On August 15th 2011, Twitter rolled out- t.co- its URL shortening tool. With the same, they have started automatically shortening URLs and link-wrapping those over 20 characters. This is what Twitter has to say about the service: “Twitter’s link service at http://t.co is used to better protect users from malicious sites that engage in spreading malware, phishing attacks, and other harmful activity.
A link converted by Twitter’s link service is checked against a list of potentially dangerous sites. When there’s a match, users can be warned before they continue.” Go through the Twitter help post and the developer guide to know more about the t.co.
Now, most individuals, brands and media are pretty excited about these changes, as the t.co link-wrapping will now provide a condensed traffic source. Continue reading.
What Has Happened-
Actually, no one really made a note of, or paid attention to t.co, until their analytics showed a change in referrals. They noticed a pretty sharp increase in referrals from Twitter’s “t.co” domains. In some cases, the domain became the No.1 referral. This meant that all links that were longer than 20 characters, posted on Twitter.com were wrapped with a t.co URL. And that is why the analytics tools were showing t.co as the referrer, instead of the Twitter.com or other clients like- Twitterrific, Tweetdeck etc.
This means that the analytics tools now categorizes all traffic from Twitter.com or sister sites as simply traffic referred by Twitter- and directly from the particular Tweet.
The Big Benefit-
Yes, You Can Now Know The Specific Tweet that brought that surge of traffic, and it was sent by whom. All you have to do is take the URL from your analytics, and search Twitter with it.
Now you can understand better what works for you on Twitter, and research nore with an analytics tool.
The data made available here will help marketers and webmasters to know and track down the most active and influential link sharers/tweets.
According to Twitter, with the t.co, brands/media get an insight in to how individuals take to links contained in tweets. Here is the Twitter take- “After the full t.co rollout is complete and our analytics has crystallized, we’ll be offering a set of APIs that developers can leverage to enrich their applications with gathered data.”
This move from Twitter has been received with huge enthusiasm as businesses and webmasters don't have to rely on unreliable tracking systems or bit.ly clicks. They will get to see straight away, the amount of Twitter referrals from the stats.
If you want to speed up the URL look time via search, then there is a bookmarklet that you can use open up the Twitter search page automatically. Here it is
The Ripple Effect-
With t.co, and the huge impact it is already showing in analytics, there are impact waves all over the web. In fact Twitter's reputation has also been reviewed after this rollout. Here is a list of what will or has changed.
Facebook, watch out!- Till date, Facebook and StumbleUpon were considered the biggest drivers of social media traffic. But now, the tide may swing in favor of Twitter, as it may be marked as a huge source of social media traffic. As now, it will be possible to measure the impact of Twitter referrals (by tracking the specific Tweets).
A Twitter Analytics In The Wings?
Seems like the time is ripe for Twitter to launch an analytics tool, and make big money!
Bit.ly Needs To Push Harder
Bit.ly is expected to be hit hard with this. It is, at present marketing itself on the analytics it provides, but with t.co, it will have to better its services. This means that they must innovate their analytics, and work forward from their winning service- the ability to track traffic from tweets – in real time.
The businesses will most probably see Twitter in a new light now, as they will be able to see exactly how much referrals they are getting from Twitter. All this seems good, but there is a flip side too.
The Grey Area
Between all the enthusiastic responses, there is a little thing that went unnoticed in the beginning, but some webmasters have pointed it now. In the case when a t.co URL is copied outside of Twitter.
Lets say, there is a blog post that enters its site's Twitter Stream- it now takes on a t.co URL. One of the followers of that stream, then pastes that t.co URL on Facebook or any other social network. Now, Twitter, it seems is altering the URL when a user copies and pastes a t.co URL on Twitter, as it helps in tracking back to the same user, assuming that the URL is never copied outside of Twitter. Also, when one Re-Tweets the URL, it remains the same- t.co.
The result of this- when the URL will be clicked, most analytics tool will think that the traffic is coming through t.co and not from the source network. So, Twitter may seem more influential than it may actually be. The Twitter user that posted on Twitter may seem responsible for the traffic, while in reality it was another influential user on the social network.
Yes, t.co will lead to better analytics and keeping track of traffic from Twitter. But take it with a pinch of salt as, some of the traffic may have come from social networks or email, direct sharing, etc.
And to see the t.co effect, do Re-Tweet this write up, right now!