URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. It is a string of characters that follows a standard and whose objective is to assign a unique address to each of the resources found on the Internet: to open not only web pages but also images, audios and videos. It allows you to create hyperlinks on the World Wide Web, facilitating Internet browsing. This is where the need to shorten URLs arises so that the link is not too long. We tell you what a URL shortener is, what it is for, its characteristics and the best tools on the market to shorten URLs.
What is shortening a URL?
Shortening a URL is reducing its size. URL shorteners are used for this.
A URL shortener or link shortener is a simple tool that takes a long URL and converts it to the URL you want.
URL shortening is the translation of a long uniform resource locator (URL) into a shortened alternative that redirects to the longest URL. The original URL shortening service was TinyURL, which was launched in 2002 by Kevin Gilbertson to make the links on his unicycle site easier to share. TinyURL is still popular today. Other commonly used URL shorteners include bitly, goo.gl (Google), and x.co (GoDaddy).
The short URL are preferred for several reasons. Long URLs in the text can make the attached message difficult to read, and links can break if they don’t wrap properly. Although most email clients can now handle long URLs correctly, the use and popularity of shortened URLs has increased due to mobile messaging and social media websites, especially Twitter, which has a 140-character restriction. .
Although URL services often provide users with useful features such as the ability to customize short URLs and track traffic, some security analysts caution that using third-party services is simply the addition of another attack vector. Many services are free and do not offer a service level agreement, which means that the user must trust the ability of the service to keep their servers secure.
Additionally, short links do not give the user any clue as to where they lead and can be used to redirect users to infected content. To compensate, some services allow the user to add a special character to the end of the shortened URL. Adding the special character allows the person to hover over the link and preview the page it is pointing to.
Reliability and availability are two more concerns. Even if a service guarantees 99% uptime, there will still be 3.5 days a year that its short links will not work. And as some users have discovered to their dismay, shortened links may no longer work if the service stops working.
What is the use of shortening a URL?
There are several things that a URL shortener does.
Obviously, shortening a URL allows you to mask the original web address.
This is bad for us as consumers in that it allows spammers and hackers to hide malicious links from us. Fortunately, with the security protection features of Chrome and other browsers we no longer have to worry about masking malicious links.
Proper link masking can be when you take a URL of solid content that you want to share and simplify it to represent a key point in your social message.
It’s much easier to share a short, memorable URL than a long one, especially when those long URLs contain random numbers.
Whenever you are sharing a link in a public setting, you should use a link shortening tool to help improve the link and track the number of clicks.
The track links has to be the number one reason to shorten a link. As digital marketers and social media managers, we need to know the fruits of our work.
Here are the main reasons why URL shorteners are useful for the web:
- They make links more manageable: URL shorteners help solve the problem of making links easier to share.
- They can track and compile click data – it shows where customers are coming from, when they are coming, and what interests them. This type of information helps companies to develop better products and webmasters to produce more specific content.
- They can be transformed into social networking services: URL shorteners, in their own way, function as aggregates of information. This can lead to useful innovations in the way people share and assimilate content.
- They can provide users with useful functions: Users can follow links that will provide functions or simply choose those that only have the necessary functionality to access a web page.
- Promote sharing: You can simply put more links and content in less space with URL shorteners.
Characteristics of a good URL shortener
These are the main characteristics to look for in a good URL shortener:
Brand and customize your short links
When evaluating different link shorteners, make sure you can bookmark and customize your URLs. Branding and customizing your links makes them easier to remember and increases engagement. If the link shortener you’re considering doesn’t have the ability to bookmark and personalize links, you’ll miss out on a great feature that can make a significant difference to your business.
Track every link and All links
Effective link tracking and analysis are other “must-have” features of your link shortening solution. A complete tracking system is essential because a click means that someone is engaged with your product or content. Your brand needs to know if social, email, mobile, print or display ads are driving sales.
The best URL shorteners offer a clean and intuitive way to see how your links are performing both individually and as a whole.
Prevent short URLs from affecting SEO
An important factor that is easily overlooked when deciding on a link shortener is whether the short links they create can harm organic search efforts on your website. Some redirects can weaken your website from their page authority, which in turn causes the website to lose organic search traffic. This can be very detrimental to your website traffic and your business.
Short links are 301 redirects, which do not hurt your SEO. Google and other leading search engines will pass the PageRank value to the final destination instead of the Bitlink.
Your link shortener should be integrated into your workflow
Your URL shortener should work the way you work, not the other way around. Integrations and access to your link shortener on any platform are important components of usability.
Mobile deep links
Mobile deep linking is a seamless way to direct mobile users to the best place to view the content they clicked on. This allows you to monitor your mobile customer experiences and directly drive key metrics such as app openings, downloads, and customer satisfaction ratings by leveraging industry-standard mobile deep link functionality.
The URL shortener must be safe and secure
HTTPS connections help make the browsing experience more secure by preventing eavesdropping or manipulation by third parties. Your URL shortener must support HTTPS and other advanced security settings to support corporate or government-mandated security policies, including HSTS support, TLS version restrictions, and strict SSL certificates .
Also, make sure there are steps to prevent bad actors from misusing your link shortener platform.
The best URL shorteners in 2021
Many URL shortening services offer comprehensive tracking tools that allow you to see who clicks your link, where in the world they are, and what language they speak. You can use this information to discern click-through rates, which browser your audience prefers, and from which devices your content is accessed. Some services even allow you to bring your own custom domain name to create your own branded service.
There are many free URL shortening tools . And most URL shorteners have a free level of service, but you often have to pay for additional features, such as metrics and customization. The URL shortening services we mention in this list are reliable and easy to use, and each one stands out as the “best” for a special reason.
snp.is is a free and pro service to shorten URLs that provides companies and businesses with unique, customizable and secure links, as well as analysis for the shortened links.
The main goal is to change the way the Internet interacts with website links by providing secure and customizable short links that can be easily shared and monitored through special analytics algorithms.
All of these services and more are available free and pro.
Users can also create accounts to monitor their custom links and gain access to other powerful tools from the easy-to-use website.
Bit.ly is a full-service enterprise-grade URL shortening tool . If your needs are modest, you can use it anonymously to shorten long URLs and go on your way. But Bit.ly really stands out for its commercial offering. Part of the appeal is that Bit.ly is so simple and easy to use.
It has a complete dashboard where you can track 20+ data points in real time, including your visitor’s location, organic actions, and more. The campaign tracking tools are also easy to use.
With Bit.ly’s free limited account, you can customize the back half of your shortened URLs, track click-through rates, and get insights on their top referrals, but only for 1,000 unbranded links per month. It’s a generous free plan and might very well be suitable for some small businesses.
The Basic plan provides a free custom domain, allows you to create 1,500 links per month, and displays more data on who clicks on your links. If you need more from Bit.ly, there is an additional custom pricing tier for business users.
Bit.ly is the best URL shortener for large businesses looking to bookmark and track links, and is a great option for small businesses who want to generate short URLs and track their stats for a modest number of campaigns.
Google URL Shortener
This Google URL shortening tool stopped working in March 2018.
It offered important advantages. You could access it with your Google account or even without being registered in the tool. What’s more:
- It provided very reliable click-through data similar to that provided by Google Analytics.
- It allowed you to create as many shortened links as you wanted from the same URL and obtain statistics for each of them separately, something that not all shorteners allow you.
- As for the statistics, his are very complete. With them you accessed data from operating systems used by your visits, browsers, places of reference for clicks and countries. In this it did improve a lot, since at the beginning it showed much more basic statistics.
- An important point of the statistics is privacy. In order to access them, you had to register.
It had a mobile app and Google Chrome extension.
The main disadvantage was that it did not allow you to customize the short links.
While Rebrandly is a URL shortener like any other, its appeal is slightly unique. Rebrandly believes that brands, be it a product or a person, derive value from personalizing links to content that references them from all over the web.
Rebrandly includes tools to track the popularity of each link and also the automatic generation of QR codes.
It begins by helping you set up your site’s domain name so that you can use it with every short link you create. But more than that, it comes with features like:
- Link Management – Create quick redirects, QR codes, link expirations, and custom URL slugs for the best user experience. Also, you can create links in bulk to save time.
- Traffic Routing: Enjoy link redirection, emoji links, SEO 301 redirects, and mobile deep links to get the right people accessing your links.
- Analytics – Use the UTM builder, enjoy GDPR privacy, create custom reports to improve campaigns, and even add your company logo to reports to show clients the power you have to help them build their business and expand your audience reach.
- Domain Name Management – Add multiple domain names, encrypt links with HTTPS, and define a primary domain redirect.
- Collaboration: Get your team in the fun of shortening links , enable two-factor authentication, track activity logs, and define user access.
Ideal for buffer users and anyone looking for a simple and effective social media scheduling tool.
Buff.ly is a URL shortener that works within the Buffer social media scheduling tool.
Whenever you paste a link in Buffer while scheduling a social media post, it will be automatically shortened using the Buff.ly domain.
To track link metrics and use a custom branded domain name, you will need to upgrade to the Pro Plan for $ 15 per month and integrate your account with Bitly.
Operating in the online advertising and affiliate program industry since 2009, AdFly is one of the oldest URL shortening programs on the Internet for those looking for a way to monetize links .
Although it has not changed much or diversified its business, the company’s focus has given it a solid position in the field of monetized links and pop ads.
You can directly share the monetized link on some social networks, such as Twitter; Instagram; WhatsApp, which allows you to send this link to friends and to everyone who is online.
Another way to benefit from this shorter URL is for anyone who has a website or blog on the Internet, it is possible to shorten the links within the pages, and you can also use pop ads to earn even more money.
Finally, you can send these URLs by email; SMS; Push notifications, among other digital and physical means. It is up to you to use creativity and a strategy.
Among its characteristics are:
- Introduction to the Android application and the iOS account
- Allows you to customize the link
- Has dynamic domains or allows you to use your own custom domain
- It has a very efficient URL management with folders
- It has a detailed statistics system in each link
- It has advanced tools and features to streamline tasks and improve monetization.
- Works with Pop Ads format which increases the profits of website / blog owners
Karmacracy is a democratic system that measures the audience of people by counting the clicks of the links they share on social networks. When a link is shared, it is replaced by a link to a shortener. All traffic generated through this shortener is linked to the person who created the link; hence, counting kclicks.
Share links on social media via Karmacracy’s URL shortener and receive detailed statistics on the relevance of that content to your audience. Learn how relevant it is to your followers, improve your influence, and meet new people and discover new content along the way.
Karmacracy offers a REST API for programmatic access to Karmacracy services. Use the API to retrieve: user information, Facebook pages, evolution statistics, relevance statistics, domains and more. An API key is required.
The free TinyURL URL shortener has been in the game since 2002, and for good reason. It’s a useful tool for when you’re in a rush and need to create a short link that will never expire.
Ideal for occasional users who need to shorten URLs quickly and easily
IS.GD is another URL shortener that comes in handy when looking for a quick tool to help you shorten the URL . This is definitely one of the fastest URL shorteners out there. All you have to do is enter the URL in the space provided and click the “shorten” button, and voila.
You can also check your link statistics by previewing your page with the preview feature. Links are permanent once they have been created, so you don’t have to worry about them disappearing. Another advantage is that you can customize the links at the end so that they are unique to represent your brand or identity.
In addition to helping you shorten your links, this tool has the ability to create a QR code. As many smartphones have the ability to read QR codes, this can be added to your business cards or announcements, so that those interested can access your links that way too.
Cutt.ly is an easy-to-use URL shortening tool and branded URL link management platform. It allows you to generate a QR code for each short link. You will also get a preview mode and user protection feature to avoid suspicious links. Provides a sortable list of shortened URLs.
And, of course, it is free.
Linkbucks is another URL shortening program that can generate income by sharing links to websites, blogs, forums, and social media sites. If you have a website with a niche of data files, games and mp3 music, you can make money by shortening the download link to linkbuks.
Linkbucks is one of the few URL shortening services that really works. The many options for the user to convince. Especially the webmaster with many outgoing links can generate a good extra income with Linkbucks. By the way: adult websites can use this provider.
BL.INK is a full-featured URL shortening platform that can be used not only to convert long URLs to short ones, but also to track the traffic coming from your links. Its dashboard displays general statistics and trending links, while an analytics page lets you dive into traffic by device, location, and referrals.
You can also break down clicks by time of day. Tags, which you can add to your shortened links, allow you to view your link traffic in new and personalized ways and are perfect for tracking and coordinating campaigns.
BL.INK offers four tiers of paid plans to provide small businesses, teams, and businesses with a variety of options based on the number of links you need to generate and track. Free account holders can generate 1,000 links, track up to 1,000 clicks per link, and create a custom domain to create branded links. If your business needs a full-service URL shortener and Bitly’s enterprise-level plan seems overkill, then BL.INK is one of your best options.
Data is valuable for your knowledge, right? Well, third-party companies are often interested in that information as well, which is why a cottage industry has emerged of companies that actually pay you to cut your ties to them.
Shorte.ST is one of the highest paying link shorteners of the many on the web, with payment rates that vary depending on the geography of your audience.
In addition to hard cash, Shorte.ST offers a comprehensive statistics panel for your review.
Ideal for Hootsuite users and businesses looking for a feature-packed social media management tool.
Ow.ly is a popular link shortening tool that works as part of the Hootsuite social media management application.
Owly allows you to track URL metrics such as referral sources, number of clicks, and location.
You can use the free Hootsuite and Owly plan to manage your social networks and create short links using the Ow.ly domain.
However, to add a custom branded URL, you will need to upgrade to their team plan for $ 99 per month.
SmartURL offers a URL shortening service with a limited free plan and two paid plans, but it comes with many restrictions.
With SmartURL you cannot:
- Add UTM parameters easily and automatically
- Add a custom domain to the free plan
- Connect a custom subdomain
- Get free SSL certificates
- Change the URL destination
- Add Emoji to links
- Create QR codes for links
- Make links optimized for SEO because there is no 301 redirect
One free online URL shortening service is TinyURL has been in the game since 2002, and for good reason. It’s a useful tool for when you’re in a rush and need to create a short link that will never expire.
Yourls, which is an acronym for “your own URL shortener,” is exactly that: a service that runs on its own server. Similar to Polr, Yourls is free and open source. With Yourls, you can choose whether your links will be public or private. It includes bookmarklets , which allow you to convert a long URL to a short one from your web browser with just one click.
By default, the tool generates sequential URLs, but you can change it to create random strings if you prefer. There are also some traffic tracking tools.
Yourls was designed to be lightweight. However, if you want to expand its capabilities, you can install plugins for Yourls or create your own.
T2M is a URL shortening service that includes activity dashboards and traffic tracking statistics. It has two panels, one for location information and one for device and platform, which are well designed and easy to read. When you rotate a URL, T2M also automatically generates a QR code, a nice touch if you need it.
T2M has a limited basic plan that requires a one-time fee to sign up, plus paid subscriptions for those who need more. The free plan does not limit the number of URLs you can generate or the number of clicks you can track.
It also gives you tools to share shortened URLs on social networking sites. The Standard plan is suitable for small businesses: it adds branded and custom URLs, password protected URLs, a tool to shorten a number of URLs at a time (“bulk changer”), the ability to add a custom domain, and some additional benefits .
Higher-tier plans include more features and higher limits on things like the number of URLs you can generate each month and the number of clicks or redirects allowed per month. T2M is a capable URL shortener for businesses that want nice dashboards and automatic QR code generation.
Advantages of shortening the URL and customizing the links
When you want to share a link on social networks , the importance is that the link is not too long and in knowing how many clicks that link receives on the social network where it was shared. URL shorteners will help you with both, but there are many other benefits:
You can get click statistics by shortening a URL: volume, geographic origin, most active users, etc. Essential data to know the effectiveness of the link you shared.
Social media characters are very valuable. Avoid multi-line links by using URL shorteners. In addition, you will have more space in your posts where the use of characters is limited, such as on Twitter.
You can customize a URL
When you replace the random letters and numbers generated by the tools with a call-to-action button to encourage users to do something, you can write a keyword that describes the content of the link. You will offer more information to users and it will look better aesthetically.
You can schedule updates
Once a URL is shortened , you can use it to schedule your social networks at the best time, from the same tools that are used to compress the URL.
Platforms that allow shortening URLs and used format
We highly recommend setting up your own custom URL shortener so that you can track and share branded short links. But for now, let’s go over some of the URL shortening services on the major platforms and discuss what you can do with each of them.
Millions of links are posted on Twitter every day and the platform uses its t.co URL shortening service to help protect users from malicious content. It also helps provide users with participation information.
t.co is actually the ccTLD assigned to Colombia, but it is open for anyone to buy and has become a leading alternative to .com. Many startups and other companies make use of the TLD, and Twitter did a great job choosing a short domain name to use in its URL shortening service.
They are automatically shortened to a link http://t.co. Although this does not affect the actual appearance of your link, it allows Twitter to track link engagement and provide metrics to users.
The t.co shortener also limits a link’s character count to 23, even if they appear much longer. This way, the links won’t subtract too much from the site’s 280 character limit.
Facebook has become a common phrase for me that shows how successful and well-known the social media platform is. Therefore, it was appropriate for Facebook to use fb.me as the basis for its URL shortening service.
Facebook quietly launched the service in 2009 without much of a fuss. While it is not open to the public for URL shortening, there are a couple of ways to make use of fb.me.
You can substitute facebook.com for fb.me to share a page in a more simple and visually appealing way.
Facebook gives you plenty of space to post links before truncating them with a… Allow up to 19 characters in the domain name and 32 characters after the slash. It should also preview what you’re sharing.
Following the trend set by Facebook, Paypal installed its ‘PayPal Me‘ service. For freelancers and online vendors who feel insecure sharing their email address to receive payments, PayPal now allows users to create their own short URL that they can share to organize payment.
The PayPal.me service was launched last December and allows users to create a payment link in the form of paypal.me/YourName. This allows your name or the name of your company to be displayed in the link.
If you sell products on Amazon , you can access an Amzn.to or A.co for each.
You can access a product’s unique short link by clicking share on the product page.
Or you can add the product’s ASIN, which is Amazon’s unique product number, after the .Amzn.to slash.
You can also choose to create branded short links that include your business name when promoting your products in marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, or Ebay.
As URL shortening services come on the platform, Lnkd.in is probably the most intense.
Although the character limit for LinkedIn posts is quite large at 1,300 characters, the social site automatically shortens links that are longer than 26 characters.
This is important to keep in mind if you are using branded links; keep them short or your brand name disappears.
As we mentioned earlier, YouTube also launched its own URL shortener in 2009, YouTu.be, for the purpose of making it clear when a link was leading to the platform.
To make a short link with youtu.be, you just need to put the Youtube video ID of the original video url after youtu.be/