12 of the Best Link Shorteners

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12 of the Best Link Shorteners

This article comes from Hootsuite.

12 of the Best Link Shorteners

With URL shorteners, any long and unwieldy website address can be reduced to just a few characters in the click of a button.

Here’s everything you need to know about how to use URL shorteners, and why they should be an essential part of your social media tool kit.

What is a URL shortener?

A URL shortener is a tool that creates a short, unique URL that will redirect to the specific website of your choosing. Basically: they make a URL shorter and simpler. Your new, shorter URL will typically include the shortener site’s address, plus a combination of random letters.

For example, if I punched in a URL like animalplanet.com/tv-shows/puppy-bowl/full-episodes/puppy-bowl-xvi into the Hootsuite Ow.ly link shortener, it would generate ow.ly/uK2f50AJDI6. This cuts the link down by 48 letters, but still gives you access to cute dogs doing a bad job of playing football.

In some cases, you can even customize this mini URL with a custom phrase. Oh, the power!

Why use a URL shortener?

There are a lot of good reasons to use a URL shortener if you’re going to be sharing a link.

Long, unruly links look suspicious

If you’re linking to a specific page buried deep on your website, or are using UTM parameters to track your visitors, you might find yourself wrestling with a lengthy URL. An oversized URL will look clunky pretty much anywhere you use it—in social posts, shared via text, pasted into an email.

But worse than that, long URLs also look super suspicious. With so many letters and backslashes and numbers and question marks, anything could happen when we click that link! Anything!

A custom URL shortener lets you brand your links

If brand awareness is part of your social media strategy, a custom URL shortener is one more tool to help spread the word. URL shorteners that allow you to customize your short link offer a chance to name-drop your brand. Hootsuite’s link shortener, for example, lets you create a vanity short link in just a few clicks.

Especially if you’re using a free web hosting service, or have an ISP that’s less than exciting, a custom URL shortener is a way to keep your brand front and center whenever you’re sharing links.

Link shorteners allow you to track performance

Most link shortening sites will offer tracking metrics. This is information about who clicked your link, where, and when—information that will help you calculate the campaign’s ROI.

To easily track source traffic, create a variety of shortlinks using different UTM parameters. Combine this with other analytics tools—like Google Analytics—and you’re setting yourself up for marketing success.

How do URL shorteners work?

Entering a URL into your internet browser sends an HTTP request to the web server to pull up a specific website. The long and the short URLs are both simply different starting points for an internet browser to get the same destination.

There are a few different types of redirect HTTP response codes, but look for ones that use a 301 permanent redirect: the other varieties may hurt your SEO ranking.

10 URL shorteners to try besides the Google link shortener

The Google URL shortener was shut down back in spring 2019, but on the bright side, there are dozens of alternative options out there.

URL shortener #1: Ow.ly

Owly is integrated right into the Hootsuite platform, and is included with every plan type (including the free version).

The benefits here are that you can see your shortlink metrics right alongside your other social analytics, so you can view the performance of your brand holistically.

URL shortener #2: T.co

Twitter features a built-in free URL shortener that automatically reduces any long URL down to 23 characters, leaving you plenty of room to express yourself.

Any link you share—even an already shortened one!—will be transformed into a t.co URL so that Twitter can record metrics, and sift out any spammy or dangerous sites.

URL shortener #3: Bitly

There’s a ton of data to chew on if you use Bitly. Here, you can see each link’s performance with metrics like demographic data, referral sources, and click-throughs via the robust Bitly dashboard.

A free account offers analytics and customization for one individual, but Basic and Enterprise subscriptions are available too, which offer branded links, QR codes, richer data and multiple users.

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