The 8 Best Alternatives to Google URL Shortener

URL shortening service goo.gl is being discontinued. Here are the best URL shortener alternatives.

Jill Duffy
Jill Duffy / October 3, 2018

If you've ever relied on goo.gl to tighten up links for you, it's time to start thinking about an alternative URL shortener. Google ended support for its URL Shortener at the end of March 2018 and will pull the plug entirely on March 30, 2019 (links will continue to direct traffic appropriately after that date). If you're in need of a replacement, you might be asking yourself, "What are the best URL shorteners and how they differ from one another?"

URL shorteners make sharing written-out links more manageable. Say you want to provide a link on a business card, in an advertisement, or in an email where hyperlinking isn't ideal. A shortened URL takes up less space and keeps your text tidy. For example, you can convert
https://www.blog.google/products/maps/wheres-waldo-find-him-google-maps/
to
https://goo.gl/rVBBtP
The second version is much shorter and easier for someone to copy and paste or type.

Another use case for shortened URLs is to create variations on one link so that you can easily track the source of traffic to it. For example, you might spin out one URL to use on Twitter, a different one for Facebook, and a third to be used in an email newsletter.

In looking for a new URL shortener, it's helpful to know that some do little more than turn long links into short ones, while others let you customize the text of the new URLs, track click-through rates on a dashboard, and analyze other information about who's clicking your links. Most URL shorteners have a free tier of service, but you often have to pay for added features, such as data and analysis. The eight URL shortening services that made the cut for this list are reliable and easy to use, and each one stands out for one special reason, noted as "best for" below.

Here are the best URL shorteners to replace goo.gl, listed in alphabetical order.

The 8 Best URL Shortener Services


Bitly

Best URL shortener for businesses branding and tracking links

Bitly URL shortener

Bitly is a full service, business-grade URL shortener, although if your needs are modest, you can also use it anonymously to shorten long URLs and be on your way. But it stands out for its business offering. Part of the appeal is that Bit.ly is simple and easy to use. It has a comprehensive dashboard where you can track statistics about your links, such as click-through rates, geographic data of people visiting your links, and so forth. Tools for tracking campaigns are easy to use as well.

With Bitly's free limited account, you can customize your shortened URLs, track click rates, and get information about your top referrers, but only for 500 branded links and 10,000 non-branded links. It's a generous free plan and could very well be adequate for some small businesses. Enterprise-grade accounts (custom pricing) allow you to make as many branded links as you want, plus see more data in reports about who clicks your links. Bitly is the best URL shortener for large businesses looking to brand and track links, and it's a great choice for small businesses that want to generate short URLs and follow their stats for a modest number of campaigns. Bitly integrates with Zapier, which means you can automate it with any other tool that supports Zapier.


Bl.ink

Best URL shortener for small businesses

Bl.ink URL shortener

Bl.ink is a full-featured URL shortener service that you use it to not only turn long URLs into short ones but also 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.

Bl.ink offers four tiers of paid plans, starting at $12/month, 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 links and track up to 1,000 clicks per link. Free accounts can connect to one domain for making branded links. If you're a business in need of a full-service URL shortener and Bitly's enterprise-grade plan seems like overkill, then Bl.ink's is one of your best options. Bl.ink is supported by Zapier, meaning you can connect it to other apps you use in your work to generate and track short links automatically.


Polr

Best URL shortener for self-hosting

Open-source project Polr allows people with the technical know-how to host their own URL shortener. It's available through the Polr project page and from GitHub. You can use the tool as-is or fork it if you have the programming abilities to do so. (If you're so inclined, it's written in PHP and Lumen, using MySQL as its primary database.) Though it's similar to Yourls, another free and open source URL shortener, Polr is much slicker looking, designed to have a modern and minimalist feel. It comes with some traffic tracking tools as well. If you just want to test out the basic interface, Polr offers a demo page.


Rebrandly

Best URL shortener for creating branded links

Rebrandly URL shortener

While Rebrandly is a URL shortener much like any other, its angle is slightly different. 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. For example, Bob Vila could customize the link to his Wikipedia entry from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bob_Vila to BobVila.Tools/wikipedia. A link to one of his books on Amazon could be BobVila.Tools/amazon-book. Vila can use these links on his own site, business cards, or in advertisements. Rebrandly includes tools for tracking the popularity of each link, too. Rebrandly supports QR code generation, too. (If Rebrandly is more than you need, is.gd works for QR generation as well.) A free account includes 1,000 links on one custom domain. Paid plans start at $19/month. Zapier supports Rebrandly, so you can integrate it with other apps with ease.


T2M

Best for making short links and QR codes simultaneously

T2Mio link shortener service

T2M, also called T2Mio, is another full service URL shortener where you can see a dashboard of activity and other statistics for tracking URL traffic. It has two dashboards, one for geographic information and one for device and platform, that are especially well designed and easy to read. When you spin up a URL, T2M also automatically generates a QR code, a nice touch if you need it. Another unique feature is a tool that helps you target specific geographic locations where you want your URLs to have an effect. The site could stand to have more information about this particular tool, as it's vague about what it does exactly, but overall the features and interface are well thought out.

Similar to its competitors, T2M has a free plan with limitations, plus paid accounts for those who need more. The free plan does not put any limits on the number of URLs you can generate, nor how many clicks you can track. It also gives you baked in tools for sharing shortened URLs on social networking sites. A Standard plan that's suited for small businesses costs $7/month and adds branded and vanity URLs, password protected URLs, a tool for shortening a number of URLs at once ("bulk changer"), the ability to add one custom domain, and a few additional perks. There's an Enterprise plan, too, that removes very nearly all limits found in the Standard plan and adds some additional features as well, which costs $67/month. T2M is a very good URL shortener for businesses that want pleasing dashboards and automatic QR code generation.


TinyURL

Best URL shortener for quick, anonymous use

TinyURL URL shortener

Free URL shortener TinyURL has been in the game since 2002, and for good reason. It's a wonderful tool when you need to create a short link in a hurry that will never expire. TinyURL can suggest a shorter URL for you, or you can customize the result, although it will start with tinyurl.com/. TinyURL also offers a toolbar button that lets you generate a short link from the current webpage on screen. It's a little different from a typical browser plugin. On TinyURL's main page, there are instructions to drag a link from the page into your toolbar's links section. That link is actually a little script. From any web page, you can click that link and it will take you back to TinyURL where a shortened link will have already been generated for the page where you started. Although TinyURL is entirely free and anonymous to use, it doesn't contain any reports or information about your links and their popularity.


URL Shortener by Zapier

Best URL shortener for generating links automatically

When you want to automatically create and save a shortened link every time you do a certain action (I'll give an example in a moment), Zapier's URL Shortener is one of the best options. Formerly part of Zapier's Formatter, the URL Shortener is now its own tool that can automatically shorten links. For example, every time you post a new photo to Flickr, you want to generate a shorter link and save a copy of it to a Google Sheet. You can create a Zap, what we call Zapier's automated workflows, to do just that, and from there on out, all you have to do is upload your images to Flickr and Zapier will do the rest. Another very good option along the same lines is Owly, which was once a standalone apps but is now a tool within Hootsuite. You can use Owly to automatically shorten a link everytime you schedule a social media update to post. It's a handy tool for a specific use case, but not as flexible as the other URL shorteners on this list.


Yourls

Best URL shortener for self-hosting and customizing

Yourls

Yourls, which is an acronym for "your own URL shortener," is not an off-the-shelf URL shortening service, but rather one that you install and run on your own server. Similar to Polr, Yourls is free and open-source. With Yourls, you can choose whether your links will be public or private. It includes bookmarklets, which let you turn a long URL into short one from your web browser in just one click. By default, the tool generates sequential URLs, but you can change it to come up with random strings instead if you prefer. There are a few traffic tracking tools as well.

This URL shortener was designed to be lightweight rather than bloated with features, but if you want to expand its capabilities, you can install plugins for Yourls or build your own plugins for it.


As you look for a URL shortening service that's right for you, rest easy knowing any links made with goo.gl will continue to work as normal after Google pulls the plug.

Title image from FreeImages.com/ Anna Maria Lopez Lopez.

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