A URL Shortener Face Off: Bit.ly and Goo.gl Go Head-to-Head
Wondering which URL shortener is right for you?
As a URL shortener ourselves, we, of course, consider ourselves comparable to both Bitly and Google, but if you aren’t interested in using Rebrandly, we want you to know which other URL shorteners might be right for you.
So… Is it Bitly? Or is it Google? Or maybe something else all together. Let’s get into it. But first…
Spoiler: Bit.ly is way better than Goo.gl. Keep reading to find out why.
What to Look For in a URL Shortener
Ever since Twitter changed their rules on how links work inside Tweets, URL shorteners have no longer been about just shrinking a link. They are now more about tracking marketing efforts, branding your business, and using advanced features like link retargeting or conversion tracking.
Two of the most important features of a URL shortener are reliability and speed. Luckily both of these URL shorteners are extremely reliable, and extremely fast, but some of the smaller players in the market are not as reliable (don’t worry, we, at Rebrandly are very reliable as well).
Some of the features you may be looking for are:
- Ability to use a custom domain
- Ability to create a custom URL slug
- Number of links you can create for free
- Number of clicks you can get for free
- Link analytics and the dashboard design
- Privacy – keeping the link clicks data private
- Ability to change the destination URL
- Ability to easily add UTM parameters using a URL builder
- Geographical link click information
Unfortunately, you aren’t going to get all of the above with either of these two options, but they are good URL shorteners nonetheless.
Bitly vs Google Infographic
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Pros of Bitly (Free)
Bitly is best known for being Twitters auto-shortener from between 2009 and 2011. That was until Twitter created their own URL shortener, t.co.
Nowadays, Bitly is the market leader in the URL shortening industry and offers one of the best products out there.
They have withheld a lot of their quality features behind a $500/month pay gate, which is a steep price when you really just want a few advanced features to save you some time every month.
That being said, their pro version is no joke, and allows advanced marketers to create, share, and manage multiple campaigns, team members, and links all in one dashboard. We are only going to talk about their free version today, as that’s probably what you’re probably here about.
Free account limits:
Right now they give you 5,000 Bitlinks or 500 branded links, with unlimited clicks for free.
Some of Bitly’s free features include:
- Ability to customize your short links:
- Ability to use own domain, and connect one branded domain for free
- Ability to customize the URL slug
- Ability to edit the title tag
- A slick looking dashboard with breakdowns for referral traffic and dark traffic
- A timeline for what days got what traffic
- Integration with many social media and marketing tools
- A Chrome extension and an iPhone App
- Bitly integrates with Rebrandly so that every time a link is created with Rebrandly, it will also be created in Bitly
A huge benefit to using Bitly is that they are integrated with nearly every social media and marketing tool out there. Buffer, Hootsuite, Zapier, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Reddit included.
Cons of Bitly
Bitly isn’t exactly being generous with their free product. They’ve saved a lot of relatively simple features, like their UTM builder and Tag Management, for their paid product, and that is a drag.
Some other things to know about Bitly are:
- You can use your own domain, but it’s a more complicated process, especially for those who aren’t tech-savvy
- Analytics are deleted after 30 days
- You can’t delete the link after it’s created
- You can’t change the destination URL
- Link data is public data – all you have to do is add a + to the end of any Bitlink to see the stats for that link
Go and test out the last point, and see how easy it is to spy on other peoples link clicks (or for them to spy on you).
Just find a Bitly short URL like the one below, paste it into your browser and add a + to the end of it. As soon as you press enter, the links stats page opens up.
Overall, they have one of the best free dashboards out there, but they don’t let you take control of your links.
Pros of Goo.gl
Google’s URL shortener – goo.gl – was created to solve some of their other problems when it came to things like sharing a link to a map pin or Google Doc.
And while Google is known for being rockstars at everything they do, they aren’t in the URL shortening business to make money, and therefore their product isn’t being frequently managed or updated. That being said, they’ve got a very good product.
Some of the benefits of Goo.gl are:
- Login is not mandatory
- It’s powered by Google, a reliable source
- No need for separate login, it is integrated into your Google account
- Speed isn’t everything, but it has been proven in the past to be the fastest URL Shortener
- Goo.gl links currently contain 13 characters, 1 character less than Bitly short links
- Strong analytics dashboard
- Keeps a record of all of your past URLs, if you create the links while you are logged in into your Google account
- Each URL has its own click statistic – Showing you how many times the short URL has been clicked, the referrer of the click, the profile of the visitor (Country, Browser, OS)
- You can see what the original URL is and what the website looks like in the user interface
- Each URL comes with a QR Code (but no one uses QR codes)
- Chrome Extension Available
- The Google URL Shortener integrates with Rebrandly to allow you to use goo.gl links and analytics but under your own custom domain.
- New: Google now has a Campaign URL Builder with built-in URL shortening.
Back in 2010, Pingdom, a service that tracks the uptime, downtime, and performance of websites, did a test to see how the favourite URL Shorteners at the time compared in speed and reliability.
For a couple of weeks, after Goo.gl became available to everyone, Pingdom monitored its performance and reliability together with several other URL shortening services, including Bit.ly and TinyURL.
You can read the full Pingdom results article here, but this is the summary (with focus on Goo.gl and Bit.ly):
- Speed: Goo.gl was almost 3x faster than Bit.ly overall.
- Reliability: Both Bit.ly and Goo.gl delivered perfect availability.
Cons of Goo.gl
Goo.gl actually has a lot more limitations than Bitly, and they don’t offer a paid product to “unlock” any more features than what they give you.
Some of the shortcomings of Goo.gl are:
- Cannot customize the URL (they are generic, random numbers and letters)
- Cannot use custom domain
- Cannot customize your URL slug
- No way to remove links from links listing (You “hide” them instead)
- Link data is public data – all you have to do is add a + to the end of any Goo.gl short link to see the stats for that link
- Can create Duplicate links
Not being able to customize your URL is obviously huge, meaning that you can’t create benefit driven short links, which are proven to get more clicks.
Other URL Shorteners to Consider
Outside of Bitly and Google (and Rebrandly) there are a few other options worth considering. They are:
Clkim – They are a great URL shortening service that has a lot of the advanced features of Bitly without the price. They are very similar to what we, at Rebrandly, offer.
YOURLS – For coders or those that want to literally own their link shortener and the code associated with it. This is a free, open source tool that you can use on your website to shorten links.
Trim – Part of a larger marketing platform called Gravity, Trim is well designed and comes with a handful of ways to sort and study your data that other URL shorteners don’t have. Be careful though, I found their welcome email in my spam folder…
You may also be looking for a URL shortener to use as a WordPress plugin, in which case Pretty Link Pro is a pretty good option.
If I were choosing between Bit.ly or Goo.gl, I would hands down choose Bitly.
Bitly is the largest and most famous URL shortener in the world, and URL shortening, link analytics, and link tracking, is all they do. While they come with a lot of limitations, I see a lot of benefits with them being integrated into nearly every single marketing tool you would want in your marketing arsenal (Rebrandly is working on conquering this area, but we are admittedly a ways behind).
So tell me, what do you think? Bitly? Or Google? And why? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.