A good URL shortener lets you do two things
- Share links that don’t use too many characters
- Track performance metrics for those links.
For a while, the number one tool for this was Google’s URL shortener. But alas, all good things must come to an end.
Google officially killed the service in March 2019 (though links using the URL shortener still direct to the pages they’re supposed to).
So, where to go for your URL shortening needs now?
Below we’ve compiled a list of the 10 best URL shorteners to try besides the Google link shortener.
But first, let’s take a look at why you need a URL shortener in the first place.
Why you should use a URL shortener
There are five great reasons why you should use a URL shortener when sharing links…
1. Long, unruly links look suspicious
It’s easy to let your URL length get away from you, resulting in a jumbled mess of letters and numbers that just screams “SPAM.”
Your links can especially get unruly if you have a bunch of UTM tracking code information in it.
While it’s great that you’re tracking your social media analytics, your link ends up looking incredibly scammy as a result. This will make people much less likely to click on it and directly impact your metrics. This is where a good URL shortener comes in. You can hide all of that tracking information while providing your target audience with a solid user experience.
2. A custom URL shortener lets you brand your links
One of your most important metrics is brand awareness. This is the amount of attention your brand gets across different platforms like social media.
That means you’re going to want to seize every opportunity to put your brand in front of as many eyes as possible—including your URL short link.
Some URL shorteners allow you to customize your short link (including some below). This can help you subtly promote and spread your brand and increase brand awareness.
Here’s a good example of a branded shortened link in the New York Times’ Twitter bio.
3. Link shorteners allow you to track performance
Plenty of URL shorteners will include tools that allow you to track the link’s performance. This is crucial for any marketing campaign.
If you want to ensure the success of any future marketing efforts as well as calculate the campaign’s ROI, you need to know how well the link performed.
And when you combine this with other analytics tools like Google Analytics, you’re going to be primed for marketing success.
4. They save space and save you from strict character limits
Is there anything more frustrating than crafting an awesome social media post—only to find that you’ve gone past the character limit by a few letters?
Luckily, a good URL shortener can help you save space with your post. This allows you to squeeze in a few more words or hashtags in order to help spread your brand.
10 URL shorteners to try besides the Google link shortener
Bottom line: URL shorteners are great for your brand and your audience.
Now that you know why you should be using a URL shortener, let’s jump into a few good ones you can use.
- Twitter URL shortener
Owly is Hootsuite’s own URL shortener, and it’s included in every Hootsuite plan type, including our free version.
The link shortener leverages the power of the world’s most popular social media platform manager in order to track your metrics for success. Hootsuite’s built-in analytics tools will also give you everything you need to know about your link’s performance.
Hootsuite’s paid plans start at $29 per month but they of course also include all the social media management tools that the platform is known for.
Did you know that Twitter already comes with its own built-in URL shortener? That’s right. Any link you include in Twitter will automatically shorten to 23 characters regardless of its actual length. So even if the URL is shorter than 23 characters it will still count as 23.
If you have a long URL, though, this will save precious character space for that extra hashtag or words in your tweet.
This link shortening service is known as t.co and any user sharing a link will share it with t.co. That’s right. You can’t opt out of it so Twitter can record metrics regarding the links while also protecting users from potentially dangerous ones..
Bitly allows you to track your link’s performance on their robust dashboard that’ll show you metrics like clicks, geographic and demographic data, as well as top referring channels.
Currently, if you create a free account with Bitly, you can create up to 500 branded short URLs and 10,000 unbranded URLs. A premium subscription starts at $29 per month and includes even more branded links—and the potential to add more users on your account.
Rebrandly is a fantastic URL shortener for creating branded links with a custom domain you can purchase directly on the link shortening platform. Not only that, but you can also track vital metrics such as click-throughs, frequent clicking times, as well as demographic data—all from one handy dashboard.
Premium subscriptions for Rebrandly start at $29 per month and include 25,000 clicks tracked per month, 5,000 branded links, and 5 custom domains.
Created in 2002, TinyURL is an incredibly popular URL shortener with more than a billion redirects each month. The service is completely free and anonymous to use. However, it does come at a cost: There’s no analytics data attached to the links.
So if you want to take a look at vital performance metrics, you’re going to want to make sure you have a UTM tracking code on the link you’re shortening and that you’re tracking it with a platform like Google Analytics.
SmallSEOTools offers a spartan URL shortener that compresses your link into a short unbranded URL. Like TinyURL, it’s completely free and anonymous. However, there’s no additional features like metric or demographic tracking.
It’s great for when you need to generate a simple, short URL in a pinch.
Bl.ink is a Zapier-supported URL shortener tool with plenty of tools to track vital metrics such as referring pages, click-through-rates, devices, and demographic data.
Premium subscriptions start at $12 per month and that comes with 10,000 links, 7,500 clicks-per-link, unlimited custom domains, as well as three users to an account.
Sniply is a very unique addition to this list. Not only does the service shorten links, but every link will also include a call-to-action on it (see below).
Caption: A call-to-action button is included in the bottom left side with each Sniply link.
That’s right. If you share a link to a third-party website, you can still include a call-to-action on it that redirects to anything you want— a landing page, sales page, or back to the original article from which you linked it.
A great feature for boosting conversion rates.
Prices start at $29 per month and includes 5,000 clicks a month and two brand profiles on the account.
A very useful URL shortener with features like analytics, branded domains, and easy integration into any website.
One interesting thing to note about Clkim is the ability to create interstitial ads. That means you can monetize any link you want to shorten as well.
The advertisements are easily customizable with the ability to target by platform and demographics, as well as adblock fallbacks.
Prices start at $10 per month—but it comes with a 14 day free trial to dip your toes in. Definitely worth a try if only for the interstitial ads alone.
A sister website to Rebrandly, Clickmeter offers similar features but with an even more robust set of tools to analyze and optimize your short links. It also comes with the ability to track conversion rates all on the Clickmeter dashboard.
Prices for Clickmeter start out at $29 per month and that includes 25,000 clicks per month, 2,500 tracked links, and one year of data storage.
The Dos and Don’ts of URL shorteners
Bottom line: A good URL shortener can help you track your links, save space on social media posts, and flesh out your company’s brand.
Before you go too crazy and start using your short URLs everywhere, it’s important to keep in mind a few best practices.
DON’T use short URLs when linking on your own website
If you’re creating a blog post and simply want to link to another page on your website, don’t worry about using a shortened URL. It’s not necessary to track those clicks via a short URL—especially if you’re already using Google Analytics (which you absolutely should be).
If you’re not already using the analytics tracking platform, be sure to check out our articles on how to set up Google Analytics.
DO use short URLs on third-party websites
When linking on social media or a different website, be sure to use your shortened URL. This gives you the benefit of easily tracking performance as well as saving space on social media posts.
Plus, if you use a vanity URL, you’ll be able to give a nice boost to your brand awareness.
DON’T use short URLs in personal messages and email
Unless you’re a massive analytics nerd (and if you’re reading this, you might be), there’s no reason to send your short URLs in your emails or DMs. Of course, you might be the kind of person who does want to know how the link to the adorable puppy video you found on YouTube performed amongst your grandparents.
If that’s the case, have at it.
DO integrate short URLs in your link building campaign
Using short URLs in a link building campaign is a great way to boost your website’s authority while keeping track of who is helping you get there via redirects and links. And no, contrary to popular belief, short URLs don’t negatively impact your SEO ranking. For more, check out this video from Matt Cutts (Google’s former head of web spam and SEO master) on the topic.
DON’T sleep on social media
Short URLs and social media go together like milk and cookies. Places like Twitter, Facebook, and even Instagram are perfect places to use your short link to help drive engagement, traffic, and conversions.
As important as it is to keep track of your links’ performance, you also need to make sure you’re tracking the performance of your social media accounts as well. Only then will you be able to know how your social media campaign is performing and learn the exact tweaks you need to make for it to perform better.
That’s our specialty here at Hootsuite—and we want to help.
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