There are many tools and applications available to help marketers and content creators produce more quality content, and that includes link shorteners. Whether it’s a blog post, marketing email, or even a YouTube video description, using link shorteners is incredibly useful.
In this article, we are going to take a deeper look into three of the most popular link shorteners Bitly, TinyURL, and BL.INK — and weigh the advantages and disadvantages of each to help marketers and content creators determine which tool is the best for them.
Why use a link shortener?
Let’s go back to the subject of “quality” content for a moment. “Quality” content is well-thought-out and well-written content that solves a reader’s or a prospect’s problem, answers his or her questions, and that also looks clean and organized.
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However, many links are long, wordy, and just look messy, but are necessary for SEO purposes. Links help describe the content, but are lengthy and aren’t exactly the easiest to share in emails, on web pages, or on social media. Additionally, short links are also seen as more trustworthy and appear less “spammy” and suspicious to readers and prospects.
This is where a link shortener tool comes in handy… Link shorteners allow users to shorten and “clean up” lengthy URLs. Therefore, over time, link shorteners have become a necessary tool for content creators and marketers to add to their martech stacks. The best link shortener tools allow users to:
- Shorten links
- Customize and/or brand links
- Track performance metrics of each short link
- Save space and reduce characters
How we reviewed each link shortener
To ensure we conduct fair reviews of each tool, we use the following criteria:
- Time to get going. How easy is it to set up and use this tool?
- Ease of use. How is the user interface designed? How easy is it to use overall?
- Feature richness. What features are available? Are the features helpful? Do the features provide value for the cost?
- Price. How much does the platform cost? What is the overall cost versus value?
At the end of this article, we will provide an overall grade and declare a “winner” link shortener tool.
1. Deep-dive review: Bitly
When marketers think of a URL shortener, Bitly is likely the first tool to come to mind. Bitly is one of the most popular link shorteners available today and has been reigning the market since 2008. Not only is Bitly super-easy to use, but it also provides marketers with various other features.
Feature richness. There is a lot to love about Bitly. Bitly is far more than just a link shortener, it also provides users and marketers with the ability to create custom and encrypted short links, review data and analytics related to the number of clicks your Bitly short links generated, and also integrate Bitly with other tools and apps, such as social media and other digital marketing dashboards. All in all, Bitly rates a 5 out of 5 on the “feature richness” scale.
Time to get going. Additionally, Bitly is easy to set up and start using, even if you have never used a link shortener before. It only takes a few minutes to set up an account and begin using Bitly.
Although using Bitly is very straightforward, they also offer a “Bitly 101” user guide, resources, videos, and other materials to help users make the most out of this five-star link shortener tool.
Ease of use. As mentioned in the point above, it takes minutes to set up an account and begin using Bitly. Simply sign up and start “shortening.” Additionally, the other Bitly features are also incredibly easy to use and intuitive, even for the most basic users or marketer.
Price. One of the biggest downsides to using Bitly is cost. Although Bitly does offer a free plan, it is very limited. It only allows users to create up to 1,000 short links per month. For some users, this might be enough. It allows users to shorten links, but that’s it. If you want link management, data and analytics, and other Bitly robust features, then a paid plan is necessary. Bitly pricing plans start at $29 per month. There are also high-level, enterprise plans available at a custom price.
Grade: A (3.98 out of 5 possible points)
2. Deep-dive review: TinyURL
TinyURL is another link shortener tool with a very different look and feel from Bitly. In fact, TinyURL became available before Bitly. This tool is best for users who just need to generate short links on occasion, and don’t really have a use for advanced link management or tracking features.
Time to get going. Seconds. TinyURL is easy and free to use and does not require users to sign up for an account to use it. Users can simply copy and paste a long link into the link shortener box, and click “Make TinyURL.” That’s it.
Ease of use. TinyURL is very straightforward and easy to use. Users need little guidance, resources or set-up time to start using this link shortener. Simply enter a long link into the box and click the “Make TinyURL” button. Users can also create custom tiny URLs without an account.
Feature richness. Although TinyURL’s user interface is a bit dated, we were actually surprised to discover what features were available — even for free. In addition to a browser extension, and creating custom tiny URLs, users also have the ability to preview custom links and set up URL redirects.
Price. TinyURL is 100 percent free.
Feature richness. Although we listed “feature richness” as a pro, and TinyURL offers several beneficial features even as a free tool, it does not offer any type of link management or analytics features, which can be super useful and valuable for marketers.
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Although TinyURL allows you to create up to a billion redirects each month, it doesn’t provide users with any performance data related to those links. This could be a huge disadvantage to marketers who need to track performance for each short link.
TinyURL was originally designed in 2002, and the website and user interface certainly looks like it. The UI is definitely lacking and dated, which could be a con for many users. However, as a free tool, we can’t really expect the world.
All in all, TinyURL is best for marketers or users who simply need to create a short link when necessary, and don’t really use them on a regular basis, or have a need to commit to setting up an account or paying for a tool.
Grade: B+ (3.58 out of 5 possible points)
3. Deep-dive review: BL.INK
BL.INK is another robust link shortener tool. BL.INK’s tagline is “more than just a link shortener,” and they are certainly right. BL.INK allows marketers and users to take link shortening to a whole new level.
Although BL.INK and Bitly are designed with similar features and functionalities, which we will review in this deep dive section, BL.INK takes it one step further by offering domain registration services, full campaign management features complete with integrated reporting as well as security features and advanced user management features.
Time to get going. Although BL.INK does require a user account to get going, it doesn’t force you to enter a credit card or form of payment, which is a huge plus, especially for users who want to stick with the “freemium” version.
After setting up an account, BL.INK is relatively easy to use. Users might get a little caught up in exploring the various options and features, but to grab a tiny URL is easy and can be done within only a few minutes of exploring the tool.
Feature richness. BL.INK certainly wins this category. As we mentioned briefly above, BL.INK offers a number of useful and valuable features, particularly for marketers, such as robust link tracking, campaign management, which includes the ability to track performance across multiple platforms. It also allows users to brand their links, which is a huge plus. Users can even add notes relevant to specific links for yourself or team members.
BL.INK is also designed with open API access as well as a list of security features and configurations for users with strict compliance requirements, including audit logs and tiered user access permissions.
Ease of use. After reading a handful of customer reviews, users rave about BL.INK. In many reviews, users claim that BL.INK far exceeds their expectations in terms of available features, functionality, and ease of use.
Price. BL.INK offers both a free plan as well as several paid plans. There is an “Expert” plan available at $12/month, a “Small Business” plan at $99/month, various “Team” plans at $299/month and a “Business” plan at $599/month. There is also an “Enterprise” plan available at a custom price. Many users feel that the “Enterprise” plan is a bit overkill; the majority of users can see value from BL.INK’s basic features at a fraction of the cost.
All in all, BL.INK is relatively affordable and offers a wide range of plans, which appeals to a wide range of audiences. This way, users aren’t stuck paying for features they don’t necessarily need.
Grade: A+ (4.35 out of 5 possible points)
The “winning” link shortener tool is…
All in all, there are a number of link shortener tools available today. However, we have narrowed them down to the top three that we think are best for individual content creators, marketers, and small or startup businesses.
After reviewing each of these link shortener tools, and admitting that they each have their own unique strengths, we find that BL.INK is the best option for quickly creating short links and full campaign and link tracking. BL.INK also offers a number of plans so users and marketers are bound to find the best-fit plan for them without paying for features they don’t need.
This is where BL.INK took the lead over Bitly. Bitly only offers one paid plan option and the next level above it is a custom “enterprise” plan, which may be overkill. Therefore, we declare BL.INK as the link shortener “winner.”
Finally, link shorteners are important tools to add to your martech stack. The best URL shorteners allow users to shorten and customize their links so they aren’t just shorter and easier to work with, but so they also look cleaner.
With that being said, Bitly and TinyURL are still great tools, depending on your preferences and needs.Need to track link performance at a high level? You can get the job done with one of these link shortener tools. #socialmedia #contentmarketing Click To Tweet
Type of site
|Created by||Kevin Gilbertson|
|Launched||January 2002; 19 years ago|
TinyURL is a URL shortening web service, which provides short aliases for redirection of long URLs. Kevin Gilbertson, a web developer, launched the service in January 2002 as a way to post links in newsgroup postings which frequently had long, cumbersome addresses. TinyURL was the first notable URL shortening service and is one of the oldest still currently operating.
The TinyURL homepage includes a form which is used to submit a long URL for shortening. For each URL entered, the server adds a new alias in its hashed database and returns a short URL. According to the website, the shortened URLs will never expire.
TinyURL offers an API which allows applications to automatically create short URLs. This is done by simply reading the result returned from
Short URL aliases are seen as useful because they are easier to write down, remember or distribute. They also fit in text boxes with a limited number of characters allowed. Some examples of limited text boxes are IRC channel topics, email signatures, microblogs (such as Twitter, which notably limits all posts to first 140 and later 280 characters), certain printed newspapers (such as .net magazine or even Nature), and email clients that impose line breaks on messages at a certain length.
Starting in 2008, TinyURL allowed users to create custom, more meaningful aliases. This means that a user can create descriptive URLs rather than a randomly generated address. For example,
https://tinyurl.com/wp-tinyurl leads to the Wikipedia article about the website.
Preview short URLs
To preview the full URL from the short TinyURL, the user can visit TinyURL first and enable previews as a default browser cookie setting or copy and paste the short URL into the browser address bar, and prepend the short
preview.tinyurl.com/x. Another preview feature is not well documented at the TinyURL site, but the alternative shortened URL with preview capability is also offered to shortcut creators as an option at the time of creation of the link.
The popularity of TinyURLs influenced the creation of at least 100 similar websites. Most are simply domain alternatives while some offer additional features.
People posting on Twitter often made extensive use of shortened URLs to keep their tweets within the service-imposed 140 character limit. Twitter used TinyURL until 2009, before switching to Bit.ly. Currently, Twitter uses its own
t.co domain for this purpose. Though Twitter has extended its limit to 280 characters, it automatically shortens links longer than 31 characters using its
The TinyURL method of allocating shorter web addresses has inspired an exploration activity known as TinyURL-whacking. Random letters and numbers can be appended after the first forward slash
tinyurl.com/, in an attempt to find and reveal interesting sites without finding and copying a previously known referrer's link.
- ^ abcKatie Dean (March 16, 2004). 'Honey, I Shrunk the URL'. Wired. Archived from the original on December 21, 2016. Retrieved November 17, 2016.
So the 24-year-old Web developer from Blaine, Minnesota, launched TinyURL.com in January 2002, a free site that converts huge strings of characters into more manageable snippets.
- ^'How to Preview Shortened URLs (TinyURL, bit.ly, is.gd, and more)'. 2009-04-11. Archived from the original on 2014-03-25. Retrieved 2014-05-30.
- ^90+ URL Shortening ServicesArchived 2008-08-30 at the Wayback Machine, Mashable.Com, 8 January 2008, page 84
- ^Weisenthal, Joe (May 6, 2009). 'Twitter Switches from TinyURL to Bit.ly'. Business Insider. Archived from the original on March 8, 2013. Retrieved February 15, 2013.
- ^New Scientist, vol. 179, issue 2404, 19 July 2003, page 84