URLs are ugly.
Hyperlinks are one way to conceal its unsightly aesthetic.
But if you need to display a URL for branding and marketing purposes, share a link on social media or directly with your customers, and want your URL to look more “cute” than unpleasant, you can use a link shortener.
The added bonus is that most link shorteners offer many additional features for managing a growing library of links, tracking traffic, and measuring the ROI of your campaigns.
In this post, we’ll show you the reasons why you should use link shorteners and the top 6 link shorteners you can use immediately.
But first, let’s define a link shortener.
What Is a Link Shortener?
A URL shortener, at its most basic, reduces a long URL into a much shorter one.
Link shorteners go by many names: a vanity URL creator, link compressor, URL condenser, link shrinker, or URL shortener.
Why Should You Use a Link Shortener?
Link shorteners should be added to your toolbox for a few reasons:
1. Easier to Share
Which URL is easier to share and has a higher likelihood of being clicked.
The longest URL in the world:
Or its shortened version (using one of the link shortening tools you’ll see in a moment):
While most links are nowhere near that unruly, there’s no denying the attractive simplicity of a URL after using a link shortener.
Shrinking the URL makes it easier to share on social media, especially when you have to keep your messages to a certain character count as on Twitter.
2. Track and Record Engagement Data
While there are many tools that simply shorten links and offer no other functions, a new wave of full-featured link shorteners are now widely available. These tools provide click data such as the geographic location of the users clicking the links, clickthrough rates, and the device they were using.
These deeper analytics are essential for running successful, targeted social media marketing campaigns online.
3. They’re Always Getting Better
Link shorteners started simple and have steadily evolved since their conception in 2000.
There are options for every type of business available.
You can just shorten a link.
You can track a few metrics.
Or you can use an entire platform to run increasingly complex marketing campaigns, collecting as much data available on your users.
If you think you don’t need a link shortener now, it’s probably only a matter of time before they become even more powerful tools that you can’t ignore.
Of course, if you know you need a good link shortener, the following list will give you plenty to choose from.
The 6 Best Link Shorteners
Bit.ly is one of the most well-known and used link shorteners on this list.
You can visit the site and shorten a link for sharing immediately, but it comes with many more professional features for marketing and branding.
Instead of using “bit.ly” in the shortened URL, you can swap it with your brand’s URL to instill trust in your audience, boost clicks, match everything with your brand. According to Bit.ly, this feature alone could increase click-throughs by 34%.
You can also change the destination of URLs with a Bit.ly shortened link. This is especially helpful if you need to correct an error or update an expired link.
Bit.ly provides you with a detailed dashboard to see all the relevant metrics for your shortened links. Click-through rates, channel stats, geographic information of the people clicking on your links, and more than 20 data points are presented to help you make data-driven decisions.
Plus, Bit.ly integrates with over 700 other apps for scaling and automating your workflow.
As an added bonus, Bit.ly encrypts every link with HTTPS to guard against third-party tampering and eavesdropping.
There’s no doubt that Bit.ly is one of the finest link shorteners with enough features to satisfy any power user.
Ow.ly is a link shortener offered by the social media platform HootSuite and is available with a HootSuite account.
Ow.ly lives inside the HootSuite dashboard and lets you “shorten links, measure traffic, and demonstrate social ROI.”
You can integrate Ow.ly shortened links with the social media accounts connected to Hootsuite.
Hootsuite is one of the best platforms for managing your social media presence and ROI, and Ow.ly meshes well with its other features.
You can plan the content you’re going to publish and use Ow.ly to create links for your content that you can track and measure for best-results on your campaigns.
Ow.ly may not have all the most robust features, but if you’re already using (or thinking about using) Hootsuite, you’ll get a lot of good use from this tool.
Bl.ink is another robust link shortener that provides a lot of data about your links and many advanced features, including the ability to edit the keywords in your link rather than having a random string of characters.
Their goal is to help you manage, monitor, and measure every single touchpoint in your audience’s engagement journey. Bl.ink measures what’s happening with your link engagement in real-time so you can stay on top of the traffic and engagement you create.
Bl.ink has 5 different plans for every size business and marketing campaign. As your links, teams, and goals grow, Bl.ink scales with you.
Bl.ink guarantees that each link meets the most stringent requirements for data privacy and security for total peace of mind when sharing links containing sensitive information.
Thanks to its open API, Bl.ink provides access to native integrations with platforms like Khoros and Sprinklr while allowing you to connect to thousands of other tools using third-party software like Zapier and Zoho Flow.
And if you ever need help or are confused about the tool, they provide prompt and friendly customer service.
Bl.ink is good for the casual user and Enterprises alike.
Rebrand.ly is a complete platform for managing and branding your links, with over 250,000 customers using the tool daily.
It’s especially useful for teams because it lets you setup folders where members of your team can connect and collaborate with many sets of branded links.
Rebrand.ly lets you manage many different sets of domains and even exercise control over specific link paths, like error 404 traffic.
All the analysis for your branded links can be organized into customizable reports that are easily scheduled and shared.
Rebrand.ly provides many advanced features, such as the ability to redirect traffic from a certain link to specific landing pages based on their location, device, browsing language, and many other factors.
With so many options for managing your shortened links, it can be overwhelming to use the tool. But Rebrand.ly built their app with the non-tech savvy in mind, and also offers outstanding customer support and onboarding if you ever get a bit confused.
Cuttly is one of the most feature-rich and free link shorteners with an advanced tracking system for your URLs.
You can quickly create shortened links and Cuttly allows you to change the URL name into your own custom name.
You can turn shortened links into QR codes with the QR code button, saving the code as a .PNG file for you to print and use anywhere offline, including on flyers.
The link shortener never lets your URLs expire and never displays ads to traffic during a redirect to the original URL.
Cuttly also comes with many real-time data analytics and measurements to ensure your URLs are performing the way you want them to. You’ll also receive data about social media clicks, devices and browsers used when clicking your link, geolocation of traffic following your links, and much more.
You’ll see if a link was clicked on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, LinkedIn, etc. in addition to SMS messages, emails, direct links, and many other sources of traffic.
Cuttly will even show you the Operating System used by the traffic clicking your link.
If you’re looking for a free link shortener with plenty of advanced functionality, Cuttly is the tool for you.
Beyond Link Shorteners: Why “Shortening” Your Communication With Your Team Improves Productivity
The big idea behind link shortening is that it helps you communicate more effectively and quickly.
This same principle can be applied to other forms of communication.
Long emails and long meetings can often hurt your message, cause confusion, and decrease productivity.
Humans are visual creatures.
We prefer, and better understand visual communication.
CloudApp helps everyone in your company communicate with each other faster and easier.
Product managers can quickly send A and B options for decision-makers to decide between with screenshots or videos, ask for changes using annotations, and provide clear instruction with GIFs.
Executives and managers in other departments can provide quick feedback on projects by recording webcam videos.
Product Marketers can use CloudApp to screenshot performance metrics, communicate revisions, and quickly provide essential feedback.
CloudApp makes collaboration fun and easy while reducing miscommunication and mistakes.
We bring HD screen and webcam recording, and GIF creation to the cloud in an easy-to-use, enterprise-grade app so you can quickly create and share visual content with automatically-generated share links.
No more multi-paragraph emails or unnecessary team meetings.
CloudApp is used by over 3 million people and is trusted by top companies such as Uber, Salesforce, and Adobe.
We’ve been ranked by G2 Crowd as one of the top sales enablement tools and we continue to help companies improve communication with all of our solutions.
We believe fast and easy collaboration is a great thing, not only for your bottom line, but for your company culture as well.
And we make it easy for teams like yours to:
- Save Time
- Communicate More Clearly
- Grab Attention
- Personalize Content
- Engage Customers
And so much more.