digital media hack

We ran into a digital roadblock recently, and thought others might benefit from our solution.

Here’s the problem: you have a URL on your site that you plan to share through various channels – maybe individualized emails to friends and colleagues, Twitter, Facebook, wherever.

And let’s say you want to A) create a compact, interesting shortlink that ends in something interesting – something more like “kittens4evah” and less like “yw8bH,” and B) you’re curious how far each of these sources sends your little link out into the world until it returns as a click on your URL.

You can enter your long URL into bit.ly, and customize your short URL. But when you do this a second time, hoping to create a different customized short URL, you find that bit.ly will only let you shorten a link once per bit.ly account – no multiple shortlinks to the same URL.

The 60-second hack solution: add different UTM codes for each iteration of the URL you want to track.

UTM codes (don’t ask why – this is a 60-second hack) are text strings you add to the end of your URL, starting with a question mark.

For example:

http://vsbly.org/impact-stories/

becomes

http://vsbly.org/impact-stories/?anything-you-want-1234

or simply

http://vsbly.org/impact-stories/?1

Try it now by adding “?” plus literally anything to a page on your own site – or any URL – in any browser.

It works.

Now bit.ly will treat each URL with a customized UTM code as a new URL, and you can customize and track your links in as many different variations as you want.

If this helps somebody, please let us know, because it would make us feel very good about ourselves.