How to Test and Optimize Your Website Using Bitly Links


That last one is especially interesting to me, given the work I do at Bitly as a web and digital marketer.

As digital marketers, we are always looking to make changes to optimize the performance of our websites, whether it’s the copy, the color of a call-to-action button or even the destinations of hundreds of links all at once.

In order to know whether these changes are truly successful, we need the right tools at our disposal. In this post, I’ll show you how Bitly can be an effective alternative to other less intuitive tools to add, test and track links on your website. Let’s get started.


The Trouble with Analytics Platforms

As robust as Google Analytics (and similar tools) are, there are still a few gaps. Google Analytics, for example, doesn’t show click data from multiple links that point to the same destination on one page.

Say you have a link to your “About Us” page that lives in both your navigation as well as your footer. Google will show you the traffic you get to this page from other pages on your website in total. It won’t show you traffic separated by the individual links in your footer and navigation.

Google Analytics does allow you to set up something called “event tracking,” which would be a solution to this problem.

However, the problem with event tracking is that you need to add specific code to each website element you want to track for these visitor interactions. Implementing this code can be both tedious and time-consuming when you want to track more than a couple of links at once.

When it comes to Bitly links, all you need is front-end access to your website with the ability to add links, saving you time, hassle and the need for extra support.


Google Tag Manager (and similar tools) is a tool that allows you to deploy changes to your website without modifying the actual code. One of its uses is to track button clicks and send that information over to Google Analytics. 

There’s a learning curve with using any of Google’s free tools, but Tag Manager probably comes with the largest one, as you’ll need some knowledge of how tags and triggers work to get it set up properly.

With Bitly links, once your link is placed on your site, you will see your metrics in an easy-to-digest dashboard that populates data in real time, without needing any coding knowledge.

Well, what about using UTMs?

You can use UTMs! In fact, we encourage you to use them in tandem with a Bitly link.

UTMs are tags you append to the end of your URLs to send specific information to your customer relationship management (CRM) platform, as well as your analytics software.

For example, if you are running paid advertising on Google AdWords you might have a URL that looks like this:

The UTM tags on this URL are everything you see after the domain. The medium is paid search, the source is Google, the campaign is non-branded, the content is an ebook and the search term is “non-branded keyword.”

With these parameters in place, the URL can be sent to Google Analytics and Salesforce (or another CRM) to do down funnel analysis on which ads, keywords, channels and campaigns perform the best.

You can use UTMs on your website in the same way. If you have a banner, button or link on your site that you want to track the performance of you can append a UTM parameter to understand what interactions with this onsite element are doing for your business.

If you haven’t created UTMs before, no need to worry. Google provides a free URL builder that makes it simple to plug and place.

So problem solved right? Not quite.

There are reasons to hide your UTMs. For one, they reveal to your visitors and competitors the types of campaigns you are running. An easy hover over any link will show the URL string, UTMs included.

Another reason is they can be hard to organize, as well as be a bit ugly. When I’m visiting a website I like to see the link I’m about to click before I take action and when I see UTMs they are usually pretty off-putting.

Conceal your UTMs with Bitly Links

This is where Bitly links come in. With Bitly links you can customize and brand all your links that so they tell your audience exactly where they point to.

For example, say you wanted to track clicks to your top right navigation button. You can use a branded Bitly link and give a clear indication to your visitors what the link is. For example, This also saves time and confusion when configuring your link reports, since it’s clear where each link points to.

OK, it’s Time to Test

So you’ve created your Bitly account and are ready to add links to your site but you’re stuck on what to test. One test that’s common with Bitly links is adding them to your footer or navigation call-to-actions.

Call-to-actions are what you should test most as they generally lead to sign up or other pages with a form to fill out, which will drive leads.

You can test copy, placement and color, among other things. Every time you do you’ll see the change in clicks in real-time in your Bitly campaign management report.

As an aside, you can organize your Bitly links according to campaign using Bitly Campaigns. This enables you to sort your links into individual channels so you can easily track and compare their performance, which is especially useful when testing link performance across your website.

Wrap Up

While there are many tools you can use to perform optimizations and tests on your website, using Bitly links provide an easy, low-cost solution that you can get up and running in a matter of minutes.

Best when you need to prove a quick hypothesis and don’t have the means to loop in your engineer or web development team, Bitly links can provide you data and analysis around your site in real time so you don’t need to wait.

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Matt St. Peter @Bitly
Sr. Manager, Web & Digital Marketing