Digital marketing

URL Shortener: review 16 services 

29 July, 2020

Bringing your business to the network, you need to take into account all the nuances, including those that are not much obvious, such as the length of links. It makes little sense to an average user of the network, but a competent reduction of the URL’s length gives a number of advantages. The reduction is performed without human intervention and takes a minimum of time, so you need to spend time only on choosing the appropriate service.

Links are shortened for the following reasons:

  • they look more accurate and are easier to remember;
  • they are easier to quote, especially in social networks, limiting the length of the message (for example, Twitter);
  • they are easier to dictate or type in a message;
  • if a link contains a referral ID, the user can delete it manually. This is impossible with the shortened links;
  • a full link may have words that are automatically blocked by the resource where users will share it. These stop words include, for example, “gambling”, “adult”.

Among the disadvantages, we should highlight only that the services take money for the URL’s shortening and additional functions. However, there are a lot of them, and the competition is high. So you can choose an option for any budget.

How it works

Let’s enumerate the main stages of the link shortening:

  • on the service’s website the user enters a full link in the corresponding field;
  • it is automatically checked for the presence in the database. If it’s there (that is, it was added earlier), the final result, namely a shortened URL, is immediately returned;
  • if the link is not found in the database, the hashing function creates a hash of a specific length;
  • the generated hash is checked against the database. If this shortening has been previously used for another link, the base link is converted again to a different hash. It must be unique;
  • the shortened version is displayed on the screen.

Here is an example of an unshortened link: https://www.blog.google/inside-google/working-google/2019-review-stories-google-year/. It consists of 85 characters, that’s too long. After shortening the same link gains a compact look, like https://bit.ly/3fgcTRm – the length is only 22 characters; it’s four times less than before shortening.

bitly

All these stages are executed instantaneously. The order of operations is given for a better understanding of how such services work.

Risks of URL shortening

There are a couple of nuances that you should be aware of before you start actively making short links:

  • if a service stops operating, its database also becomes inactive. As a result, all the links shortened with the service do not work;
  • services may be blocked in different countries;
  • therefore, hackers can try to redirect the reader to a page with undesirable content. If the link is shortened, then where exactly it leads remains unclear. So the visitor can fall into the trap of the hacker.

Most of the troubles can be avoided if you don’t choose the first service you come across, but choose it according to your needs. Shortening links is worthy, just do it wisely and with an eye to security.

The difference between the services

There are dozens of suggestions on how to make a short link on the network. Though the principle of operation is generally the same, there are still some differences:

  • the price, and availability of the trial period;
  • the need to register — some services suggest that you try making a short link without registration, others require you to create an account first;
  • the ability to work with statistics. You can not only make a short link but also collect traffic statistics from it and then sort the data by traffic source and geographical factor;
  • the ability to work with the API, the availability of expanded instructions;
  • the possibility of branding. It is not enough just to make a short web address of the desired page. In an ideal scenario, you should also adapt it to your brand, and make it recognizable. Some services provide you with this opportunity;
  • the convenience of use. Some services enable you to make short web addresses only through their site. There are options with a button placed on the browser toolbar. All you need to shorten a link is just to click on the button;
  • the availability of a full-fledged Russian-language version. The basic functionality of URL shortening services is clear enough. However, you’ll find it difficult to customize a link and work with the API, if you don’t speak English, and the instructions aren’t available in Russian.

Also, when choosing a URL shortening service, mind the length of its operation. The longer the service is on the market, the more reliable it is and the less likely the project is to close and the database to become unavailable, breaking all your short web addresses.

Best services for creating short links

The list below is not a rating, and the position in it does not reflect the service’s quality. Each of them can be used. In fact, they’ve already proved their usefulness.

Rebrandly — your brand on your links

URL shortener tool 2

Rebrandly is a powerful tool, but to gain full access to all its functionality you will have to pay. There is a free service plan, but it does not allow you to work with reports, and the work with links is limited. As for the charge rate, they suggest that you pay $29, $69, and $499 depending on the selected plan.

Rebrandly supports:

  • flexible configuration of short links, their mass creation, and branding;
  • 301 redirect, this is crucial in SEO;
  • emoji URLs;
  • all the statistics on traffic transitions, segmentation, and other criteria is tracked. You can customize the report creation by including only the necessary parameters in it;
  • connecting multiple team members to the same account.

The powerful training block should be highlighted. The database of materials is regularly updated. If you speak English, you can easily figure out how to work with Rebrandly.

There are no serious disadvantages, except that the service is not translated into Russian and is generally focused on a high-profile client. It’s better for newbies to choose an easier service.

CLickMeter — get the most from your links

URL shortener tool 3

ClickMeter has been running since 2012. Just like Rebrandly, this service is primarily suitable for experienced marketers, not newbies. On ClickMeter you can:

  • make a short web address, adding the desired brand to the name;
  • analyze the users’ actions on the site – watch their behavior. By the way, there’s a division by traffic sources;
  • create up to a hundred subaccounts. You can grant your partners and company employees with access to your account;
  • get a report with your own logo and then send it to the client;
  • set up retargeting.

There is integration with the most popular browsers, a related service Rebrandly, and AdWords. Special attention is paid to fraud protection. As for the statistical data security, they will be available for 3 years with the maximum service plan.

There are 3 service plans that cost $29, $99, $349 per month. If you increase the number of tracked events to the maximum (50 million per month), the maximum service plan will cost you up to $3990 per month. There is no free version, but you’re offered a 30-day money-back guarantee.

The main drawback of the service is the lack of a free version. Let’s point to not the best usability. At first, it’s difficult to navigate. The blog is updated not very often, and this should also be corrected.

Bitly — powerful, recognizable links

bitly2

Bitly is a simpler service compared to the previous two. Bitly enables you to:

  • make a short link for free and without registration. The corresponding fields are located directly on the homepage of the website;
  • create a downloadable QR code for any Bitly link;
  • “brand” short web addresses;
  • choose a domain name;
  • configure the mass creation of short addresses;
  • work with statistics – Bitly can track user behavior, the effectiveness of each link. Moreover, there is segmentation by traffic source and geographical location. Reports are stored for up to 2 years.

There are 3 service plans — a free plan, the one for $29 per month (if you pay for annual access at once), and a customizable one, depending on the client’s needs. As for the limits, the free service plan provides a limited ability to customize the back-half (adding your own word at the end of the link). In addition, the service for selecting a domain name is not available, and the creation of QR codes as well as an array of short web addresses are not supported.

Despite its limitations, Bitly is a great choice for small businesses. You can try creating short links for free and later choose a suitable service plan.

TinyURL — URL that will not break in email postings and never expires

URL shortener tool 5

TinyURL is a simple service that is more suitable for ordinary people and small businesses. Links can be customized. You can configure the transition to any page of the website. Moreover, it is possible to activate a try-out before switching to TinyUrl. TinyURL is free. You don’t have to register to use the service.

This service for creating short web addresses is not very convenient for large businesses. There is no automation of the process, and the statistics data are not tracked as on Rebrandly or ClickMeter.

Zapier — connect your apps and automate workflows

zapier

Zapier supports integration with 1500+ popular Internet services and applications. Zapier releases the user from the routine of transferring the same content between different services.

A custom tool for creating short links enables you to:

  • customize the short address;
  • automatize their creation. One of the scenarios is that when publishing a new blog post, the service can create a short link to it without your participation and place it on another resource.

Regarding the prices, there is a free service plan, in addition to the options to pay $19,99, 49$, $299, $499. The tool for creating short links is included in all the service plans. New clients get 14-day free access to the professional service plan.

Among the disadvantages, we’ll specify the lack of deep analytics and report generation. Zapier is primarily a tool for automatization of the content transfer between web services and applications.

Bl.ink — short links that click

blink

Bl.ink is focused on business. That’s why, in addition to URLs shortening, there are also good analytical capabilities. To the specific features of Bl.ink we refer:

  • the ability not only to make a short web address but also to brand it. You can immediately choose a free domain name and take it as the basis of a short link;
  • smart link – Bl.ink creates short addresses not out of a meaningless set of characters, but of the words characterizing the content on the page;
  • tracking statistics of clicking on links with various filters; integration with other analytical services (Google, Adobe);
  • integration with Zapier;
  • a separate browser extension;
  • no restrictions on redirects;
  • connecting up to 50 users to an account (relevant for large teams).

They provide 5 service plans. There is a free one with restrictions on the number of web addresses and statistics gathering. Other service plans require users to pay $12, $99, $299, $599 per month. After registration, you get 21 days of free access. You can customize the service plan.

Emoji links are not supported here and the free plan has quite strict restrictions.

T2M — shortening your URL

URL shortener tool 8

In addition to creating short links, T2M concentrates on analytics and statistics gathering. To the specific features of T2M we refer:

  • personalization and branding;
  • automatic creation of QR codes;
  • password protected URLs;
  • ability to share short web addresses in social networks in one click;
  • gathering of statistics on clicks, dividing the information by the type of device, time of the click, the position of the user;
  • support for the 404 redirect;
  • ability to create an array of short links;
  • access to the API.

There are 5 service plans with a monthly payment of $5, $9,99, $29,99, $89,99, and the option to configure the plan. If you don’t like the T2M functionality, you can get your money back within 30 days.

The functionality is on par with Rebrandly and ClickMeter. Only emoji links are not supported, but this is not crucial for business.

Branch — supercharge your mobile growth

branch

Branch positions itself as a company specializing in “deep links” and the mobile component of the online business on the Web. It assures that the web addresses are not lost when adapting content to mobile devices, and the user gets all the necessary content.

Branch allows you to brand links, supports redirect, gathers statistics on clicks, and provides the possibility of its comprehensive analysis.

The division by service plans depends on the MAU (monthly active users). If there are up to 10000 MAUs, the use of the service is free. If there are up 10000-50000 MAUs, it costs $59 per month. $5 is charged for every 1000 MAUs in excess of the maximum number set by the service plan. If the number of MAUs exceeds 50,000 per month, the prices are negotiated individually.

Among the disadvantages, we should highlight not the best usability. The interface can not be called friendly. If in other services it is enough to copy the URL, paste it in the appropriate field and click on the “make a short link” button, here you’ll first have to study the manual.

Sniply — add a call-to-action to every link you share

URL shortener tool 10

Sniply stands out for its focus on collecting contact data. Sniply allows you to make a short link. When the user clicks on it, they are shown the content of the desired site in an iFrame, and a CTA element is displayed on top of it. This approach is controversial — on the one hand, it is good for collecting data, but on the other hand, this method can make the user angry and you will lose them forever.

Features of Sniply:

  • adding CTA elements;
  • ability to choose a domain name and brand the link;
  • gathering statistics on clicks and conversion analysis;
  • A/B testing;
  • integration with Zapier, Buffer, HootSuite and other services;
  • access to the API.
  • ability to add Image Snip. By clicking on it, the user will be redirected to the desired page.

Sniply provides a free plan with a limit of 1000 clicks per month. After exceeding this number, the CTA will not appear until the next month.

There are paid service plans — $29, $79, $149 and $299 per month. Provided that you’re registered, a trial period is given to you so that to familiarize yourself with the Sniply functionality.

The main flaws of Sniply are related to rather aggressive work with CTA elements. As for analytics, it is not bad, but it is primarily focused on studying conversions.

Hyperlink — give your links superpower

hyperlink

Hyperlink is a tool that does not limit customers in the number of short links, even in a free service plan. Other features of Hyperlink:

  • distributing PUSH notifications when the user goes to the page by clicking on a short link. You can set the distribution of statistics for an hour, day, or week;
  • link branding;
  • the Standard and Enterprise service plans offer free domain names;
  • automatic QR code generation;
  • availability of a browser extension and apps for mobile devices;
  • statistics gathering in real-time mode.

The free plan does not limit the number of created and tracked short links. The Standard service plan costs $9 per month if you pay for annual access and conditions of the Enterprise plan are discussed individually.

It’s inconvenient that the service enables no automatic creation of an array of short web addresses. If you have a large number of links, it will take longer to shorten them.

Clicky.me — it’s not just another URL shortener

URL shortener tool 12

Clicky.me works in conjunction with the Clicky Web Analytics service. Due to this, you can track all important statistics on clicks.

Features of Clicky.me:

  • detailed statistics gathering;
  • customization of short links with consideration of the domain name;
  • access to the API.
  • availability of a browser extension.

You can register on Clicky.me only if you have a paid account on Clicky Web Analytics. The monthly access will cost you $9.99, and the annual access – $79.99.

Clicky.me is a good service, but it does not provide a free version, which may scare off newbies. Another dubious solution is a hard connection to Clicky Web Analytics, without which it is impossible to reduce web addresses.

YOURLS — your own URL shortener

yourls

YOURLS is a rather specific tool, suitable for those who have at least a little experience in programming.

Features of YOURLS:

  • link branding. You will have to choose a domain name through third-party services;
  • configuring the link type. You can create a short web address with only uppercase letters;
  • statistics is maintained for clicks, traffic source, and the geographical location of the site user.

YOURLS is an opensource project created by enthusiasts. You’re not asked to pay so that to use it.

Regarding the weak points, the service is inconvenient to use “out-of-box”, you will have to tinker with the settings. There are a lot of materials on GitHub, but they are not adapted for the average user, clueless about programming.

Bit.do — share links and track clicks

URL shortener tool 14

Bit.do is a very simple service, though, it has good functionality. In addition to shortening links, it enables you to gather statistics on clicks.

Features of Bit.do:

  • ability to customize the links. All you need is just to add your own word in the “Customize your short link” field and Bit.do will create a short web address based on this word;
  • automatically generated QR code, what’s important for mobile devices;
  • paid service plans provide for creating an array of short links with a single click;
  • ability to connect multiple users to your account;
  • grouping web addresses by category.

There are 2 service plans — $85 and $250 per month. The first one involves gathering statistics up to 30,000 clicks per month, the second one – up to 200,000 clicks.

The main flaw of the service is the relatively small number of clicks on which statistics is gathered. Another weak point is the website design. It’s oversimplified. It would do no harm to make information about Bit.do features more prominent.

LiveChat — connect to customers to grow your business

livechat

LiveChat is a tool focused on work with chats. Its own link shortening service is a rather nice complement to other functionality.

LiveChat features of link shortening:

  • ability to convert spaces to the underscore characters;
  • availability of the option to convert all characters to uppercase ones;
  • ability to add UTM tags, which will allow you to gather statistics on visits via short links;
  • ability to gather statistics.

URL shortening on the site is free of charge. If you need other features, you will have to pay $19, $39 or $59 per month. They provide a 14-day trial period and individual pricing.

Livechat URL shortener is not suitable for large businesses. There is no such a depth of analytics that Rebrandly and ClickMeter have. Besides, it is not possible to create an array of short links here.

Is.gd — compress that address

URL shortener tool 16

Is.gd is one of the simplest tools that enables you to make a short link in a couple of clicks. They provide for statistics gathering.

Characteristics of Is.gd:

  • possibility to limit the type of short link to only uppercase letters (in standard mode, uppercase and lowercase letters are mixed) in the settings;
  • option to create easy-to-pronounce short links. The algorithm builds a short version so that it is convenient to say it out loud;
  • option to gather basic statistics on clicks;
  • 301 redirect is supported;
  • links are stored without a time limit.

This is a completely free tool. You don’t have to register to use it.

In comparison with similar tools, Is.gd loses by its analytical capabilities. Moreover, there is no option to create an array of links. Therefore, it is not suitable for large businesses. Its audience is businesses that have just gone online and ordinary users.

Surl.li — easy way to make a link short with lots of advantages

url shortener tools 002

Surl.li is a tool focused on work with hosting. Its own link shortening service is a rather nice complement to other functionality.

Surl.li features of link shortening:

  • really short URLs – just 3-4 characters like surl.li/ххх;
  • full statistics on the surl.li/ххх+ link;
  • possibility to contact the Support in case of need;
  • since the service is owned by a hosting company, there is no need to monetize it. Thus. all the functions are free.

Summary

If we consider the technical side of URL shortening, the process is very simple — insert the web address in the appropriate field and get a short link in a second. Such services differ in the price and the set of auxiliary functions. Be sure to consider these criteria when choosing a service.

From a business point of view a link shortening tool should:

  • be able to create arrays of short URLs in one click;
  • gather statistics and generate reports;
  • hold links for a long time;
  • support 301 redirects;
  • create QR codes. Since the mobile component is important, the QR code will not be superfluous;
  • enable link branding.

Options such as short links built out of emoticons or the ability to buy a domain are rather auxiliary functions.