Short URLs and QR codes

Tech Notes

This article is about using short URLs and QR codes to enable driving offline traffic to your online presence and tracking that behaviour. Someone asked me the other night what a QR code was (pointing to it on the connectarts ticket). That's the beginning of the problem right there. (QR codes are black and white square or circular graphics designed to be readable by a machine similar a barcode. They often encode links to websites). The next is the required hardware and software to interpret them. You need a smart phone with a camera and a free piece of software to decode it. I have tried decoding many QR codes with several different phones and 5 different software tools. The only one I have successfully decoded was the connectarts one. I used Goggles (which is Google's pattern recognition service–designed to recognise faces and architecture–similar to Shazam is to music). The final problem is if your phone is flat you can't write it down (although you could try). URL shorteners are a group of web services that take a long URL (like and convert them to something more manageable (like They came into their own with the Rise of Twitter and their 140 character tweet limit. There are a couple of things to look at with URL shorteners. The style of redirect they use (301 or permanent redirect and 302 or temporary redirect) which determines whether Google likes them or not (SEO wisdom suggests that permanent redirects are favoured). Whether you can access their usage statistics. And their longevity–whether the company is here for the long term (ie: not unfortunately) and whether the links will be reaped (deleted) after a period of time.

  • – the classic
  • – creates a QR code at the same time
  • – no tracking or stats
  • – for hootsuite users
  • You can also run your own URL shortening service. Organisations such as the make great use of their own shorteners. Often you will find that links that you tweet are shortened automatically anyway. Twitter had a but now uses (not shortener) instead. These may or may not be associated with your activity, via your Twitter account details, which will determine whether you have access to the statistics or not. You can intercept this process and make some adjustments (if you have time). The first is you can shorten your URL with your preferred service thereby giving you access to statistics. The second is that you can add an analytics campaign code so that you can attribute traffic using transiting that URL to a particular offline campaign (note: You should be doing this with QR codes too). This will allow you to determine the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of that particular campaign. If you'd like to know more about using short URLs or QR codes in your offline (or online) promotions please contact Zina Kaye.