Are bit.ly statistics accurate?

September 10, 2009

I’ve never really looked at the bit.ly stats that you get for every link you shorten using the service (handy tip, add a + to the end of any shortened bit.ly URL to see the stats). So this evening I did a little experiment. I had a need to create four shortened links each directing users to a different page. Each page has Google Analytics tracking installed and also another well known analytics package (not free). To each link I also added a click tracking parameter for the ‘not free’ analytics package. All four links were distributed only via tweets on a Twitter account (not my personal one, and not a well followed one which is why the numbers are low, but it suited the purpose) using the Twitter web interface. So at the end of this little test, I should have three sets of figures. One from bit.ly, another from Google Analytics (counting referrals from Twitter to each page) and a third from the other analytics package.

The results:

bit.ly Google Analytics Other analytics
Link 1 5 10 11
Link 2 8 16 18
Link 3 2 12 12
Link 4 1 20 24

There’s nothing particularly scientific about this, I just checked out the bit.ly stats and noticed the discrepancy. Both Google Analytics and the other stats package use cookies to track users while bit.ly (I assume) can count directly any clicks on its shortened URLs on its servers. There may be a good reason for this difference, perhaps bit.ly has been having some server issues today, but the difference is enough to make me think twice about trusting bit.ly.

I’ve always used bit.ly for shortening links, for no reason other than it’s conveniently embedded in tools such as Tweetdeck, but I may consider trying another one of the multitude of services that do the same job. Obviously bit.ly shouldn’t be relied on for your main traffic analytics, it’s not their main business, but should we expect its stats to be more accurate (or at least closer to other analytics packages)? These are low traffic links but on high traffic ones how wide would the gap be then? Would be interested to hear what others think, especially if you know of a reason for the difference.

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6 Responses to “Are bit.ly statistics accurate?”


  1. […] Are bit.ly statistics accurate? « 23Musings 23musings.com/2009/09/10/are-bit-ly-statistics-accurate – view page – cached I’ve never really looked at the bit.ly stats that you get for every link you shorten using the service (handy tip, add a + to the end of any shortened bit.ly URL to see the stats). So this evening I did a little experiment. I had a need to create four shortened links each directing users to a different page. Each page has Google Analytics tracking installed and also another well known analytics package (not free). To each link I also added a click tracking parameter for the ‘not free’ analytics package. All four links were distributed only via tweets on a Twitter account (not my personal one, and not a well followed one which is why the numbers are low, but it suited the purpose) using the Twitter web interface. So at the end of this little test, I should have three sets of figures. One from bit.ly, another from Google Analytics (counting referrals from Twitter to each page) and a third from the other analytics package. — From the page […]

  2. scipmark Says:

    Good post thanks

    I also don’t think they’re accurate but mine seem to always jump by 2 or 3 within seconds of being sent [ie far too quickly for the slackers following me to respond], so I assumed there was some kind of bot issue in there pushing up figures rather than undercounting as your post implies

    I also had one weird one where I got 1006 links in one day, whereas the next highest ever score is 87 and I usually hover around 10 – 20…

    On the other hand I have a list of the URLs I’ve shortened over several weeks using bit.ly and, barring that one weird result, it gives me a very clear picture of the topics/issues/links that people are interested in.

    What is annoying is that I can’t find a URL shortener that gives you a downloadable log or even sorting of results by different columns – is there one that you know of that can do that?

    Mark

  3. Tom Nixon Says:

    Hi Steve, thanks for sharing – this is interesting.
    I was just wondering if the discrepancy could be caused by people clicking on the bit.ly link then sharing the real URL with people, e.g. by email which would show up in GA but not in bit.ly.

  4. Myf Nixon Says:

    Have you ever looked closely at bit.ly stats when you link to a popular page, as well? I could be wrong, because I have only noticed on the fly, but it looks like if you link to a page already linked to by another bit.ly user, you are dealt the same bit.ly shortened url. And the stats refer to every click on that link, not just those emanating from your own link.

    • Steve E Says:

      You’re right. If more than one person creates a bit.ly pointing to the same page you can aggregate all the bit.ly clicks to that page. In this case these are four links which didn’t exist in bit.ly before the test. Cheers!


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