Best URL Shorteners and How to choose the right one

The 10 best URL Shorteners and How to Choose the Right One For You

The features and pricing of some of the best URL shorteners

The best URL shorteners out there have a range of different features – the question is, which one is right for you? What features do you need and which really don’t matter?

There is no shortage of companies offering URL shorteners these days, but they all have a slightly different angle, plan, or feature set.

Your business’ needs are undoubtedly unique, so you need to understand the features and figure out a way to pick the best fit from the best link shorteners out there.

As a URL shortener ourselves, specializing in link branding and link tracking, we’ve studied this industry in quite a lot of detail, and there are a lot of truly respectable companies doing great work out there.

So if you’ve decided that Rebrandly is not the right fit for you, we’d recommend taking a look at one of these other guys.

But first…

How URL Shorteners Work

URL Shortening is simultaneously very simple and very complex.

There are dozens of plugins, websites, and open source code bases that allow you to shorten a link or use a 301 redirect to move users and traffic from one web address to another. This is a frequently solved problem.

But that is not what URL shorteners are about…

Also, despite the word “shortener” being in the name, URL Shorteners are no longer necessarily about keeping links extremely short on character length.

The most famous reason for shrinking links was, of course, Twitter, who now treats all links as 23 characters regardless of actual length, and who even more recently upped the characters of each tweet to 280 characters.

So what then is a URL shortener all about?

Modern URL shorteners are focused on a few things:

And other factors that are still very important for all URL shorteners include: reliability, speed, and uptime.

This is one of the main reasons I recommend not using your own domain and hosting for your URL shortener. You need your links to be up 100% of the time and redirected as fast as possible.

Use the free technology that companies like Rebrandly and Bitly are offering you for free, rather than relying on your own.

Side note: Most people don’t know this, but most URL shorteners are actually focused on serving heavy traffic sites, and not everyday internet users.


How we rated the best URL shorteners

We rated each URL shortener based on what we thought would be the most important consideration factors for users:

Features – understanding what they offer you, especially what they offer for free.

Price – what you might have to pay, what paid offerings do they have, and how do they compare with other URL shorteners.

User base – How many customers do they have and how stable are they as a company.

Ease of use – UI, flow and good design.

Quality of education – How are they doing when it comes to teaching their audience about their tools?

Link branding – How easy do they make it customize to your domain and make branded short links? And are they “drinking their own Kool-aid” when it comes to sharing on social media?

How to choose the right URL shortener for you

For you personally, you need to make a decision based on how many links and how much traffic you plan to generate using the URL shortener, the size of your budget, the size of your team, and the purpose you are using the URL shortener for. Is it for social media? Or online advertising? Affiliate marketing? Personal branding? The list goes on…

For most people, a free URL shortener is all they need.

If you are only using it to share a handful of links on your personal social channels, or are running a small local business, then you will never really need a paid version.

But if you’re a medium to large business, or your entire company revolves around digital marketing and inbound traffic generation, then you will probably be looking for some sort of paid solution at some point.

How many links and clicks are you generating?

If you are under 2,500 link clicks, and only need 500 or fewer links created a month, you can rest assured that you should not be paying for your URL shortening services.

What’s the size of your budget?

Are you ready for massive traffic and willing to pay to track it? Then you can afford some of the higher tiered offerings from Bitly Pro, ClickMeter, and others.

Are you still in the early stages of your startup and only have one member on your marketing team? Then you probably should be using a fairly cheap, or free, solution until you make it big.

What’s the size of your team?

Some URL shorteners make team management a piece of cake, while others force you to share an account.

If you’re going to be using this tool across a team of 10 digital marketers, advertisers, content managers, and social media managers, you are only going to find a handful of suitable solutions.

But if it’s mostly just you, then you don’t need the fancier products.

Why are you using the URL shortener?

Some of these URL shorteners are structured simply to help embed UTM parameters and allow you to better track links in Google Analytics (we do this also, by the way), while others are focused on helping you monetize your links by inserting interstitial ads.

And if you’re using your URL shortener for social media management, you will definitely want to use one that has a web extension, the ability to easily brand and adjust your links, and a lot of integrations with marketing tools.

URL shorteners or branded links?

We’ve been talking a lot about URL shorteners, but what if on top of just shortening your link, you could also feature your brand’s name on it? A branded link, also known as a vanity URL or a custom short link, is simply the short version of the URL you’re sharing online that’s built around your own brand rather than the brand of the shortening tool you’re using. For example, ‘shor.tly/dq2st ‘ becomes ‘Brandname.link/keyword.

Branded Links

Branded links have reinvented the way we create and share links both on and offline, turning every link into a promotion for your brand. When you share links with your brand name, you’re associating your company with content it shares, building brand awareness, increasing the brand recognition, and increasing trust among your audience.


The 6 best URL shorteners


If you’re an individual or small brand, check out Clkim or Bitly (free).

If you’ve got a mobile app, check out branch.io.

If you’re a developer looking for a complete in-house solution, try YOURLS.

If you’re looking for ways to collect email addresses and drive traffic, and have a heavy content curation strategy, Sniply might be for you.

And if you’re a heavy user, large brand, or enterprise company, consider using ClickMeter or Bitly Pro.

Noticeable mentions

There are some URL shorteners that you may have expected to learn about that didn’t make the list, so we’d like to give you a few noticeable mentions:

Goo.gl – Google… You suck at shortening links. They shorten the link, and have decent analytics on the backend, but offer none of the basic or advanced features of a modern URL shortener. So even though they are one of the world’s most popular URL shorteners, they are not one of the world’s best URL shorteners.

UPDATE – April 24, 2018: Google announced that it is winding down its URL shortening service. Current users can continue to use the service until March 2019 when it will be discontinued.

Ow.ly – Hootsuite’s own URL shortener is really only for people using their tool that need Hootsuite’s built-in analytics. Unfortunately, that comes at the cost of having a branded link. Between that and having no features outside of shortening URLs, they are not on our top 10 list.

Buff.ly – Buffer’s own URL shortener, like Hootsuite, is just made to shorten links from within their platform, and they don’t actually offer the URL shortener as a standalone service like Ow.ly. So while you may see these links around the internet quite a lot, it’s not a great URL shortener.

TinyURL – their service has been the same for years and they really don’t offer much more than basic link shortening.

There are also a handful of URL shorteners that were close but didn’t quite make the cut, they are:


Total score: 21/60

YOURLS Link AnalyticsYOURLS is an open-source DIY solution that is absolutely worth mentioning on our top 10 list, but it is also not going to be the right solution for 99% of people.

While I’ve already recommended not doing it yourself, you may need to for one reason or another. Maybe you want to make sure no one else, anywhere, ever, can see or own your data, or perhaps you’re working on becoming a better programmer and want to do this for school.

If you’ve got some experience coding and your own web server, this one could be for you.

Features – 3/10

  • Connect Custom Domain – Yes
  • Purchase Custom Domain – No
  • Custom URL Slug Yes
  • Change Destination URLYes
  • UTM Builder – No
  • Retargeting – No
  • Tags – No
  • Integrations – One plugin, one website code base
  • Link analytics dashboard – Yes, and it’s decent.
  • Link Privacy – Yes

Price – 10/10

This is an open-source tool that gives you the code, but you have to find the servers and set it up. They have very limited features, but you will never have to pay anyone for shortening links.

User base – 6/10

YOURLS has been around for a long time, with very little in terms of changes or updates. It is designed for programmers and developers, or advanced marketers, that need a few of the simplest features at scale (like 10,000 links a month or more) and don’t want to pay a third party provider. Their exact number of users is unclear, but it could easily be over 100,000.

Ease of Use – 1/10

The tool requires being a coder, it doesn’t get harder than that!

Quality of Education – 1/10

They have no blog, but do have decent documentation on their plugin and code base. They aren’t active on social media or pursuing growth in any way, it’s just a free tool that someone created and left out there.

Link branding – 7/10

This solution is designed specifically for you to set up under your own branded domain. But they don’t make it easy to purchase and connect a branded domain.

5. Snip.ly

Total score: 29/60

Sniply Homepage

Sniply is a great URL shortener for content creators who are hustling to build an email list or drive additional traffic.

You’ve probably come across a Sniply link before. When you click on it, it looks like you’ve been taken to a website, but what really happens is you’re being shown the website in an iFrame and Sniply is overlaying a form on the bottom that says something like “Join my list” or “Check out this related post.”

This is great for content curators, because when you send people to someone else’s site, you tend to lose them forever. Now you can convert some of those users…


I personally really dislike this strategy and think that overlay tools like this, which are becoming more popular, will die out in the next few years. My warning to you and Sniply is quite simple:

If it’s bad for the user experience it won’t last.

And quite frankly this is bad for the user experience.

Between that and the fact that Dustin Stout already created a tool called Framebuster to block this from working on your website, it’s only a matter of time before all websites block this type of activity, which will lead to sending traffic to error pages and ultimately losing trust with your audience.

My advice is to not use tools like this, but hey, if it is working for you, use it while you can.

Features – 5/10

  • Connect Custom Domain – Paid – $79/month
  • Purchase Custom Domain – Paid – $79/month
  • Custom URL Slug – Paid – $149/month
  • Change Destination URL – No
  • UTM Builder – No
  • Retargeting – Paid – $79/month
  • Tags – No
  • Integrations – Yes
  • Link analytics dashboard – Yes, but more for converting users than tracking
  • Link Privacy – Yes

Price – 6/10

Sniply pricing page

Personally, I’m against forcing your own branding on a paying customer’s tool.

Overall their prices are fair, but based completely on the value proposition of generating more leads, not tracking, branding, or retargeting links.

User Base – 6/10

Sniply is for online marketers who are looking to increase conversions or drive additional traffic and have a strong content curation strategy on their social media. They have thousands of users and great feedback by some of the world’s best marketers.

Ease of use – 6/10

This tool requires a bit of learning but should be simple for any online marketer to create their first campaign. But the URL shortener aspect is again, secondary, to the other features.

Quality of education – 2/10

They haven’t blogged since January 2017, and the post before that was published in February 2016. And generally, what they do post is mediocre at best. Plus their blog is on WordPress.com and not even their own site. Weird!

They have given up, I’d say.

Link branding – 4/10

You can connect a custom domain, but not purchase one. And it’s going to cost you money to share links under that custom domain. They are drinking their own Kool-Aid in terms of sharing branded short links on their social channels.

Sniply Social Media Post

4. Branch.io

Total Score: 35/60

Branch Metrics Deep Linking Homepage

Branch is an analytics company specializing in deep links and improved attribution for mobile apps. If you are creating, or have, a mobile app and have a very slim website, this one is probably for you. Their core deep linking features and analytics are free, while the more advanced premium solutions are charged.


Features – 6/10

  • Connect Custom Domain – Yes
  • Purchase Custom Domain – No
  • Custom URL Slug – Yes
  • Change Destination URL – Yes
  • UTM Builder – No
  • Retargeting – No
  • Tags – Kinda
  • Integrations – Data focused
  • Link analytics dashboard YES
  • Link Privacy – Yes

Price – 8/10

You can start using their core product and SDK integration for free today. If you want to go premium, they offer a 2-week free trial, and afterwards they charge based on the number of events, clicks, or monthly visitors you have.Branchio Data Integrations PricingBranchio Journeys Web to App Tool PricingBranchio Depep Linked Email Pricing

User Base – 5/10

Branch is absolutely for app developers, and data analysts and data-driven marketers that work on large user base apps.

Ease of use – 3/10

Unfortunately, they are a data analytics company first and a URL shortener second, meaning there is no clear way to shorten a URL for the sake of shortening a URL. The tool clearly requires a bit of learning. But all those features are learnable, cool, and handy. This is not a plug and play URL shortener but a super powerful analytics platform that shortens URLs.

Quality of Education – 7/10

Branch is a great analytics company that is clearly dedicated to their niche and educating their users. They are fairly active on their blog and twitter (7.5K followers). Their content is educational and useful.

Link Branding – 6/10

They allow you to connect your own branded domain, but don’t necessarily make it easy to purchase and connect instantly. They also allow sub-domain branding under their URL shortener domain “app.link.”

They are using their own URL shortener in their links, but it needs to be tidied up as they are using a random URL slug:

Branch Metrics Branded Link in Tweet

3. Bitly

Total Score: 43/60

Bitly Homepage

What’s Bitly doing all the way in 3rd place?

Well, honestly, their free product holds a lot back, and their paid product costs about 10x more than many competitors.

While Bitly is the market leader in the URL shortening space, with at least a 10x lead over ClickMeter and many of their closest competitors, they are completely focused on enterprise solutions.

If you work for a large brand or company, then they could absolutely be right for you, but for the other 90% of us, Bitly kinda, well, falls flat.

But their blog is the best in the industry (but I’m coming after them on that), they have great funding and a great team too.

Features – 7/10

  • Connect Custom Domain – Yes (but a little complicated with DNS)
  • Purchase Custom Domain No
  • Custom URL Slug  Yes
  • Change Destination URL – No
  • UTM Builder – No
  • Retargeting – Paid
  • Tags – Yes
  • Integrations – Yes
  • Link analytics dashboard – Yes – Pretty basic without Enterprise though
  • Link Privacy – No

Price – 3/10

Bitly’s free product is the most popular in the industry and comes with some basic link analytics that exist for only the past 30 days.

Their paid plans are not shown publicly, which I really hate. In fact, I made the decision to never do business with a company, specifically a marketing tool company, that doesn’t display their pricing on their website. But, we were able to obtain a screenshot of their pricing page, even though they don’t make it available until after you’ve gone through a demo:

Bitly Pricing Page

Honestly, their pricing is a joke. 90 Day analytics and no deep linking or campaigns for $500 a month is INSANE.

As marketers, we need to track from the beginning of a campaign to the end. If I’m paying you $500/month, I expect to keep all my data… Forever. Also, the plan is called their “startup” tier. Only a growth-stage startup that is in series A or B funding should be paying $500/month for a tool like this. Oh Bitly, so good yet so bad.

User Base – 10/10

Market leaders with proven technology and great funding. The free version is really for everyone. But the paid version is specifically for well-funded, digital marketing-centric and, likely enterprise level, customers. If you’re part of a large digital marketing team for a large company, Bitly should be one of the main options to consider, with ClickMeter being another.

Ease of Use – 8/10

The product is great. You can shorten links for free, without subscribing, and you can study analytics with ease (for 30 days, argh!).

Quality of Education – 7/10

They have the largest library and most popular blog in the industry right now, but their content isn’t all too groundbreaking. It’s good, but not stellar.

Link Branding – 8/10

You can connect your own branded domain and brand 500 links/month for free before having to pay. But you can’t purchase domains and connect them automatically and they don’t emphasize their branded domain feature.

They are drinking their own kool-aid in terms of sharing branded short links on their social channels.

Bitly Tweet with branded link

2. ClickMeter

Total Score: 46/60

ClickMeter Homepage

ClickMeter, which is a sister company to Rebrandly, so take this with a grain of salt, is a great solution for affiliate marketers, advertisers, and enterprise level companies that are looking for something a little bit more technical and just a little different to Bitly.

They also offer conversion tracking, which not a lot of other URL shorteners are doing.

Features – 10/10

  • Connect Custom Domain – Yes
  • Purchase Custom Domain – Yes
  • Custom URL Slug – Yes
  • Change Destination URL – Yes
  • UTM Builder – Yes
  • Retargeting Yes – Only on Paid Plan – Medium $29/month
  • Tags – Yes
  • Integrations – Yes
  • Link analytics dashboard – Yes – advanced compared to the rest
  • Link Privacy – Yes

Price – 8/10

ClickMeter Pricing Page


User Base – 7/10

This product is absolutely for the technical marketer, advertiser, or affiliate marketer. They have a user base of over 100,000 users and work with many of the world’s largest brands. And they do over 1 billion link clicks a month in traffic, so their technology is proven and solid.

Ease of Use – 6/10

The interface is solid, but a little clunky. If you aren’t tech savvy, don’t even think about it. But for the hardcore digital marketer, you just might geek out over the flexibility.

Quality of Education – 7/10

Their blog is OK. There is a lot of old content on there that is helpful and relevant to their users, but they haven’t been pushing it very hard as of late. Maybe that will change in the near future though.

Link Branding – 8/10

You can connect a branded domain to your URL shortener, or you can integrate with Rebrandly to connect your branded URL shortener, making the process very easy.

Yes, they are absolutely sharing links under custom domains,

ClickMeter Using Branded URL Slug

1. Clk.im

Total Score: 50/60

The truth is… Clkim is a very close competitor to Rebrandly. They offer very similar features, have a solid price point and user interface, and work to educate their users. I mean, I like what they do.

The main difference between Rebrandly and Clkim is that they have turned focus a bit more towards link monetization and interstitial advertising, and we are completely dedicated to link branding and the power of link trust.

If you like everything Rebrandly does, but are looking for interstitial ads, anti-adblocker, and monetized campaign management, then yes, head to Clkim, because we will not be offering those features any time soon.

Features – 10/10

  • Connect Custom Domain – Yes
  • Purchase Custom Domain – Yes
  • Custom URL Slug – Yes
  • Change Destination URL Yes
  • UTM Builder – Yes
  • Retargeting – Yes
  • Tags – Yes
  • Integrations – Yes
  • Link analytics dashboard – Yes
  • Link Privacy – Yes

Price – 9/10

Clkim gives you a free 14 day trial before forcing you into one of their paid tiers, which means you should only choose them if you’re ready to dedicate yourself to a paid solution.

But their pricing tiers are completely reasonable and grow with your business. Unfortunately, you have to pay $70/month to get access to their UTM tag builder, which is offered by many other companies for free.

Other than that, I can’t complain.

User Base – 7/10

Since they only give you a free trial, their product is really only for heavy usage marketers and their main features are centered around link branding, social sharing, and link monetization. For that reason, this product is a great fit for serious digital marketers. They have a small, but steadily growing user base.

Ease of Use – 8/10

Their analytics view is great and you can definitely move around the platform with ease.

Quality of Education – 7/10

They have a blog, and there is some decent stuff for educating their users, but it’s not great. The content is frequently short and uses stock photos a bit too much for my liking.

Link Branding – 9/10

They just launched the ability to purchase and connect a branded domain, which is great, but the interface and domain purchasing options leave a little bit to be desired.

They are only half-drinking their own Kool-Aid in terms of sharing branded short links on their social channels:


clkim Tweet with branded link


clkim Tweet using buffly

How dare you use a buff.ly link when you yourself are a URL shortener. Shame:

Go to the shame corner

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right marketing tools for your business can be a daunting task. You want products that are affordable now but can scale with your business later, and have low switching costs and an easy to use interface.

So, tell me…

Which URL shortener are you planning on going with? Are there any that aren’t on this list that you think should be? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Still can’t decide?
We’d love to talk to you about using Rebrandly and branded links as your next URL shortener. Contact one of our experts.


Further Reading:

This Article is About:

  • The best URL shorteners
  • Top URL shortening tools
  • Best tools for creating short links

Originally Posted: September 2nd, 2016.
Post Updated: January 4th, 2018
Post Updated: October 4th, 2018



Head of Growth at Rebrandly. Derric is a lifelong entrepreneur and passionate about helping startups and marketers not suck. He speaks, practices, and blogs about growth and digital marketing on Rebrandly and across the universe.