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The 7 best URL shorteners of 2022

The top Google URL Shortener alternatives

By Harry Guinness · March 24, 2022
Best URL shorteners hero

The Google URL Shortener was shut down three years ago (RIP), and since then, the internet—me included—has been trying to find the next best option for how to shorten a link.

With over a decade of experience reviewing tech and web apps, I can tell you there's almost never one perfect solution. (The only exception to this is takeout: the best answer is always pizza.) The best URL shortening service depends on what you need and want it to do. There are simple, fast, and free URL shortening apps; marketing- and analytics-focused ones that break down details about who's clicking your links; and even options that allow you to add calls-to-action to your links, or redirect people based on where they are in the world. 

To help you find the right URL shorteners for most people, I tested more than 35 different options. These are the best—and what makes them great. 

Looking to shorten Google Drive or Google Docs links? Our tutorial shows you how to do this automatically, using Zapier.

The 7 best URL shortener services

  • Bitly for the best all-around URL shortener

  • Rebrandly for creating branded links

  • TinyURL for free, fast, and anonymous short URLs

  • BL.INK for small business owners

  • URL Shortener by Zapier for automatically creating short links

  • Short.io for sending different visitors different links

  • Sniply for adding a CTA to the links you share

What makes a great URL shortener?

How we evaluate and test apps

All of our best apps roundups are written by humans who've spent much of their careers using, testing, and writing about software. We spend dozens of hours researching and testing apps, using each app as it's intended to be used and evaluating it against the criteria we set for the category. We're never paid for placement in our articles from any app or for links to any site—we value the trust readers put in us to offer authentic evaluations of the categories and apps we review. For more details on our process, read the full rundown of how we select apps to feature on the Zapier blog.

At its most basic, a URL shortener takes some long, unwieldy link and turns it into a shorter link, one that's easy to share. For example, if you're making an ad for a roommate, you can take something like http://www.example.com/my-super-awesome-blog-about-squirrels/2022/10/23/live-with-a-squirrel-fan--they%27re-awesome, and turn it into https://tinyurl.com/live-with-me.

This shortened link means whoever sees your ad has an easy-to-type URL to visit, rather than having to type some long unintelligible string of text where they're almost guaranteed to make a mistake. And it's not just for ads for roommates; URL shorteners allow you to provide a typable link on a business card, print ad, podcast interview, or any other situation where someone can't just click on a nice hyperlink.

Get more ROI out of your URL shorteners with automation

While URL shorteners used to be useful for shortening longer links to fit character limits on social media and messaging apps, a lot of platforms take care of that for you. Twitter, for example, automatically shortens any shared links with its t.co shortening service, while iMessage obscures any links behind a preview card. If you're just sending things to your friends, you only really need to worry about URL shortening if you're exclusively using SMS.

In addition to that basic capability, here are the features I was looking for in a link shortener:

  • Analytics and click tracking. If you share someone else's blog post with your audience, for example, you won't know much about how many people—and who—clicks through; all that data will be in the other person's Google Analytics account. If you use a URL shortener, however, you'll have a unique short URL, so you'll also be able to see how many clicks the link gets, where they're coming from, and what devices people are using. Like with most marketing services, the more detailed and powerful these analytics, the higher the cost. Free services tend to have basic click tracking (although there's often a time limit), while premium marketing options will collect as much data as possible—and even allow you to serve different URLs to people in different places or using different devices.

  • Customization of URLs. The best URL shorteners all allow you to customize your shortened URLs. This means you can make your URLs more relevant, or use different links in multiple ads or social media posts to compare click-through rates. Many basic or free plans for a short link generator only let you change the last part of the URL (so you get https://tinyurl.com/awesome-squirrels), while the more business-focused services enable you to use a custom domain (so you get squirre.ls/awesome).

  • Standalone app. There are lots of different URL shortening options out there, and we limited our search to easy-to-set-up, standalone services. There are self-hosted versions, like Polr and YOURLS, that, while free and powerful, require too much technical knowledge to easily recommend. There are also URL shorteners built into other apps that we didn't consider. For example, Ow.ly is fully integrated into Hootsuite, and most newsletter services have some kind of URL shortening and tracking. We also didn't consider apps like Shor. that use a single updatable URL to get around a social media profile's limits on the number of links you can have in your bio. It's not that these services aren't good, but they go far beyond what most people need a URL shortener to do.

  • Value for price. I paid particular attention to pricing tables and what each short URL generator offered at the different tiers. Some free plans are actually better than other apps' paid plans, at least if you don't want incredibly detailed analytics.

I've been testing apps for this list for the past two years. To update the list this year, I spent time with dozens of apps, shortening URLs and generally exploring how well they worked. URL shortening isn't a complex task, at least from a user interface perspective, so this was mostly to get a feel for how nice they were to use and what extra features and analytics they offered. Apps with more advanced features, like the ability to add CTAs to your links, took more testing than simple free options.

In general, I relied on my experience using and testing software over the past decade to make any close judgment calls, as well as considering my notes on all the different apps from last year. If an app seemed under continuous development and was improving, it was much more likely to be considered favorably than one that looked to be stagnating. 

With that, let's look at the best link shorteners.

Interested in doing even more with your URL shorteners? Check out our tips for how to use automation to track them, send them, and stay on top of performance.


Best all-around URL shortener

Bitly

Bitly URL shortener, our pick for the best all-around URL shortener

Bitly is a full-service, business-grade URL shortener. If you only need to shorten links occasionally, you can use it without creating an account. Just paste your long URL into the box on the homepage, click Shorten, and be on your way. 

But Bitly really stands out for its business offering. Part of the appeal is that Bitly is so simple and easy to use. It has a comprehensive dashboard where you can track over 20 real-time data points, including the location of your visitors, organic shares, and more. Tools for tracking campaigns are easy to use as well.

While Bitly's free limited account used to offer quite a lot, it's gradually become less easy to recommend, especially for small businesses. My free account from a few years ago gets analytics for 10,000 links/month, while new plans opened today only get 100—although you can still customize the back-half of 50 shortened URLs. It's a good way to check out Bitly's UI, but you should really be considering a paid plan.

The $35/month Basic plan provides a free custom domain, allows you to create 1,500 links per month, and shows more data about who clicks your links. If you need more from Bitly, Premium, at $200/month, is a big step up but offers 3,000 links per month, more granular analytics for things including city-level data and device-types, and other features, like unbranded QR codes.

Bitly is a great URL shortener for large online businesses that share a lot of links and want to brand and track them. It's also a good choice for small businesses that want to generate short URLs and follow their stats for a modest number of campaigns.

Bitly even integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like automatically generate short links from an RSS feed or Instagram post. 

Create Bitly bitlinks for new RSS feed items

Create Bitly bitlinks for new RSS feed items
  • Bitly logo
  • RSS by Zapier logo
Bitly + RSS by Zapier

Bitly price: Very limited Free plan; Basic plan from $29/month (billed annually) with branded domains, more links per month, and support.

If you're looking for a Bitly alternative, both Cuttly and Linkly were very close to taking the top spot—they're worth checking out if you don't like Bitly. Their free plans are better, and both have improved hugely over the past two years.

Best custom URL shortener for creating branded links

Rebrandly

Rebrandly URL shortener, our pick for the best URL shortener for creating branded links

While Rebrandly is a great URL shortener like all the other apps on our list, its appeal is unique. Rebrandly believes that brands, whether it's a product or a person, get value out of customizing links to content that references them from all over the web. Their free plan offers five custom domains, tied for the most with Short.io out of all the apps we considered, so you can customize the whole short URL, and not just the last half of it. 

For example, our roommate-seeking squirrel fan could customize the link to the Wikipedia entry for squirrels from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/squirrel to squirre.ls/wiki, a link to their ad for a roommate could be squirre.ls/roomie, and a link to their squirrel-spotting tour booking page could be squirre.ls/tours. This squirrel fanatic can then post these links on their social media, business cards, ads, and anywhere else they feel the need.

Rebrandly includes tools for tracking the popularity of each link, data about who's clicking on the links, and automatic QR code generation, too. On the free plan, you're limited to 500 total branded links and 5,000 clicks tracked per month—but that's plenty if you're just starting out. 

Rebrandly also integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like automatically generate a short, branded link for new WordPress posts or Dropbox files. 

Rebrandly price: Free plan with up to 500 links and 5,000 clicks tracked per month; Starter plan from $24/month (billed annually) for 5,000 links and 25,000 clicks tracked per month.

Best free URL shortener for quick, anonymous use

TinyURL

TinyURL URL shortener, our pick for the best Best URL shortener for quick, anonymous use

Free link shortener TinyURL has been in the game since 2002, and it's stuck around so long because it shortens URLs, and it does it with minimum fuss. It's a useful tool for when you're in a hurry and need to create a short link that will never expire. Just paste your long link into the box, customize the second half of the URL, if you want, and click Make TinyURL! You can then use that link indefinitely without fear that it will stop working. 

Although you don't need an account to use TinyURL, if you sign up for one, you can see a history of all your shortened links. You can also subscribe to a paid plan if you want features like tracking and analytics, branded domains, and the ability to edit each TinyURL after you create it.

TinyURL price: Free to use; Personal plan from $9.99/month (billed annually) for tracked links and branded domains. 

Best URL shortener for small business owners

BL.INK

BL.INK URL shortener, our pick for the best URL shortener for small business owners

BL.INK is a full-featured URL shortener service that can be used to not only turn long URLs into short ones but also to track the traffic coming from your links. Its dashboard shows trending links and general statistics, while an analytics page lets you dive into traffic by device, location, and referrers. You can also drill down into clicks by the time of day. Tags, which you can add to your shortened links, let you view your link traffic in new and custom ways and are perfect for tracking and coordinating campaigns.

BL.INK offers four tiers of paid plans to give small businesses, teams, and enterprises a variety of options based on the number of links you need to generate and track. Free account holders can generate 1,000 active links, track up to 1,000 clicks per link, and create a custom domain to make branded links. If you're a business in need of a full-service URL shortener that the entire team can access, and Bitly's enterprise-grade plan seems like overkill, then BL.INK is one of your best options.

Plus, BL.INK integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like automatically post new short links to a Slack channel or add them to your Buffer queue.

BL.INK price: Free plan with 1,000 active links and limited analytics; Expert+ plan from $48/month with 10,000 active links, 7,500 tracked clicks per link, and 3 users.

Best URL shortener for automatically creating a short URL

URL Shortener by Zapier

URL Shortener by Zapier, our pick for the best URL shortener for automatically shortening links

When you want to automatically create and save a shortened link every time you perform a certain action—like add a photo to Instagram or upload a new product to your Shopify store—Zapier's URL Shortener is the way to go.

You can create a Zap (an automated workflow on Zapier) that triggers every time you upload a post, create a product, or do something else in the other apps you use most. Zapier will then save the shortened URL to a Google Sheet or send it directly to another app.

This is the Zapier blog you're reading, so test it for yourself since we're a little biased, but if you're looking to add URL shortening to your automated workflows, this will do the trick. Here are some other popular ways people use Zapier's URL shortener.

URL Shortener by Zapier price: Free plan limited to 5 active single-step Zaps and 100 tasks/month; Starter from $19.99/month (billed annually) with 20 multi-step Zaps and 750 tasks/month.

Best URL shortener for sending different visitors different links

Short.io

Short.io URL shortener, our pick for the best URL shortener for sending different visitors different links

Most URL shorteners will happily tell you where people are clicking on your links and what devices they're using, but Short.io goes one better: it enables you to target visitors in different locations or using different devices and send them to a different link. This is useful if you want to make sure iOS users and Android users see the right app download link, or that your American and Canadian customers see the right kind of dollars. 

When you add a link, click the Apple icon, Android icon, or the globe icon and select how you want to target your clickers and what link you want to serve them. You can, of course, send iOS users something totally different than desktop users, but that's probably going to be very confusing for everyone—including you. Instead, it's best to use this feature only when you have a reason to send different types of visitors to subtly different web pages. 

Otherwise, Short.io is a great URL shortener, though unlike most options, you're required to use your own custom domain. (Last year, I was able to open an account with a short.gy domain for testing purposes, while this year I had to declare what URL I was going to use to sign up.) You can set a default domain for any short link that doesn't work, and dig deep into when, where, and how people are clicking on your links in the Statistics and Clicks Stream sections.

And Short.io integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like create new short links from an RSS feed or Shopify products. 

Short.io Price: Free plan with 1,000 branded links, 50,000 tracked clicks, and device targeting; Personal plan from $16.67/month (billed annually) for unlimited branded links and geo-targeting.

Best URL shortener for adding a CTA to the links you share

Sniply

Sniply URL shortener, our pick for the best URL shortener for adding a CTA to the links you share

If you're sharing links to someone else's content (like interesting articles or good videos) in your newsletter or on your social media accounts, you might want to have the last word. With Sniply, you can.

Sniply's big feature is that, as well as giving you a short URL and click-tracking details, you can also add a call-to-action (CTA) over any link you share. So, when someone follows a link from your Twitter profile to some cool article, at the bottom of the page, you can show a pop-up suggesting they subscribe to your newsletter for more awesome links. 

From the Dashboard, click Manage > Call-to-Actions and then New Call to Action to create one. Depending on your plan, you can make text, forms, and even image CTAs. Now, when you add a link, you can select a CTA to be displayed to anyone who clicks it. If you just want to use Sniply's tracking and analytics, you can also make a hidden CTA that won't get shown. 

The big caveat with Sniply is that, as a marketing service, it's a bit pricier than simpler URL shorteners. The Free and $25/month Basic plans will give you a taster, but for features like removing Sniply branding, using a custom domain, and even customizing the short link text, you'll need to get the $125/month Business plan.

Sniply integrates with Zapier, so you can do things like use a CTA form to automatically add subscribers straight to your email marketing app. 

Sniply Price: Free plan with 500 clicks per month. From $25/month (billed annually) for Basic plan with 5,000 clicks per month; from $125/month (billed annually) for Business plan with custom domain and no Sniply branding. 

This post was originally published in October 2018 by Jill Duffy.

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