This is a guest post by Taylor Ripp. Taylor Ripp is the Business Development Manager for Geniuslink. Geniuslink empowers digital marketers through intelligent links with unrivaled capabilities to turn clicks into conversions.
These days, links (also known as URLs), are involved in just about any kind of social media marketing. You can pick up some valuable intelligence about the marketing practices of your competitors just by knowing the right ways to look at their publicly displayed URLs on social media.
Below are a few insights on ways you can glean about your competitors through links.
Understand Your Competitors’ Audience
Many link shorteners make tracking information on individual links publicly available. This can provide some serious insight into what kind of traffic, engagement and distribution your competitors are getting on their social posts. You may even see some granular data like what other websites are using that link, and what countries and devices users are clicking from.
Here are some tricks on accessing this information from your competitors’ social media links:
Add a “+” to the end of the link
A common method to access a link’s publicly available analytics. It works for the most common short URLs like “bit.ly,” and “smarturl.it” short links. Simply copy/paste the link into your web browser and add a plus sign to the end. Here are some examples:
(Caption : http://smarturl.it/PsyGangnam+ This links to the song “Gangham Style” by Psy in the ITunes Store)
Data like this can be invaluable in seeing how your engagement on social media stacks up in comparison with your competition. Perhaps a competitor is getting a lot of engagement on Facebook posts with a particular type of content or a certain topic. You may want to try to see if this type of content can work with your audience. You may also see statistics that surprise you, such as where in the world a competitors’ posts are getting the most engagement. In the above example, the data shows that a significant amount of clicks come from Vietnam. You may not have known that your competitor has an engaged audience in Vietnam. Perhaps it makes sense for your brand to invest in Vietnam as well.
Add “.info” to the end of the link
Google’s URL shortener provides “goo.gl” links. Tracking for these links is made publicly available by adding “.info” to the end of the link. Here is an example: http://goo.gl/t6DvQI.info
Caption: Publicly available tracking from “goo.gl” short links
For “bit.do” short URLs, analytics can be viewed by adding a dash to the end of the link (http://bit.do/RunninLoseItAll-). For “tiny.cc” short URLs, a tilde can be added to the end of the link to view metrics (http://tiny.cc/litrzx~).
See What Social Media Management Platforms Your Competitors Use
Nearly every company involved in any type of social media marketing uses a tool to streamline publishing content to their various social channels. These include platforms like Buffer, SproutSocial, Hootsuite, and SocialFlow.
Although it’s no longer necessary to shorten URLs to stay within Twitter’s character limit, some of these platforms automatically shorten URLs within posts by default. All URLs in tweets are counted as 22 characters regardless of size, but shortening links can make content more visually attractive and enables in depth click tracking and reporting.
Each social media management platform has its own convention for shortening links. You can look at these short URLs to see what tool your competitors are using to manage their social media publishing.
Here are some examples of short URLs and their corresponding social media publishing platforms:
- buff.ly = Buffer
- ow.ly = Hootsuite
- okt.to = Oktopost
- trib.al = SocialFlow
- dld.bz = SocialOomph
- vrl.ht = Viralheat
- hubs.ly = HubSpot
In some circumstances, a competitor’s short links may also tell you what marketing automation platform they’re using. HubSpot, for example, provides a complete marketing automation platform that includes a social media scheduling tool. If you see “hubs.ly” short links, you know that company is using HubSpot.
Note: Many social publishing tools have a direct integration with the URL shortening service, Bitly. However, since “bit.ly” links are so widespread, it’s unreliable to associate any single platform with these short URLs. In addition, some of the above short URLs can be used outside of their social publishing platforms. Seeing these links in a social media feed isn’t always a 100% guarantee that a company is using that social publishing tool.
See if Your Competition uses Short Links for Remarketing
Some companies use their short links to build custom remarketing audiences based on who clicks their links on their social media channels. Retargeting or remarketing is a well-known practice to directly advertise to people who have already expressed interest in a product or service by visiting a website. Some short URLs are now allowing marketers to add users to a Facebook, Google, or Twitter remarketing audience simply based on the links that users clicked on.
Using retargeting with links is a fairly new and sophisticated tactic, and shows that your competitors are seeing serious value in remarketing to people who interact with their social media content. If they’re seeing value in remarketing to these people via Facebook, Twitter, or Google ads, perhaps your brand should look into remarketing on these channels as well.
You can tell if a company is using retargeting with their short links by using a handy free tool called Redirect Directive. This based-based tool allows you to see the entire redirect journey that takes place when short links are clicked.
Short URLs and Branding
Some companies take their branding so serious that they invest in a custom, branded short URL. These are often powered through a link management service like Bitly or Geniuslink, and demonstrate that a company is heavily invested in making sure they don’t waste an opportunity to promote brand awareness.
These typically take the form of a custom URL that resembles the brand name. Below are some examples of custom branded short URLs that get used by some well-known brands on social media:
- nyt.ims = The New York Times
- read.bi = Business Insider
- la.tms = Los Angeles Times
- did.as = Adidas
The Importance of Links
While links are only one piece of the big digital marketing puzzle, they are used just about everywhere on the web. Knowing how URLs get used across a variety of marketing channels can give you new insights into what your competition is doing, and even show you how you may be able to use links more effectively.