‘Goliath-slayer’ Lickstats wants to do shortlink tracking better than Bit.ly


It’s just a one-man outfit in a Montreal office, but Sun Knudsen thinks his shortlink tracking tool Lickstats can do more for a startup than Google Analytics or bit.ly Brand Tools.

The problem, as the 30-year-old Montrealer explained over the phone to MTLinTech, is that many startups and small businesses want a branded domain name that they can use as a shortlink to track specific audience engagements. Google Analytics can show a marketer a lot of great information, but when it comes to web traffic from a social network like Facebook it doesn’t know which specific page or post people are engaging with.

“As a marketer, origination-tracking is very important,” said Knudsen. “If you’re selling underwear you need to know, ‘did my post with the really sexy underwear work? Or did the one with the more casual underwear work better?”

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Lickstats is a freemium plugin with its most expensive pricing tier at $49, for enterprise users. The idea came from Knudsen scratching his own itch. He was running marketing efforts for his previous startup, called PhoneLeap, as well as at his old marketing technologist job at Gregg Homme. He didn’t want to spend over $1,000 for bit.ly Brand Tools, which allow businesses to customize their own shortlinks.

In the process of understanding how he could target engagement through specific social media posts, Knudsen realized that he had to start manually adding ‘UTM tags’, which can be added to the URL. Using those tags, Google Analytics can tell a marketer that x-amount of traffic came from the “sexy underwear,” or which specific post performed better than another.

Every post needed their own UTM tags, and each social media campaign needed to have UTM tags individually written for that campaign. Knudsen had other ideas.

In one weekend he created the MVP for a new tool that automatically incorporated these UTM tags. “It really looked like shit but it worked in a way similar to Bit.ly brand tools [and it added UTM tags automatically.] As a developer I knew I could build something similar really quickly and I ended up doing that,” said Knudsen.

That was about a year ago, and Knudsen essentially abandoned PhoneLeap as he saw more and more demand for the new tool that he had hardly marketed.

When campaign tracking is enabled, Lickstats dynamically appends the UTM tags to users’ URLs. Not only can the tool tell a marketer that someone landed on their page directly from a specific page on Facebook, but also when that user signed up or checked out, and the value of the those actions. “That’s the uber-holy grail of short links, and that’s something that no other vendor in the world does to my knowledge,” said Knudsen.

The whole purpose of short links in 2015 is really just tracking, he said. Nobody uses link-shorteners to actually shorten links anymore, because Twitter added its own shortener a few years ago.

“When you use bit.ly, what your looking for is to have a sexy, branded short link with awesome tracking, and right now to my knowledge in the world Lickstats is the most advanced shortlink tracker that exists,” Knudsen told MTLinTech.

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Earlier this month Les Affaires’ Julien Brault covered Knudsen’s tool and used it in comparison with Google and Bit.ly. Brault commended the fact that he could use his own aliases for shortened links as opposed to Goo.gl’s randomly generated set of letters and numbers. While Brault said he may prefer Lickstats to Goo.gl, he did admit that Lickstats was slightly less accurate than Goo.gl when it came to the data that displayed the origin of each link click-through.

“However,” noted Brault, “the tool does the job and even offers some features not offered with Bitly Brand Tools, monitoring conversions and allowing users to analyze the impact of their campaigns without using Google Analytics.”

With some nice press under his belt, Knudsen and his startup seem to have a bright path ahead of them. Naturally, we asked when he’ll be looking to grow the team. He said he’ll be hiring shortly, but it’s not just about bringing a mass of people on.

“We really want to find the right people and I’m taking my time hand-picking them,” said Knudsen. “but it will happen.”

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