Ain’t nobody got time for URLs like this:
You gotta keep it tight:
Ah, now that’s better.
Do you like knowing how many people click on your links? And where those visitors live, as well as where those clicks came from?
Because the best URL shorteners can give you all of that information and more.
You can use them to improve your marketing efforts and provide a better experience for your customers and social media followers.
In this article, you’ll learn all about URL shorteners, including which ones are most suitable for your specific needs.
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What exactly is a “URL”?
“URL” stands for “Uniform Resource Locator,” and it’s a way of identifying the location of a file on the internet.
Is a URL the same as a domain name?
Well, no—although, the terms are often confused and used interchangeably. A domain name is just one part of a URL. The image below shows the difference:
What is a URL shortener?
A URL shortener is a digital tool that enables you to take a long link and create a new, shorter one that takes people to the same location.
These days, most link shorteners allow you to track your link metrics.
However, if you just need a shorter link, using a free URL shortener couldn’t be easier.
How to shorten a link
Let’s take a quick look at how to shorten a URL using a tool like Bit.ly.
- Copy your long link to your clipboard.
- Go to Bit.ly.
- Paste or write your link into the box provided.
4. Click “Shorten.
5. Copy your new short link to your clipboard to paste elsewhere.
To make shortening links possible, many URL shorteners have short domain names themselves, such as Bit.ly and IS.GD.
Many also allow you to create short links with your own customized URL. We’ll cover these in more detail below.
Why should you use a URL shortener?
Let’s dig into some reasons why you should be using a URL shortener.
First, URL shorteners make it easier to share and manage long URLs. This is especially true when sharing URLs on micro-blogging platforms, or in mobile messaging applications.
Next, URL shorteners can help you avoid excessively long and confusing URLs or any that contain jumbles of letters and numbers.
What’s more, you can use a custom URL shortener to create a memorable, branded URL.
Benefits of having a shortened URL
Shortened links are much easier to read, memorize, and type. This makes them particularly useful when sharing URLs in any form of print advertising, such as posters, flyers, magazines, or business cards.
Plus, branded short links receive up to 39% more clicks compared to generic short URLs.
These branded short links also have another key benefit.
Unfortunately, URL shorteners are often used by spammers to hide the URL destination. That way, unsuspecting people are more likely to click on them.
However, by branding your short URLs, you can avoid being perceived as a spammer.
For example, Condé Nast Traveler uses Rebrandly to create its own custom short links with the domain “cntrvler.co,” as seen in the image below.
As long as your custom short URL domain relates to your brand and is used regularly, people will trust your links.
Lastly, a lesser-known benefit of URL shortening is the ability to track how your audience engages with your links.
Modern URL shorteners provide access to a host of metrics and insights marketers can use to review and improve their campaigns.
For instance, Bitly’s Enterprise dashboard provides numerous metrics, including:
- Total clicks
- Bitlinks created
- Total unique clicks
- Clicks per unique
- Bitly network clicks
- Bitly network links
- Top Bitlinks
- Bitly network top content
- Top referrers
- Top locations
9 best URL shorteners to use
There are tons of great URL shorteners out there, each with a wide range of features. Here’s a quick overview of 10 popular link shorteners.
Best for: Businesses of all sizes.
Bitly is considered the best URL shortener because of its ease of use.
As shown above, anyone can use Bitly anonymously to create as many short links as they like.
The free account allows you to create up to 10 bit.ly URLs per month. Plus, it lets you create a Bitly-branded link-in-bio page, where you can showcase all of your most important links.
Paid plans are available and start from around $8 per month. These allow you to create as many short links as you like and access detailed analytics reports.
Bitly also integrates with many other services, such as Zapier and TweetDeck.
Best for: Small businesses focused on branding.
Rebrandly is a URL shortener that focuses on helping businesses generate custom URL slugs.
They help you to set up a new domain to use for short URLs in minutes. Alternatively, they can help you to set up your current website domain name to use with your short URLs.
Their free plan allows you to create and track up to 25 branded links, using one custom domain. For additional link management features, premium accounts are available from $13 per month.
Rebrandly also integrates with many other services, such as Buffer and Zapier.
Best for: Large businesses.
ClickMeter is Rebrandly’s sister company and is aimed at enterprise-level businesses looking for more technical features than Rebrandly provides.
One of Clickmeter’s key selling points is that it offers conversion tracking—a feature that not many URL shorteners provide.
Plus, you get all the other link management features, including broken links monitoring and clicks and conversion tracking.
Clickmeter plans start at $29 per month.
4. Pretty Links
Best for: Affiliate marketers, bloggers, and influencers.
Pretty Links makes it easy to manage your affiliate and social links.
Once installed, it provides easy access to all your links, right from your website’s admin area.
Plus, you can create custom branded URLs as well as search, group, and track clicks for your links.
For these reasons, Pretty Links is the ideal choice for affiliate marketers and bloggers looking to improve the customer experience.
Pretty Links’ plans start at $8.29 per month, billed annually.
Best for: Casual users in need of a quick and easy-to-use URL shortener.
TinyURL was one of the first to offer link shortening—back when Facebook and smartphones weren’t yet around.
Over the years, this tool has been updated to include features like link management, URL customization, and custom domains.
TinyURL is extremely simple to use. Once you’ve created an account, you can manage your shortened URLs from the TinyURL dashboard. Premium users can also see their link history and measure how their short URLs build their brand awareness.
TinyURL offers a free basic version of its tool that lets you shorten, customize, and track links. Pro plans start at $9.99 per month, billed annually.
Best for: Creating and hosting your own URL shortener.
Polr is an open-source project that allows anyone with the technical know-how to create and host their own link shortener.
You can use Polr as it is, or customize it to your individual needs—it’s written in PHP and Lumen, using MySQL. (If that sentence looks like Greek to you, then maybe pass on Polr.)
If you just want to test out the basic interface, Polr offers a demo page.
Best for: Casual users in need of a quick and easy-to-use URL shortener.
Is.gd is another handy tool for creating a shortened link for your website, social media page, or YouTube channel. This is definitely one of the fastest URL shorteners out there. All you have to do is enter the URL in the given space, click the Shorten button, and you’re done.
You can also check your link’s statistics by using the preview feature. Links are permanent once they’ve been created, so you don’t have to worry about them disappearing. Another plus is that you can customize the links at the end to make them unique to represent your brand or identity.
As well as helping you shorten your links, this tool has the ability to create a QR code. Since many smartphones have the ability to read QR codes, they can be added to your business cards or advertisements so those interested can get to your links that way as well.
Oh, and this link shortener is completely free!
Best for: Hootsuite users and businesses looking for a feature-packed social media management tool.
Ow.ly is a popular URL shortener that works as part of Hootsuite’s social media management application.
Ow.ly lets you track URL metrics, such as referral sources, number of clicks, and location.
You can use Hootsuite and Ow.ly’s free plan to manage your social media and create short links using the Ow.ly domain.
However, to add a custom-branded URL, you’ll need to upgrade to the team plan for $249 per month.
9. URL Short Link Generator
Best for: Shopify users.
If you run an ecommerce store on Shopify, it can be a pain to manage all of your links in a third-party application.
Instead, check out URL Short Link Generator by Identix Web. This app helps you create and track short URLs from within your Shopify dashboard.
What Happened to Google’s URL Shortener Goo.gl?
What Happened to the Google URL shortener Goo.gl?
You might be wondering why we haven’t included Goo.gl in this list. In 2019, Google completely disabled the URL shortener and all user link data was lost.
Why did Google shut down Goo.gl?
Google wanted to redirect (get it?) its efforts to Firebase Dynamic Links (FDL), which were created to replace deep links.
What are deep links?
A deep link is a smart URL that is supposed to send users to any location within an iOS, Android, or web application.
Unfortunately, most deep links have problems.
For example, the same link might not work across iOS and Android devices. Or the link might not survive the app installation process.
Google’s Firebase Dynamic Links solve these problems. Watch the video below to learn more:
Simply put, Firebase Dynamic Links are the future of linking.
So, should you use Firebase Dynamic Links?
Well, if you just need a simple URL shortener to use online, and you don’t need links to work in mobile and web apps, then save yourself the hassle and leave FDLs for the time being.
However, if you want your links to survive in the complex world of mobile and web apps, definitely take a look at Firebase Dynamic Links.
How to create customized branded short links
Now that you have all the basics covered, let’s take a closer look at how to set up and create custom branded short links using Rebrandly.
Step 1: Setup a custom domain name
To start, head to Rebrandly’s website and click Sign Up Now.
Then, select the free plan and create an account. You’ll need to confirm your email address before you can access the dashboard.
Next, click “Add a branded domain.”
If you don’t already have a website with your own URL, Rebrandly will help you to set one up.
Just type in desired domain names to see if they’re available. When you find one you like, follow Rebrandly’s instructions.
Many domain registrars take a few days to register a new domain, but Rebrandly is fast. It allows you to purchase a new domain name and connect it, and within 15 minutes share links using the URL.
If you already have a website and a domain name you want to use, there are a few extra steps you need to take.
First, click “Setup DNS.”
Then, type in your website domain name.
Next, Rebrandly will ask you if your domain name is “spare ”—this means it’s not being used for your blog or website.
If you’re using your domain name already, you’ll need to create a new subdomain name by adding a prefix, such as “go.”
Once you’ve done this, you’ll need to log in to your domain registrar dashboard. This will be whoever you bought your domain from (i.e., GoDaddy, HostGator, Register, Bluehost, etc.).
Then, you’ll need to configure your DNS records to add your new subdomain and connect it with Rebrandly.
Unfortunately, registering an existing domain can take up to 24 hours. Rebrandly will email you when it’s done so you can add your domain to your Rebrandly workspaces.
If you need any help along the way, simply follow these instructions.
Step 2: Create a custom branded URL
Once you’ve set up your domain name, it’s easy to create a new short link. Just click New Link and paste in the link you want to shorten.
On the left, you can use the “Branded domain” drop-down menu to select your custom domain, or just use the rebrand.ly domain for now.
You can also customize the URL slash-tag to avoid a jumble of random letters and numbers.
Then, click “Create link.”
What are the benefits of using a URL shortener?
To summarize, here are some of the main benefits of using a URL or link shortener.
- It looks better: To start with the obvious, a URL shortener or link shortener can help your link look more visually appealing. A shorter link looks cleaner and more trustworthy than a longer one, especially when the links are customized.
- It helps you track performance: URL shorteners provide the additional benefit of helping you track your performance. Most link shorteners give you analytical data that will help you understand the success of your links. By knowing this, you can understand better what your audience is engaging with, and adjust your marketing strategies accordingly.
- It uses fewer characters: In a place where there are a limited number of characters to use, a link shortener can help you squeeze in the URL you want to share, without burdening yourself with those extra characters. For instance, on Twitter, where you have 280 characters to share your tweet, the last thing you want is to be using up those characters with a long link.
- Higher click-through rate: On social media platforms people are more familiar with shortened links. They trust shorter links more, and as a consequence are more likely to click on a shorter link in comparison to a longer one. Simply by changing your long links to shorter ones, you could be improving the effectiveness of your social media strategy.
- Easier to share: Whether you are adding them to an email or a personal message, it’s so much easier to share a short link than a long one.
Using a link shortener to improve your customer experience
There’s more to URL shorteners than meets the eye.
Sure, shorter links are more user-friendly than their longer counterparts, but more than that, the ability to track link metrics is an opportunity no savvy marketer can afford to pass up.
Remember, ideally, you’ll want to use custom branded URLs.
Branded URLs generate more trust and receive high click-through rates. Plus, they prevent users from thinking your links may be spam.
When choosing a URL shortener, there are a lot of options out there. Here’s a quick summary of our link shortener recommendations for various purposes:
- Bit.ly: Best for enterprise-level businesses.
- Rebrandly: Best for small businesses focused on branding.
- ClickMeter: Best for large businesses.
- Pretty Links: Best for affiliate marketers, bloggers, and influencers.
- TinyURL: Best for casual users in need of a quick and easy-to-use URL shortener.
- Polr: Best for creating and hosting your own link shortener.
- Is.gd: Best for casual users in need of a quick and easy-to-use URL shortener.
- Ow.ly: Best for Hootsuite users and businesses looking for a feature-packed social media management tool.
- URL Short Link Generator: Best for ecommerce businesses and Shopify users.
Did we miss any great URL shorteners on our list? Which link shortener do you use and why? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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