URL Shortener — A Roundup and Review of Services

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Links can get pretty ugly and the last thing you need for your business is to connect your beautiful, well-crafted, protected brand image along side a nasty, 230 character URL. That’s where URL shortener services come in handy.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen URL shortener services in action — and not even realized it. For those who may not be familiar with what a URL shortener is, we have you covered.

A URL shortener service takes a long, ugly, nonsensical website address URL, 50, 100, even 200 characters long, and shortens it to a more palatable and pleasing to the eye URL in a standardized format.

TL;DR – Which URL Shortener Is Best

Just want to know which URL shortener to use?

Cuttly is full featured and free, but no integrations. If you’re just looking for a simple URL shortener that provides statistics, Cuttly is hard to beat.

Rebrandly is powerful, affordable, and well integrated with other marketing tools and apps. It is not the cheapest, but it is the most forward thinking.

GoDaddy is hard to beat if all you need is a simple URL shortener and nothing else. It’s free to use as long as you have an account with them and integrates with domain names purchased through GoDaddy but not assigned to hosting.

An Example of How URL Shorteners Keep Things Clean and Simple

I have hosted a live stream nearly every week for over a half a year with Steve Edwards of Queen Valley Mule Ranch. During this live stream, Steve will mention a product, service, book, video, or any number of other resources. When he talks about a resource, I hop on the internet and find the link.

URL shortening becomes very helpful when sharing long links during live streams, keeping links visually appealing and preventing the chat feed from feeling spammy.

For instance, Steve mentioned Dr. Robert Miller’s book, Imprint Training of the Newborn Foal. As soon as he mentioned it, I went to Amazon to find the link and here is what that link looked like.

https://www.amazon.com/Imprint-Training-Newborn-Western-Horseman/dp/0911647228

Not awful, but certainly not pretty for sharing in the comment section of a live stream. After finding the book on Amazon, I hopped over to a service called Bitly (which we will talk about more below) and shortened that URL to this URL:

https://amzn.to/2S76RIv

Yes, there is a random string of numbers and letters at the end, but overall, the URL is easier to look at, and removes the attention from the URL itself and places it back on the actual item we’re sharing, Dr. Robert Miller’s book.

Amazon has it’s own custom branded URL shortener.

URL Shortener Features

While all URL shorteners effectively do the same thing – shorten long URLs, there is actually quite a variety of additional features offered through URL shortener services and these features are really what separates one service from another.

Custom Branded Short URL

The Amazon URL featured above is an example of the custom short URL — the URL domain is tailored to the Amazon brand, ‘amzn.to’. Another name for a custom short URL is branded short URL because the URL domain is matched to the brand.

A branded URL is a small and very effective way to increase the authority, trust, and legitimacy of your brand. Read our How to Create A Custom Short URL article if you’d like to create your own branded short URL.

Link Analytics and Statistics

While I can’t remember the first time I ever used a short URL, I do remember that link analytics and statistics was one of the reasons I started using them.

Not all, but many URL shorteners provide a varying range of statistics such as basic “how many people clicked this link” stats, visitor referral source (Facebook, email, direct), and origin location for each click.

Statistics and analytics provide greater insight into how your content is performing and what content you may want to amplify and evolve.

Mobile Links

Mobile links have become increasingly important in the last five years as more and more companies launch their own mobile apps.

Here’s how they work.

You receive an email on your phone from a service like Amazon letting you know about a product on sale. You click the link in the email and your Amazon app opens up, bringing the product up on your screen.

The mobile link is what triggers the Amazon app and without it, you’d be referred to the Amazon website through your browser. It may seem trivial, but user experience is increasingly important and for services that rely heavily on a mobile app experience over mobile website compatibility, the mobile link connects the user to the service more quickly and effectively.

While all of the other URL shortener features are still there, some services will use a shortening service specifically for the mobile link feature.

Traffic Routing

While not necessarily an everyday feature, there will be certain times when you may want to direct one user to one page and another user to a different page based on a specific criteria such as user country, user device, language, or other factors.

URL shortener services give you the ability to customize a user’s experience. As is the case with mobile links, it may not seem like an earth-moving feature, but to create a smoother experience catered to a user’s specific need, it is a very important feature.

URL Shortener Integrations

While it may not be immediately apparent why you would want to integrate a URL shortener with other services, as you further develop your content marketing strategy you’ll think up more ways to better represent your brand across every channel and in every location.

Integrating your URL shortener with social sharing tools, email services, and other content marketing tools is a very important feature set that is worth taking note of when you go to select a url shortener service.

Just to provide one example, if you’re using a social media scheduling tool such as Buffer or Hootsuite and want to use your own branded short URL, you will want to make sure that the service you choose has a native integration with the social media scheduling tool you use. Without a native integration, you’ll find yourself doing a lot of manual work or bypassing your shortener altogether.

URL Shortener Services — A Roundup

There is no shortage of URL shortener services. It is a very competitive niche that is evolving every month.

When I first began using URL shorteners in my social media posts, the two options I had to choose from were Bitly and Google’s own URL shortener. Since that time, dozens of services have appeared and Google’s service is no longer a thing.

Below is a roundup of the most worthy players in the URL shortening service.

Capsulink

Here is a summary of what Capsulink has to offer.

Key Features Offered by Capsulink

At the time of this writing, Capsulink doesn’t have a features page, but they do list some of the features in their home page copy. Here are those features taken from their homepage.

  • Broken Link Repair: Empower your short links to never lose traffic.
  • Branded Domains: Use custom domains to create branded short links.
  • Analytics: Analytical tools to optimize your marketing strategies.
  • Manage Traffic Flow: Edit target URLs, employ password-protected links.

Capsulink’s Native Integrations

At the time of this writing, Capsulink does not list or provide information on any native integrations with their service.

Free Plan

Capsulink has a very generous free plan, especially when compared to other services. Here are a few key points of the free plan: unlimited url shortening, basic statistics and 5,000 clicks per month.

One thing to note, the free plan does not include a custom domain for your shortener.

Paid Plans

Capsulink’s entry level plan, the Pro at $5 monthly, includes a single custom domain. All additional features that Capsulink offers are available on the Pro plan minus API access. Higher level plans include higher thresholds for number of custom domains, clicks, smart URLs, etc.

Features found in the paid plans include the following: expanded statistics, editable shortened URLs, password protected links, and default URL modification.

Rebrandly

Here is a summary of what Rebrandly has to offer.

Key Features Offered by Rebrandly

Rebrandly does a fantastic job of highlighting everything offered through their service. You’ll want to visit their features page for a full breakdown of what you can do with Rebrandly. Here are several of their most important features.

  • Workspaces and Teammates: For larger teams, this gives you the ability to organize and collaborate on large sets of links with different teammates, each one with their own unique access.
  • Analytics: A UTM link builder baked into the platform, individual link analytics, multiple report options.
  • Link Management: Editable destination URLs, custom URL slugs, link search, UTM presets, link expiration dates.
  • Traffic Routing: 301 SEO redirects, link retargeting, open graph control, links with emojis.

Rebrandly’s Native Integrations

This is one of the areas where Rebrandly shines over many of the other URL shortener services. Rebrandly has been very aggressive with building out native integrations and also includes integration with Zapier, which opens up hundreds of additional integrations.

Here are a few of the finer integrations offered by Rebrandly:

  • Apps & Extensions: Firefox, iOS App, Android App, macOS App, Bookmarklet
  • Productivity Integrations: Google Sheets Add-on, Slack
  • Social Media Integrations: Meet Edgar, Social Pilot, Viral Tag, Social Bee, TweetBot
  • Automation: Zoho Flow, Zapier

Free Plan

Rebrandly offers a very generous free plan that includes your own custom domain. In fact, you can have up to five custom domains on the free plan and shorten up to 500 links. If all you need is link shortening with a custom domain, the free plan will have you covered.

Paid Plans

The paid plans from Rebrandly are pretty competitive to price points by other URL shortener services and given the expansive features included, Rebrandly comes in at a good value. But just how good of a value? That will depend on which plan you pay for.

Rebrandly’s free plan is more generous than many other service’s entry level paid plans.

The lowest paid plan, the Starter, comes in at $29 monthly. That would seem high, except for the fact that the free plan is actually more feature packed than low level paid plans from other services. Each paid plan escalates the number of branded links you can create, total trackable links, and custom domain names you can use.

Unfortunately, Rebrandly does not make their entire feature set available across all plans. Enterprise features such as teams, API access, and mobile deep linking are only available on their enterprise plan at $499 monthly or via custom plan. Of course, if all you’re looking for is link shortening, this is a non issue.

The Starter plan is $29 and the next and most popular plan (according to their site) is the Pro plan and that comes in at $69 monthly. This plan really does open up the majority of the value Rebrandly has to offer. So while it might be a little more than other offerings, it does come with more value. It just depends on whether or not you need or want to pay the premium for some of the features Rebrandly offers that others don’t.

Bitly

Bitly is the granddaddy of the URL shortening family. As I mentioned above, it was one of the two services I found when I first wanted to shorten URLs. The primary feature of Bitly is straight up link shortening for free. If you wanted to track your links, you could sign up for a free account, and after a while they allowed free accounts a custom domain.

Their paid plans were almost exclusively for enterprise customers and, if my memory serves me correctly, their plans began at around $1,000 monthly.

Around 2017 or 2018, Bitly made changes to their pricing structure in order to monetize the entry level users and their new paid plan is slightly more generous than their old plan used to be.

Bitly was one of the first tools to offer custom domain URLs and we have a tutorial, How to Create A Custom Short URL, that shows you how to go through the steps of creating your own custom short URL using Bitly

Here is a summary of what Bitly has to offer.

Key Features Offered by Bitly

The biggest value that Bitly offers has everything to do with the fact that they are integrated into everything. Because they’ve been around so long, nearly any service utilizing short urls integrates directly with Bitly, natively.

Aside from the native integrations, the Bitly feature set according to their website includes the following:

  • Link Shortening: You can use Bitly’s generic link shortener anytime and create an unlimited number of links without an account. If you want to monitor your links, you’ll need an account, free or paid.
  • Branded Links: You can add one custom domain on their entry level paid plan and if you have a customized plan, you can also have links created by other sites that use Bitly, use your custom domain (very cool).
  • Mobile Links: Directly route users to the right destination from your mobile communications.
  • Campaign Management & Analytics: Track and optimize every digital initiative using Bitly’s best-in-class analytics tools.

Bitly’s Native Integrations

Bitly has more integrations than you could ever want or need. Because it’s been around the longest and because it is the industry leader, there is a very high chance that Bitly will integrate with the tools you need to use for your business.

In addition to Zapier, they have a list of Help articles which outline some of the native integrations it offers. Check out Bitly’s integrations here.

Free Plan

As mentioned above, the free plan from Bitly has evolved over the years and is fairly minimal in its feature set and usefulness in its modern form. That said, yes, they do offer a free plan.

For the free plan you receive 1,000 shortened links, tagging, filtering, and customizing the back half of your links (50 links).

Paid Plan

After years without a consumer or entry level paid plan, Bitly introduced a single paid plan called Basic which is $35 monthly. This paid plan unlocks branded links, a higher number of links per month, and email support. If you have more specific needs or want access to features such as a baked-in UTM builder or mobile deep links you’ll need to contact Bitly about a customized plan.

Godaddy URL Shortener

This is a branded domain hidden gem that you have free access to with GoDaddy. If you have a domain that is parked or being forwarded, the GoDaddy Shortener allows you to create a branded URL — you can put that domain to use!

Key Features Offered by GoDaddy

The URL shortener offered by GoDaddy is straight forward — paste a link, choose the domain you want to use to shorten with, create a back half (if you want), and shorten. That’s it!

You don’t have to use your own domain — you can use GoDaddy’s go2l.ink domain or their x.co domain if you prefer.

That’s pretty much all the service offers, which, if all you need is a branded short url, is pretty awesome!

There is a Chrome extension that you can install for easy access to create a short URL — you don’t have to revisit GoDaddy’s website whenever you want to create a new shortened URL. This extension is an exact clone of the website and doesn’t offer anything that the website doesn’t offer other than shortcut access.

Free Plan

GoDaddy’s URL shortening service is free to use with your GoDaddy account — meaning, you need to be logged in to use it. Once logged in, you can create as many shortened URLs as you need (or desire).

Paid Plan

Technically, there is no paid plan for using GoDaddy’s URL shortener. The only ‘purchase’ you need to make is buying a domain to use with the service if you do not want to use GoDaddy’s go2l.ink or x.co URLs.

Short CM

Key Features of Short.cm

Short.cm gives you access to all of the features you’d expect from a shortening service and in very generous portions. Branded links, manage multiple domains, statistics, roles, tracking, and integrations! Yep, it’s all there.

In browsing their website, the one feature that stood out as particularly useful was the easy-to-interpret statistics dashboard. Short.cm isn’t offering any different or special statistics. They are providing you the same data set that others provide. However, the way they provide them makes it much easier to interpret and understand how your links are performing.

Here is a list of other features offered by Short.cm.

  • Branded Links: Customize your short URL, the original URL, link title, and manage your tags.
  • Multiple Domains & Subdomains: Create and manage domain and subdomain URLs.
  • Team Links: Form a team with a set of domains and group of members with different rights.
  • Campaign Tracking: Track online marketing campaigns using short URLs. Add UTM parameters to see traffic data in Google Analytics.
Short.cm has an easy-to-interpret statistics dashboard that allows anyone to understand their short link’s performance.

Short.cm’s Native Integrations

This is one area where Short.cm is a little behind when it comes to their peers. Short.cm does offer a Zapier integration which opens up the possibility of integrating with hundreds of apps. As far as native integrations, on their website they list the following:

  • Zapier
  • Slack — Create short links right from a Slack channel by typing ‘shorten’.
  • Segment — Send link statistics with one API to hundreds of tools for analytics.
  • Google Analytics — Send every click of your short link to Google Analytics.
  • Facebook Pixel — Retarget ads to people who clicked your short links.

Free Plan

Short.cm’s free plan gives you access to every feature in their “Essentials” feature set. This includes secure SSL, tagging links, QR codes, UTM builder, custom domains, redirects, and tracked links.

When you’re on the free plan you are limited to one user, three custom domains, 1,000 total branded links, and 50,000 tracked links.

If you’re not yet ready to pay for a url shortening service but want to get a feel for all they have to offer, the Short.cm free plan is a great place to start.

Paid Plans

When you decide to upgrade to a paid plan with Short.cm, you get a lot of value. Their entry level paid plan, Personal, is $20 monthly and increases your custom domains to 10, your total branded links to 10,000, and unlimited tracked links. You also gain access to country targeting, link expiration, link cloaking, referrer hiding, and password protection.

Should you want or need more — the next plan, Team, is $50 monthly and unlocks region targeting, deep links, and gives you the option of using a dedicated IP.

Should you need even more — perhaps for a large team, they do offer an Enterprise plan at $150 monthly and that unlocks the remainder of their features, including SSO, multiple teams, and other enterprise features.

Cuttly

Cuttly is a very interesting service because it is 100% absolutely free.

Cutt.ly lets you understand more about click-through of your links. We give you a huge marketing tool with advanced URLs tracking system for free without any hidden commitments. Why? Because we believe that the best things should be free.

Now, I’m not a lawyer, but I can read — and after going through their terms and conditions, it does appear that they really are giving away the service for free. Things can always change, but for now, it appears it is not too good to be true.

As I used the site more, I did see some ads which makes sense — they have to pay for their resources somehow.

Key Features for Cuttly

Cuttly offers everything that you would want. The best part (aside from the fact that it is free) is the interface is clean, straightforward, and easy to use.

  • Custom Domains & Branded: Use your own domain for your links. While it’s not clear if there is a limit to how many domains you can use, you can have multiple custom domains.
  • Customize Link Back Half: Change the url after the domain extension and backslash.
  • Link Statistics: See how your links are performing based upon total clicks, source of clicks, device information, browser information, and geographic location.

Cuttly’s Native Integrations

Integrations is where Cuttly may not be a viable solution for some. While Cuttly does offer API access, they do not integrate with any other software, tools or platforms — not even Zapier.

Because GoDaddy does not offer any type of integrations or stats, Cuttly still is a good solution if you thought the only bummer about GoDaddy was lack of link tracking. Cuttly definitely has link tracking and statistics.

Watch our short demo of Cuttly.

Free Plan

The only plan offered by Cuttly is a free plan which gives you unlimited access to all of their features. The website is banner ad supported and they do have an affiliate partnership with an eco friendly hosting company which has a presence throughout the platform.

Still, the free plan is equal to or better than paid plans provided you’re okay not integrating with other tools.

Services that Autogenerate A Shortened URL

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, many services use their own custom short URLs which negates many of the needs to shorten them. A few services you will notice using their own branded URL include:

  • Twitter: Every link shared on Twitter, including links in Direct Messages, are shortened using Twitter’s URL shortener, http://t.co link.
  • Amazon: Links shortened on Bitly will convert to Amazon’s amzn.to URL and links created via Amazon’s affiliate program, as well.
  • Spotify: Links shortened on Bitly will convert to Spotify’s spoti.fi URL.

These are just three examples of links you’ll find are auto shortened when shared online.

Final Thoughts On URL Shortening Services

The best takeaway regarding URL shortening services is that there is a good fit for nearly anyone and nearly every use case. What’s more, URL shortening services have come a long way in regards to what they can do beyond just making links pretty.

The best way to choose the right URL shortener for you is to identify exactly what you need the tool to do and then find the service that does it at a cost that fits within your budget.

If you have any question about integrating a URL shortening service into your workflow, send us a message or leave a comment below. In some cases we may be able to provide quick feedback and in other cases we may redirect you directly back to the service’s support.

We want you to feel equipped and empowered to create content marketing campaigns that convert for your business, increase leads, and grow your sales! Anyway we can help, let us know.

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