The Internet revolves around links. Whenever you click on your favourite website, that’s a link, whenever someone sends you a cool video to watch on YouTube, that’s a link. Links (also called URLs) are what keeps everything connected across the Internet. However, they are not always convenient, especially when trying to take someone in the physical world to a website or particular page on a website. Even when used solely online, people are getting more impatient when it comes to using the Internet, with people rarely bothering to type in a link longer than 20 or so characters.
Enter short URLs. These are dynamically generated links, usually shorter than 10 characters that re-redirect to a longer link. The main purpose is to make longer links shorter and simply easier to access. This is an incredibly effective tool in marketing and many large companies such as Google, Apple and Amazon have been using short URLs for a while. The secondary feature that most short URLs offer is tracking. You can create a short URL for each of your campaigns or even each platform you use to advertise a campaign e.g. offline and online or Facebook and Google Ads, all while being able to track where people are clicking from. Some short URL services even track other useful data such as user’s location, browser and operating system.
So you can see how powerful short URLs really are and why they should be in the toolbox of any online business. So what are your options? I have prepared a list of my favourite services for you…
I would say Bitly (or Bit.ly as their URLs begin with) are probably the largest short URL service to-date, with Google’s Goo.gl being sadly shut down a few years ago. On the free plan, they offer up to 1000 shortened links a month with up to 50 of those being custom ones e.g. https://bit.ly/custom instead of https://bit.ly/ABC123 where ABC123 is a randomly generated back-half. You can upgrade to a paid plan to unlock more quota and add your own custom domain like https://mydoma.in/whatever.
Rebrandly (or Rebrand.ly) are another big name in this field, with all the bells and whistles of Bitly and a much cleaner user interface in my opinion. Their free plan is also more generous by allowing you to connect up to 5 custom domains and shorten up to 500 links using those.
And last but not least YOURLS. While there are plenty more commercial solutions out there, some of you may might like the control and power of self-hosted software. YOURLS (standing for Your Own URL Shortener) is a self-hosted version of all of the above and much much more. I may put out an entire post on YOURLS because there is just so much you can do with it. Out of the box it may look a little dated, but there are community-supported extensions for just about anything you can think of when it comes to URL shortening. There are even nicer looking interface themes made as of recently, so it’s definitely worth checking out.
Well that’s it for another week then.
I hope this has opened your eyes to short URL if you’d never heard of them or thought about them in this way before.
Thanks for reading!