Using Shortlinks and Google Analytics to A/B Test


Use Google’s Campaign URL Builder to add source and campaign information to your URL to push into Google Analytics. Take that really long URL and shorten with Google URL Shortener. Then post. You’ll see this campaign information in your Google Analytics now. Ta-da…you’ve got more than just “click” data.

What You Will Need:

Have A Purpose When Using URL Shorteners

Using a URL shortener (like and are a waste of time unless you have a purpose. If you have a website you should have some sort of analytics (I prefer Google Analytics) installed to track what’s happening on your site. Putting a link right into Facebook and Twitter is good enough as is, and your analytics will tell you how many people came over from those sources. You don’t even need any special setup here, just install Google Analytics and go. If you have analytics installed, URL shorteners can actually mess with your data.

So what is a good use of a URL shortener? A/B testing! I love love LOVE looking at data and painting a picture with that data. A/B testing is a great marketing approach, and every business should be doing it. Shortened links can be used to test where, when, or how you are sharing links and which performs best. Success is found by trial and error, don’t be afraid to fall down a few times.

Analytics vs Shorteners

Analytics and URL shorteners both have their place in tracking activity online. What do they each have to offer?

Google Analytics – See what happens when someone comes to your website. If you post a link 10 times on Facebook you will see what kind of success Facebook traffic is having on your site. You won’t see each link’s value to your website though because all of your data will be combined.

URL Shortener – See how many people click on a specific link. These don’t track anything but clicks though so your data is highly limited.

How To Make The Most Of URL Shorteners

(1) Head over to Google’s URL Builder.

(2) Enter the URL you are looking to promote, a source, medium, campaign name (optional), campaign term (optional), and campaign content. If I were doing a promotion on Facebook, I would enter “” as the source and “social” as the medium. You can decide on a campaign name, term and content however you please. I use the “Campaign Content” to differentiate ads/posts that I am testing.

Campaign URL Builder settings

(3) Copy the generated URL at the bottom.

(4) Open Google’s URL Shortener, login, and create your shortened URL by pasting the really long URL you copied previously and create your shortened URL.

(5) Copy shortened URL and post once.

(6) Repeat. Only change the “Campaign Content” field in the Google URL Builder for every link.

(7) Give your test some time to gather some data.

(8) Login to your Google Analytics account. In Google Analytics select Acquisition–Campaigns–All Campaigns. The Primary Dimension should already be set to Campaign, but you will want to set your Secondary Dimension to Ad Content. Not only do you see “Clicks” now, but you can see how the rest of their experience went. If you have Goal Conversions setup you will be able to see which test performed best.

Google analytics campaign data

Pro Tip: Create a dashboard showing a specific Campaign Name so you can check up on your test whenever without having to adjust your setting every time. You can even automate Reports in Google Analytics to send results regularly straight to your email.

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