An Introduction to Link Shortening

Benefits, popular tools and use cases

We have all seen long links online and immediately felt sick 🤮 :,+New+York,+USA/@40.6970193,-74.3093174,10z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m6!3m5!1s0x89c24fa5d33f083b:0xc80b8f06e177fe62!8m2!3d40.7127753!4d-74.0059728!16zL20vMDJfMjg2?entry=ttu

Nobody wants to see that. When you post or send someone a link like that, even if they can decipher it, they will think less of you as a person. But you still want to share links with others, like showing them on Google Maps the location of 🗽. That's where link-shortening services can be handy.

Link shortening solves these problems elegantly. It takes a long URL and transforms it into a compact and manageable form, making it more user-friendly and visually appealing. Our location of 🗽 on Google Maps then becomes:

These shortened links are not only easier to share, but also provide several advantages:

1. Improved User Experience

Shortened links are cleaner and more user-friendly. They are easier on the eyes, easier to type (if you have to) and won't scare people off like very long cryptographic links.

2. Enhanced Tracking and Analytics

Most link-shortening services offer built-in analytics, allowing you to track click-through rates (CTR), geographic data, and referral sources. This data is invaluable for understanding the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

3. Branding Opportunities

Custom short URLs (also known as vanity URLs) allow you to reinforce your brand identity. For instance, if you run a clothing store called “FashionFinds,” a custom short URL like fshn.fnd/SummerSale can enhance brand recognition.

Shortened links can be organized, categorized, and managed more efficiently, which is particularly beneficial for marketers dealing with numerous campaigns. Here is an example of LinkTracker's interface where users can name, categorize, tag and delete their short links:

There are hundreds of link-shortening services online, and it's not an easy task to choose one. If you just want to follow the herd and pick up whatever everyone else is using, here are the most popular ones:

1. TinyURL

TinyURL is the first well-known link-shortening service, operating since 2002. They have a basic free tier, and paid plans, with custom domains, branded links, analytics, and other advanced features, starting from $9.99/mo.

2. Bitly

Bitly is one of the most recognized names in link shortening. It offers not only URL shortening but also analytics, link customization, and the ability to create branded short domains. Besides that, you can generate QR codes and your link-in-bio. There is a browser extension as well as mobile apps for iOS and Android. In operation since 2008.

3. Rebrandly

Rebrandly is a more modern approach to link management. It allows you to create branded short domains, making it an ideal choice for businesses looking to maintain a consistent brand image in their links. They offer a free tier, and depending on how many branded links you need per month, paid tiers start at $13/mo. Rebrandly was founded in 2009.

4. T2M

T2M (Text to Marketing) offers not only link shortening, but also tracking and analytics. It's a comprehensive solution for marketers who want to monitor link performance. You can use the service for a one-time fee of $5, while more robust features are priced starting at $9.99/mo. T2M has been operating since 2006.

Originally, link shorteners gained popularity on social networks with character limits, like good old Twitter (now X). Later, it was more about branding your links, using custom or your own domain. Finally, analytics were added to gain insights into link performance, which made them popular for marketing and SEO purposes.

While the heyday of link shorteners has passed, they still find niche use cases in marketing, affiliate links, and QR codes, where compact links are beneficial. Some businesses and individuals continue to use these services for branding and tracking purposes.

Some services, like our Google Maps example from the beginning of this article, still produce long, cryptic looking links, nobody likes to see.

Usually, when we have something like that, we want quick access to a link-shortener, preferably in a form of a browser extension, so that we don't even have to leave the page.

Personally, I like (Affiliate-Link*)

2. Email Marketing

Shortened links in email marketing campaigns improve the appearance of your messages and make it easier for recipients to click through to your website or landing page.

Also, it makes your newsletter look so much nicer and professional. Unless your newsletter tool does not already have its own link shortener, make sure you use one, before clicking “Send”.

3. QR Codes

Shortened URLs are commonly used in QR codes, which can be scanned by mobile devices. This simplifies offline marketing efforts, such as print advertising and packaging.

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