You don't want to share long, ugly links across social media - especially URLs that contain a lot of tracking code - so you need a good link shortening tool to help your shared URLs look clean and professional.
The best URL shorteners also come with a lot of useful added features - particularly extra reporting data so you know when your shortened link has been clicked on what platform. Some even allow you to create your own branded short URLs.
It's worth noting now that most URL shorteners offer a free service to simply shorten URLs, with their extra features requiring a paid subscription. Therefore it is important to check which of the below tools offers the best service for what you need before you decide to pay for any.
So if you are unhappy with your current tool of choice, or you're looking to get started with a link shortening tool, check out our definitive list of the best URL shorteners below...
Best URL shorteners 2019
Bitly tops the list when it comes to the best URL shorteners, as it pretty much offers everything you need.
It can be used as a simple and free URL shortener if you want to quickly drop in and shorten a link, and it has a ton of extra features if you want to go deeper into your link shortening game.
Bitly has a comprehensive dashboard so you can track various statistics about your links, such as click-through rates, geographic data of people visiting your links, and so on. This makes it a great choice for businesses who will use it to track a lot of links and want as much actionable data as possible from their campaigns.
Bitly also boasts a very generous free offering, allowing users to track 500 branded links and up to 10,000 unbranded links - so it is ideal for small businesses or individuals.
You will need to become a registered user of Bitly if you want to customise your links.
Find out more: https://bitly.com/
An oldie, but a goodie. TinyURL has been around a long time but is still a reliable and useful tool for those who want a free URL shortener that creates URLs that will never expire.
The drawback is that you cannot customise your shortened link - it will always start with 'tinyurl.com' - but you can change what comes next. So instead of a random series of characters, you can have: tinyurl.com/whatever-you-want.
As a free URL shortener, you can't ask for more really.
Try it: https://tinyurl.com/
Now part of Hootsuite's set of social media marketing tools, the big bonus with using Ow.ly is it integrates seamlessly with the rest of Hootsuite's tools.
This means when you are using Hootsuite to manage and post on your social channels the links can automatically be shortened and tracked using the Ow.ly URL shortener.
Ow.ly can be used along with Hootsuite's free plan, so you just have to register a free account with them to get started. If you're looking for a URL shortener and also want to try out a social media platform like Hootsuite to organise your social activity, then Ow.ly is the sensible choice.
Try it: https://hootsuite.com/pages/owly
Perhaps the most simple URL shortener on this list, is.gd lets you quickly shorten your links without having to sign-up or jump through any hoops. Just enter your link and click shorten!
It also gives you a decent amount of customisation options for your shortened link, so you can make it look a bit more aesthetically pleasing.
Try it: https://is.gd/
Buffly is the built-in URL shortener that comes with the social media management tool Buffer.
As with Ow.ly, Buffly is only an option for those who also want to manage their social media marketing campaigns with a larger organisation tool.
Due to the popularity of Buffer, the buffly shortened URLs are well recognised across social media - so you won't have to worry about your links not being trusted.
Find out more: https://buffer.com/
Simply shortening URLs is not enough for Ad.fly, they want to monetise the process by placing ads inbetween the click and the landing page.
The URL shortening tool is robust enough, and if you want to earn money for every click you generate then Ad.fly is definitely worth a try. We wouldn't recommend this if you are running sales-based campaigns, but if you are sharing a lot of news posts and more light-hearted content then it could work for you.
Try it: http://adf.ly/
Another simple URL shortener is bit.do, which allows you to quickly shorten and customise your links with a free account and without the need to register.
It also allows you to easily track your link clicks by providing your 'stats URL' along with the shortened URL you create.
If you sign up with bit.do you can also customise the first part of the shortened URL as well.
Try it: https://bit.do/
Rebrandly is a URL shortener that works much like all the others, but it's particular approach is to offer link rebranding options to brands as well as people.
It offers full-scale link branding for free (with a limit of 1,000 per domain), so you don't have to use the generic domain name of other link shorteners.
This is ideal for those who want to retain their brand identity in the links they share, and Rebrandly also offers a lot of extra tracking features for brands to measure and analyse their campaigns.
Learn more: https://www.rebrandly.com/
Like Rebrandly, BL.INK is focused on shortened links that are fully customised with your own domain - putting brand visibility at the forefront.
BL.INK is free to use, and also has several paid plans that come with a lot of in-depth tracking features. For example, you can see your trending links within its dashboard as well as track your traffic by device and location. If you are running large scale campaigns then BL.INK is a great option that can provide detailed, actionable reporting insights.
Find out more: https://www.bl.ink/
If you've got the technical know-how, and inclination, to host your own URL shortener then Polr gives you the tools to do just that.
Polr allows you to fully brand your shorten URLs and control all your own data (rather than giving it to a third-party tool).
Polr is a very modern, slick-looking open-source URL shortener that is available via GitHub as well as the Polr Project page. Polr is written in PHP and Lumen and uses MySQL as its primary database.
Find out more: https://polrproject.org/
T2M is another fully-featured URL shortener that offers a lot of useful tracking data. With T2M you can track clicks by geographical location and device.
Something that helps T2M stand out is that it also automatically generates a QR code for your link as well as a shortened URL.
T2M is free to use for simple URL shortening and can the free account doesn't set any limits on how many links you can create. It also offers paid plans which allow you to access all of its features, which include: branded/vanity URLs, bulk URL shortening and more.
Find out more: https://t2mio.com/
Winning the battle for best named URL shortener, Yourls stands for 'Your Own URL Shortener' and is similar to Polr in that it is a self-hosted option.
Yourls uses free, open-source software to create your own URL shortener and be in complete control of your data. It's also a great way to keep your own branding on your URLs and customise your shortened links however you like.
Learn more: https://yourls.org/
Branch is specifically for mobile links - particularly links to your mobile apps which you promote across multiple networks and platforms.
Creating a shortened Branch link means you can attach a wealth of reporting data to your URL so you know exactly where it was clicked and can map out the full customer journey.
Learn more: https://branch.io/
Benefits of using a URL shortener
Sometimes creating pages with long URLs is unavoidable. Depending on the URL structure you are using, a landing page URL could include two or three /directories/ as well as the /long-page-name on the end. If you are running a promotional campaign then it is also likely that your URL will contain a lot of seemingly random tracking code on the end.
All of this doesn't only look untidy when you post the link across your social networks, it can also look spammy. So a link shortening tool can help clean up your long URLs and not put people off clicking on them.
Shortened URLs can also be used in the offline world - for example on business cards and on flyers, as they can be made to be much more memorable than a long URL.
Another case for using URL shorteners is that you can track when they are clicked. For example, you may have a new blog post and want to share the link on your Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can create a different shortened URL for both and then easily track which of them provided the most clicks.
About the Author
Luke Glassford is an SEO expert with over 15 years’ experience.
During his time working in SEO, Luke has set-up an SEO agency, worked as an in-house SEO for a major national company and managed his own successful SEO consultancy - using a lot of different SEO tools along the way!