A URL shortener is exactly what it sounds like: a service that allows users to shorten their links to make them more human-friendly and less complicated-looking, often under 20 characters long.
Ever since the untimely demise of the Google URL Shortener, we’ve all been trying to find something that might pick up the mantle of the best link shortener out there. Goo.gl was super convenient – quick and, more importantly, free to use. Since it was decommissioned in 2018, many other services have come to light that do more with URLs – allowing you to track click data, share links faster on social media platforms, manage links, and customize link domains.
With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of a few of the best free link shorteners in no particular order and highlighted why you might want to give them a shot.
The Best Free Link Shorteners
- Rebrandly for branded links
- Bitly for unlimited click tracking
- TinyURL for quick link customization
- Short.io for mobile targeting
Best URL Shortener for Branded Links
For an app with advanced features even in its free plan, Rebrandly has an incredibly easy-to-use (and easy on the eyes) interface. With its desktop apps and browser extensions, Rebrandly is more than a URL shortener – it is a link management platform that allows you to shorten, customize, brand, track, and integrate your links securely and with ease.
Signing up with a free account offers users:
- unlimited link redirects, with 5000 clicks tracked/month
- up to 5 custom domains for personalized link branding
- URL slugs customization and slash tags in five different ways (shortest, random, suggested, SEO-friendly, and suggested camel case)
- more than 50 app integrations (including Zapier and Slack), with link sharing to major social media platforms
- editable URL destinations and extensive link history, with QR codes
- advanced link tracking (with stats including location, time, browser, and the number of clicks).
If you’re a small business looking to work on your custom branding and branded links, Rebrandly is the app for you. The platform packs a punch even with its free plan and is highly scalable and user-friendly.
Best URL Shortener for Unlimited Click Tracking
Bitly is one of the most popular URL shorteners out there. It offers users a chrome extension for faster access and features a simple web dashboard that offers all its tools with visual clarity. While Bitly has advanced link features, they are reserved for their paid plans. These include bulk-shortening, link permissions, email support, campaigns, and QR codes, among others. However, its free plan allows users a decent amount of link-tracking.
Signing up with a free account lets users:
- shorten and track up to 100 secure links per month
- track an unlimited number of clicks for each link
- view referrers and click locations
- customize link back-halves (slugs, basically).
The highlight of using Bitly – and the reason for its popularity – is how accessible it is. If you’re in a bind and want to shorten a link quickly, you just need to head to their homepage and paste it in the long box there. You’ll get a secure link within a second and you can copy it with the click of a button. It’s pretty neat.
Best URL Shortener for Quick Link Customization
Odds are that even if you’ve never used it, you’ve probably come across a link created through TinyURL. TinyURL is the most straightforward URL shortener of this bunch and most of its advanced features, like custom branding and link monitoring, are part of its paid plans. Even the web dashboard of its free account is pretty barebones and extremely simple to use.
With its free plan, users get:
- unlimited shortened URLs and link history
- URL slug customization and unlimited active links
- a choice between alternative TinyURL domains, or a vanity TinyURL domain.
TinyURL is where you go when you want to make a quick, anonymous link that you want to share immediately. This is probably why it’s so popular – like Bitly, it offers a free URL shortener on its homepage. Unlike Bitly, however, it lets you customize your slug and choose between TinyURL’s other domains before creating a link, and without needing to sign up.
Best URL Shortener for Mobile Targeting
If we’re talking about interfaces, Short.io is a great place to start. Its design is beginner-friendly and very organized, which keeps the user from feeling a little lost in the features that the software offers. The best part about the app is that it offers a number of advanced features, albeit limited, for free, that most other apps offer in their paid plans. Of note among these is a feature that allows you to redirect visitors based on their mobile operating system.
When you sign up for a Short.io free account, you get:
- 5 custom domains with 1000 branded links, and link automation (bulk-shortening, e.g.) for 1000 links
- mobile targeting to redirect to a specific destination based on a user’s mobile operating system
- unlimited redirects and the ability to track 50,000 clicks
- responsive mobile and desktop apps for quicker access, and browser extensions
- app integrations with Zapier, Segment, and Slack
- destination URL and URL slug editing, with an SSL certificate by Let’s Encrypt.
Okay, we know it’s not free, but Short.io offers a particularly cool feature that most apps don’t: geographical tracking and traffic routing. Based on the visitor’s location, you can direct them to different pages of your website. It’s pretty neat, especially if you’re a big company with a site that gets international visitors.
Other Notable Link Shorteners
There are many other noteworthy free or reasonably-priced URL shorteners on the web that do more than just the bare minimum and have distinct features to offer. Tiny.cc, for one, lets users add a logo to their links. Sniply.io, for another, allows users to add a CTA feature to their links to direct traffic.
Shorby is designed specifically for links catering to Instagram. AdFly, which is another popular open-source software, allows users to monetize their clicks, even if it doesn’t offer the best visual interface or user experience.
Link Shortener for Your File Sharing Needs
With the convenience that having a short link affords you, both in function and aesthetic, services now offer URL shortening as part of their integrations.
As a multi-tiered visual communication platform, Jumpshare focuses heavily on quick file sharing via link and email. It’s designed to reduce the time taken between link generation and file sharing, which is why it has a built-in URL shortening feature that is automatically applied to all links generated, based on your custom domain and branding. It even offers per-file analytics so you can track how your shared files are being viewed.