Best URL Shorteners: Comparing Bit.ly, Tiny URL, and Other Short Link Software

Sean Lund-Brown

URL shorteners are must-have tools in today’s world of marketing and branding. Sharing information is critical, but you’ve got to be able to keep it brief. Not only that, but with character limits on social media platforms and other concerns, you might not be able to drop that URL that takes up three lines because of all the follows and redirects. Even some direct links are pretty lengthy, and when you’re not wasting valuable space on URLs, you’ll have more room to convey your message. 

Fortunately, along with the advent of social media character limits, there were also a host of developers and software brands that started creating short link software. This software is designed to allow users to input a link of any length and generate a custom link that is much shorter. Here’s an example using Bit.ly, one of the most common short linking tools, and a link from our own website:

https://smith.ai/industries/software-saas-companies-answering-service

becomes

https://bit.ly/3uS4Sum

Now, since it’s a link they each only count as one word. However, the difference in characters is startling, even on a link this simple: 69 characters in the first link versus 22 in the shortened one—that's almost 50 extra characters that you can use for content or tags

So, most of us have heard about Bit.ly, but is it the only option? And is it the best one? The short answer is not necessarily. There are plenty of short link tools out there today and while they’re similar, each has its own pros and cons to consider. In the list below, we’ll review the top tools on the market today and what each has to offer so that you can choose the right solution. All the top tools we are reviewing has been guaranteed to serve secure site connection, which will avoid you from potential data leaks.

Speaking of solutions, if you need more assistance with your online marketing and customer service, or even handling things like callbacks, overflow calling, and 24/7 live chat, find out how our virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can deliver.

What to look for: link shorteners explored

Some of the options on this list will be geared toward generating generic links that will allow anyone to shorten URLs for social media posts or other needs. Some will allow the shortening and customization of those links, giving you more control over your linking and marketing efforts. Either way, both have their pros and cons and will give you plenty of solutions. Consider tools like Rebrandly if you want more control over your domains and URL wording, or stick with something like TinyURL if you just need quickfire short links here and there and don’t need the commitment of a paid account. 

Make sure that you choose a tool that offers things like:

  • Features: While you don’t necessarily need a full suite of link shortening tools, some people might want that. Regardless of what you have in mind, you have to make sure that you evaluate the features. For example, as mentioned above, TinyURL will get the job done, but that’s really about it. Bitly, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive suite of tools and features that you can use to grow your marketing campaigns and improve all kinds of efforts. 
  • Branding: Again, you may or may not want branded links. Typically, these programs will be divided into solutions that either do or don’t offer branding, so make sure that you think about that before you start researching the options available. It’s not essential, but it could be a good way to improve your linking efforts. 
  • Value: Consider not just the features, but what you’re getting for the money. Even the free platforms have different levels of included features—make sure that you’re getting the most bang for your buck with a reliable platform that will give you the features and tools that you need. There’s no sense in paying a premium for features you won’t use, after all, so don’t bother because these platforms are some of the most affordable tools out there. 

Without further ado, here are our top picks. 

Bit.ly: best all-around

Bitly is a business-grade URL shortening tool with full-service features. It even offers the convenience of free, no-obligation link shortening on a per-use basis for those who don’t need the service enough to go the distance of creating an account. Simply go to the Bitly website, drop in your link, click “shorten”, and your short link will appear ready to be copied and pasted wherever you need. 

The business features of this tool are where it really shines, though. The app includes a user-friendly dashboard with real-time data tracking for as many as 20 metrics at once. You can even track campaigns and track click rates for all your campaigns. The free account offers 50 URLs per month and tracking for up to 1,000 links per month. Plus, the affordable paid plans have impressive features, as well. 

The highlights of Bitly include:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $35 per month for Basic, $300 per month for Premium/Enterprise
  • Branding and tracking tools
  • Free for up to 50 links per month
  • Detailed reporting
  • Easy copy/paste linking
  • Integrates with other software and tools
  • Automatic link generation

TinyURL: best for fast, anonymous short links

Another popular platform, TinyURL is probably the best option for generating anonymous short links today. It is another tool that offers a free platform along with paid plans to ensure that everyone has what they need. This platform has been around since 2002 and it offers a lot of features for a small price tag. It is great for people who are in a hurry and who need links that won’t expire or require a lot of effort. Simply input your long link, customize the second half (if you want) and then click the “Make TinyURL” button and your link will be generated and available forever. 

There is no account required for the use of this tool, which is why it is popular among small businesses and brands that are working on a limited budget. You can sign up for an account, of course, and get access to your link history, tracking and analytics, branded domains, and even the chance to edit your TinyURL destinations. 

Plus, check out highlights like:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $9.99 per month to start
  • Free short linking tool with basic features
  • Link tracking and analytics available
  • Unlimited use
  • Links are good forever
  • Custom-branded domains available

Rebrandly: best for branded links

Rebrandly is a great choice, but it’s got a much more unique appeal than several of the options on this list. Unlike other shorteners, this tool is dedicated to helping brands customize all of their links, including the domains. Users can enjoy access to up to five custom domains, which means anyone could customize the entire link, rather than just generating a generic short link. 

Rebrandly also offers tracking tools, traffic data, and an automatic QR code generator that makes it easy for you to connect with your audience in every way possible. The free plan also includes an impressive 500 branded links and 5,000 tracked clicks each month, which is impressive even for a mid-size business that needs more than a “basic” plan. Plus, int integrates with your other software and has affordable pricing. 

The highlights of Rebrandly include:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: Starts at $29 per month 
  • Collaboration tools
  • Tracking tools for email, social, and SEO
  • Branding and custom link creation
  • Plans available for all sizes of business

Zapier URL Shortener: best for automatic link creation

Zapier, one of our favorite tools for, well, tools and integrating with your other software, also has a URL shortener incorporated with the platform that is quite impressive. Not only does it allow you to create custom links, but it will also automatically generate those links when properly prompted. Imagine being able to have a link automatically generated every time you upload a new product or add a new post to Facebook—with Zapier, you can. 

You’ll be able to create a “Zap”, or automated workflow, that is triggered to generate a short link for any task that you want. Then, you can save it to Google Sheets or another app directly, helping you have access to the link for tracking and other purposes. Plus, Zapier is also full of other tools and Zaps that you can use to automate other workflows, giving you a total business management tool in one place. There’s a free plan available and paid plans offer premium features. 

Consider the highlights, such as:

  • Free option? Yes
  • Price: $24.99 per month for starter plan
  • 100 tasks per month free
  • Automate workflows and short links
  • Integrate with other tools
  • Export links and track results
  • Easy user interface 
  • Customizable dashboard

Shorby: best for Instagram and social 

Shorby is a new type of URL shortener that focuses on making sure that URLs meet all the social requirements. According to the site, they designed the tool with the Instagram rule of “one link in your bio” in mind. They want to provide a short URL profile that makes it easy to show more than one thing. This means you can change the content in the bio, leave the link, and Shorby will make sure that it still follows. 

You can also use Shorby to create click-to-call tools for Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, and even standard phone numbers. You can even add content from YouTube and other tools, and track analytics with ease, thanks to the detailed reporting features. This is the only tool on the list that isn’t free, but it offers a lot of features and it charges on a per-content basis, which means that you will only pay for as much content as you want to display. 

Consider the highlights:

  • Free option? No
  • Price: $15 per month to start
  • Dedicated bio short link resource
  • Created for social media 
  • Click-to-call features
  • Content links available
  • Detailed analytics

Shorten your URLs for better marketing, shorten your to-do list with Smith.ai

Any of the tools on the list above will serve to deliver the results that you need with URL shortening. Whether you stick to a free solution and take what limited features are offered or upgrade to one of the paid platforms for a full custom solution, you’ll get everything that you need with these tools. Remember to take the time to compare the features, membership or cost requirements or use limitations (for free services), and other elements to make sure you choose what’s best for your brand. 

Of course, no matter which you choose, you have to put URL shorteners in your marketing toolkit if you want to succeed in the world of modern social media marketing and other areas. No one has the time for long-follow links and it looks horribly unprofessional to post a Facebook link with a URL that looks like this: 

https://www.amazon.com/AR-AR383-Electric-Pressure-Detergent/dp/B002Z8E52Y/ref=asc_df_B002Z8E52Y/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=198060922766&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3048884867756670517&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=c&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=9015298&hvtargid=pla-349011789986&psc=1

That link almost doesn’t even tell you what you’re getting—if you look closely, you’ll see “electric pressure”, which may lead you to believe it’s a pressure washer (it is), but what is the rest of that mess? That “mess” is marketing code and referral linking information that your users don’t need to see. Clean it up with a link shortener, and even if you don’t hyperlink it (Electric Pressure Washer), it’ll still look more professional. 

Back to the point, it’s about streamlining and finding a better way—for your marketing, and for your business as a whole. In addition to the URL shorteners on this list and other tools available today to streamline your marketing efforts and make your entire business easier to manage, the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can offer an array of services and support, as well. We can handle mission critical services like 24/7 live website chat and phone answering services, payment collection, lead intake and appointment scheduling, and more. 

After all, when your links are more effective, you’re going to see more traffic and increased lead conversions—why not get some help with all that overflow? Schedule your consultation now to find out what the virtual receptionists at Smith.ai can do to help improve your business flow, or find us at hello@smith.ai or (650) 727-6484. 

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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