The 10 Best URL Shorteners for 2021 – Shorten, Brand & Track Your Links!

by Ashley Barnett
*Some of the links below may be from our sponsors. My full disclosure statement.*

Chances are, you’ve unfortunately dealt with URLs that are simply too long for their own good. As a reader, this is irritating. However, if you’re trying to grow your blog and revenue, long URLs might be hurting you more than you think.

Thankfully, with URL shorteners, you can gain control over unruly, ugly URLs and take your social sharing and affiliate marketing game to the next level.

Let’s break down the best URL shorteners available and why you should care.

Benefits of URL Shorteners

Broadly speaking, short URLs are almost always better than long ones.

There are a few reasons for this:

  • Trustworthiness: Long URLs feel spammy, especially if they contain a random string of characters.
  • Brandability: The best URL shorteners let you turn generic affiliate links into brandable links instead, increasing trust. This is also known as creating a vanity shortlink. For example, I’ve changed my affiliate link in my ConvertKit review to be https://hitpublish.com/convertkit rather than https://convertkit.com?lmref=2acVjg.
  • Character Limits: If you’re sharing a post on social media, short URLs help you stay within your character limit.

Finally, the best URL shorteners help track individual link performance. Metrics include things like total number of clicks and even conversion rates if you’re promoting a product. Without this data, you have no idea how your links perform, making it impossible to improve!

What to Look for in a URL Shortener

Most URL shorteners use a freemium model. This means you can access some features for free but have to pay if you want to unlock the complete platform.

Ideally, you want to find a URL shortener that has a decent free plan so you can test it out for your blog. You also want a shortener that has in-depth link tracking, vanity link building, and a reasonable monthly price.

The Best URL Shorteners

There isn’t an exact consensus on what the best URL shortener is. However, you absolutely need one in your blogging arsenal, and these are some candidates worth considering.

1. Bitly

Bitly is the most popular URL shortener around. With clients like Disney and Amazon, you might think that Bitly is only for e-commerce giants. However, everyday bloggers can also accomplish a lot with this URL shortener.

For starters, Bitly lets you create short bit.ly links and brandable links in seconds. Bitly links look something like this: bitly.com/12345. Or, you can create custom links that look like this: bitly.com/hitpublish. On the free plan you can create 50 custom links per month.

You can also track over 20 data points to monitor link performance, redirect shortlinks to new URLs, and deploy links for mobile, SMS, and affiliate marketing.

Bitly also has a robust free plan that’s perfect for beginner bloggers. With the free plan, you unlock:

  • 1,000 link creations per month and unlimited clicks.
  • Link tagging and 30-day reporting.
  • Direct posting to Twitter.

The free plan doesn’t include brandable links or in-depth analytics. However, Bitly is only $29 per month if you pay annually. This plan lets you create link campaigns for easy monitoring and also lets you add UTM parameters to your links. You also get 2 years of link history rather than 30 days.

Paying $29 might seem steep, but if Bitly increases your conversion rate for affiliate offers, the cost is easily worth it.

Related: Improve Your Posts — 10 Writing Tools for Bloggers

2. TinyURL

If you want a free URL shortener, it’s hard to find a more reliable option than TinyURL.

Despite their antiquated website, TinyURL has everything you need for basic link shortening. With TinyURL, you can:

  • Create free short URLs that don’t expire.
  • Redirect links to any page on your website.
  • Use the TinyURL extension to create shortlinks as you browse.

Unfortunately, TinyURL doesn’t have reporting functionality like Bitly. However, you don’t need an account, and for a free solution, TinyURL is rather solid.

3. Rebrandly

Rebrandly is another way to brand, track, and easily share short URLs to drive traffic to your blog. Out of all URL shorteners, Rebrandly feels similar to Bitly, although Rebrandly has a better free plan if you’re blogging on a budget.

With the free Rebrandly plan, you can:

  • Track 5,000 clicks per month.
  • Create 500 branded links.
  • Use up to 5 branded domain names.
  • Add UTM parameters.
  • View link metrics and historical performance.
  • Create 301 redirects and edit existing links.

This is an impressive amount of free functionality. Plus, unless you run a decently sized blog, Rebrandly’s click and brandable link limits shouldn’t be an issue.

Rebrandly also has paid plans, with starter and pro plans costing $29 and $69 per month. These plans greatly increase click limits, brandable URLs, and reporting depth. However, you should use free plan limits before upgrading.

Related: How to Craft Amazing Headlines (Plus 7 Free Headline Tools)

4. Ow.ly

If you’re a fan of Hootsuite, using Ow.ly, Hootesuite’s own URL shortener, is going to be a natural transition.

Ow.ly used to be open to the public. However, these days, you need a Hootsuite account to access it. Thankfully, you can create a free Hootsuite account to enjoy Ow.ly, and the option to upgrade to a paid Hootsuite plan is there if you want a comprehensive social media management platform.

Ow.ly lets you shorten links and track performance like most URL shorteners. Additionally, since Ow.ly is part of Hootsuite, you can easily track shortlink performance and social media performance in your dashboard.

I wouldn’t use Ow.ly unless you’re already using Hootsuite. However, for existing Hootsuite users, Ow.ly is probably the best URL shortener available.

Related: Easy and Free Image Editing Tools for Bloggers

5. BL.INK

If you’re looking for an affordable enterprise-level URL shortener, BLINK is certainly worth considering. Small hobby bloggers can skip this one, but if you run multiple websites or work with a team, BLINK is probably your best option.

Despite being “for enterprise,” BLINK has a robust expert plan for only $12 per month. This plan includes 10,000 active links, 7,500 tracked clicks per month, unlimited domains, and 3 user logins. BLINK also lets you create branded links, tag links, and dive into your analytics to monitor performance.

As an independent blogger, BLINK is comparable to Bitly or Rebrandly for paid solutions. However, if you’re making money with freelance blogging by doing SEO for clients or editing for several blogs, the unlimited domain feature is the main selling point.

6. Pretty Links

Alright, you caught me: Pretty Links isn’t exactly a pure URL shortener.

But, if you want to take your affiliate marketing to the next level, this WordPress plugin is a must-have.

Pretty Links is an affiliate management plugin for WordPress you can use to create brandable links to make your affiliate offers seem more legitimate or memorable. Pretty Links also has basic link click tracking with their free plan.

The key feature of Pretty Links is that your shortened URL is completely branded and doesn't look shorted. It just looks clean. So a normal shortener might create a URL like Ow.ly/hitpublish, Pretty Links look like this: hitpublish.com/convertkit.

This is great if you need to give people a link verbally, like on a podcast or in a YouTube video. The link is completely branded without looking shortened.

If you’re blogging on a budget, you can use the free version of Bitly and Pretty Links to handle most of your url shortening needs. Use Bitly to shorten URLs and Pretty Links when you need vanity links. Not a bad combo!

You can also upgrade to Pretty Links’ beginner plan for $99 per year. 

This unlocks more link redirect types, reporting, and link tagging. If you rely on affiliate marketing for making money with your blog, Pretty Links is certainly worth testing.

Related: The 10 Best Free WordPress Plugins

7. Shorby

If social media marketing is an important part of your blogging strategy, Shorby is another URL shortener worth considering.

With Shorby, you create short brandable links for content you share, just like other URL shorteners. As you share content, Shorby tracks clicks and builds an audience of people who engage with your content.

Shorby also lets you build individual landing pages to spice up your marketing efforts. For example, you can build landing pages for giveaways, email collections, and for driving traffic to various articles on your blog.

You can even have Shorby links add a tracking pixel to those who click so you can retarget them with ads later.

Here’s an example of how you could use this as a blogger:

  1. You post content with Shorby about how to grow your blog.
  2. You build an audience of people who clicked and shared that content.
  3. You run paid Facebook ads to that audience using Shorby’s data.

That’s just one example, but you can see why Shorby offers a bit more than basic URL shortening.

Plans start at $9 per month for 3,000 tracked clicks, 3 branded URLs, and 3 pages. As you scale, the next plan increases your limits for only $15. If Shorby generates sales for you, it’s easy to justify this cost.

8. T2M

If you want an affordable alternative to Bitly, T2M is one of the best URL shorteners you can try.

Granted, T2M doesn’t reinvent the wheel. You can create branded links, set up redirects, share links on social media, and dive into your analytics to know what works.

However, where T2M shines is in their beginner plan. Once you pay a $5 activation fee, you get the following features for life:

  • Unlimited short URLs.
  • 5,000 clicks/redirects per month.
  • One year of click tracking.
  • Easy social sharing.
  • Basic dashboard reporting.
  • Advanced graphs to track referral websites, device type, click location, and other metrics.

The downside of the $5 plan is that you can’t create brandable URLs. The next plan unlocks brandable URLs, greater click volume, and enhanced reporting features. This plan is $9.99 per month compared to $29 for Bitly or Rebrandly.

9. Yourls

Yourls, or your own URL shortener, is a free URL shortener that’s ideal for the techy blogger who likes to keep things internal.

Unlike TinyURL, which is also free, Yourls requires installation. You have to download Yourls files and upload them to your blog’s server. If you’ve ever done this before, it’s a piece of cake. If not, Yourls has a wiki on how to install from scratch.

Now, you might be wondering: why should you use Yourls over free options like TinyURL?

Well, Yourls actually has impressive click tracking functionality despite being free. You can easily view total clicks, traffic location, referral sources, and social stats from your Yourls dashboard. Not bad for a free URL shortener!

If tasks like updating a WordPress plugin stress you out, stay away from Yourls. If you’re looking for a free yet comprehensive URL shortener, installing Yourls is worth it.

10. Hyperlink

Out of all URL shorteners, Hyperlink lets you obsess over your link clicks the most. 

On the surface, Hyperlink looks like a sleek and simple way to create short links and share content on social media. However, Hyperlink actually has powerful notification features so you get the details on clicks as they happen.

With Hyperlink, you can set up real-time click notifications to learn when someone clicks on your link and where they’re from. You can also enable hourly, daily, and weekly reports if tracking isn’t as urgent.

You might think this is overkill, and for most people, it is. But what if you’re the kind of blogger who also makes money by selling coaching packages or consults for businesses outside of your blog? These deals can potentially be thousands of dollars, so being able to follow up with leads once they’ve engaged with your content is crucial.

HyperLink has a free plan, but if you want branded links, it’s $39 per month. If you sell high-ticket products or courses and want to meticulously track clicks, HyperLink is your best bet.

Summary

Using short URLs can improve your social and affiliate marketing efforts. Yes, you can survive with long URLs, but eventually, these unsightly links certainly hurt your blog and conversion rates!

So, choose a URL shortener and get to work! The next time you send an email blast or share a post on social media, it’ll be a brandable link that inspires trust and looks a whole lot more professional.

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