Bit.ly, Goo.gl, budurl.com, tinyurl.com. You’ve seen URL shorteners and in recent years, their popularity has exploded with the advent of Twitter and having to get a message across (with a link!) in less than 140 characters. TinyURL.com is one of the original URL shorteners and I used it years ago when trying to send Google Map directions to friends. In the past 18-24 months, the huge growth of Twitter has really fueled the growth of URL shorteners. Since Twitter only allows you to post 140 characters at a time, your URLs need to be as short as possible to leave room for messaging. Here are some features and drawbacks of some of the leading URL shorteners below:
Bit.ly is the most popular URL shortener online today, and for good reason. After bursting onto the scene just a few short years ago, Bit.ly has not been content to sit still for long. They took over as the default URL shortener on Twitter (until Twitter’s proprietary t.co shortener took over a few months ago) and they keep coming up with reasons for people to keep using them. From their easy to access and robust stats to their simple to use API to the inclusion of QR codes, Bit.ly makes using their service very easy.
- One of the shortest URL shorteners. Since . The minimum length of a Bit.ly link is just 19 characters! That only takes up about 13% of your tweet (140).
- Easy to view click stats: Simply add a + to the end of any Bit.ly URL (http://bit.ly/SocMedrlgy+). You can easily see how many clicks your link received and where those clicks are coming from.
- The stats even show you how many times your link was retweeted and shared on Facebook.
- Allows for easy customization of shortened URLs: (bit.ly/b4yn9p turns into http://bit.ly/SocMedrlgy) easily.
- Allows for link bundling: Let’s say you’re sending 10 links to some coworkers to look at some research you’ve been doing. You can bundle those links into 1 bit.ly bundle link so you don’t have to copy and paste 10 different links to each person.
- Bit.ly has a Pro option that is free and offers you the ability for your bit.ly links to be branded with your own custom shortened URL. For example, the New York Times uses nyti.ms, the Huffington Post uses huff.to. Just another way you can extend your brand and use a great URL shortener at the same time.
- Robust API that allows you to integrate your Bit.ly account to shorten URLs in many social media management applications like TweetDeck and TwitterFeed.
- Automatically creates a QR code: Bit.ly automatically creates a QR code for each and every shortened URL you create. This is hugely important as smartphones and QR codes are being used more each day.
- Don’t know what QR codes are? Check out this good intro post for now. I’ll write up a post about QR codes soon too.
- Honestly, one of the only reasons I could think to not use Bit.ly is if you’re already using HootSuite or another social media management application that doesn’t allow you to use a third-party URL shortener.
Goo.gl is one of the newer URL shorteners. They originally launched exclusively for shortening links to Google-owned properties like YouTube, Google Maps and others, but recently opened up to shorten any link.
- One of the shortest URL shorteners. The minimum length of a Goo.gl link is just 19 characters! That only takes up about 13% of your tweet (140).
- Easy to view click stats: Follows the Bit.ly model of showing stats for each link by adding a + to the end of the URL (http://goo.gl/VdKMa+). You can easily see how many clicks your link received and where those clicks are coming from.
- Automatically creates a QR code: Just like Bit.ly (in fact, Bit.ly did it first), Goo.gl automatically creates a QR code for each and every shortened URL you create.
- Does not allow for customized URLs: http://goo.gl/VdKMa.
- Not used as widely as Bit.ly: This may not really be a negative, but it’s not used nearly as often as Bit.ly (check out this article on ReadWriteWeb all about the top shorteners)