28 May 2014

Using URL Shorteners for Measuring Impact

After attending few CoLRiC events recently, one phrase stays with me: measuring impact. – Hard and comprehensive data is persuasive and helpful for critical reflection.

One tool I have been using for gathering data is URL (web link) shorteners. In my library, we initially adopted bit.ly to tame the URLs to various help pages on the library blog, e.g. how to access ebooks from home. Shorter URLs look less frightening in emails and catalogue records too. Later, we have moved to goo.gl simply because we’d been using other Google services.

Both bit.ly and goo.gl, as well as other similar services, can provide us with helpful statistics on how many times the document behind the shortened URL has been accessed. The trick is to remember to login into the service account before shortening that URL, of course.

Here is a real-life example. A month ago I scanned a book excerpt for a Biology tutor. The file then was uploaded into the library’s Dropbox shared folder and the URL was shortened with goo.gl. The tutor placed the URL onto the Moodle page for his course (experientially, we have learnt that tutors preferred getting web links to files for uploading – file upload with Moodle is notoriously cumbersome). After two weeks, the scanned document has been accessed 50 times. This is a good piece of evidence that the scanning service the library offers is well used, relevant and worth of time spent. If no clicks were received, it would be a sign that the tutors have not made the link available to students – something for me to follow up then.

In the same way, I can see with goo.gl how often our helpsheets are downloaded or what the impact of various promotion campaigns is. Using URL shorteners has prompted new conversations and changes in practice in our library.

This post was originally published in the CoLRiC Newsletter, no. 61.