Link shortening services are extremely popular right now. They take a long, unwieldy URL and turn it into a short, concise link that is much more manageable to share on social media and in marketing content. Some services even provide some click analytics. The problem with link shorteners, from a marketing and analytics perspective, is that they can provide inaccurate data. Often times, the true source of the traffic can be lost during the URL redirect done by the link shortening service and this can lead to inaccurate reporting or campaign attribution. If you want to use these services, a good way to ensure that your data remains in tact is by adding a UTM code to your link before running it through the shortening service of your choice. We’ll walk through an example of campaign attribution using Bitly.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Using shortened links can not be used to establish tracking, due to how those services do redirects behind the scenes. Shortened links can ONLY be used for campaign attribution and ONLY on contact records that already have tracking established on them.
Creating the Campaign
Step 1: Click on the green “New” button located in the top right corner of SharpSpring.
Step 2: Select "Campaign" from the drop down menu.
Step 3: A modal will appear. Name the campaign and click “Add Campaign”.
Step 4: This will bring up the Campaign Settings screen. Here, we can add tags to our campaign, set costs and goals, and declare tracking rules for when a lead should be attributed to this campaign. For this example, we want to use a UTM code appended as a URL parameter for campaign attribution. Scroll down to the Tracking section and choose a site from the drop down menu. Then add a UTM code and name it for the campaign (e.g. utm=bitly_campaign).
Step 5: Click “Save Changes”.
(Note: After saving the changes, scroll back down to the Tracking section and ensure SharpSpring recognized it correctly. Beside your UTM code, there should be “(Parameter)”.)
Creating the Shortened Link
Step 1: Navigate to the link shortening site of your choice. In this example, we’ll use Bitly.
Step 2: Enter the full URL string for the link you will be using in your marketing efforts. This will include the domain of the site you chose for the campaign along with the UTM code you declared in the Campaign Settings section, separated by a “?” (e.g. bryantobin.com/?utm=bitly_campaign).
Step 3: Click “Shorten” to get the new link. Click “Copy” to copy the link to your clipboard. This will be the link used in your marketing efforts. You can add this link to your outbound emails or social media ad runs.
We can now use this new, shortened link in our ad copy for social campaigns. When the lead clicks through to our site from the link, we’ll see they are attributed to the proper campaign.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: DO NOT USE LINK SHORTENERS IN EMAIL LINKS! Not only will it provide unreliable results when used alongside the SharpSpring tracking code that we use in our email sends, but it can also hurt your email deliverability. Spammers love to use link shorteners to mask malicious URLs and so link shorteners are often associated with spam. If you need to provide a rather long, unwieldy link in an email, use HTML in the email designer to transform any text or image in the email into that link instead.
Congratulations! You’ve finished the walkthrough of how to attribute leads to a campaign properly using a link shortening service.