It is common to see strange URLs like “bit.ly/85xshu” on social media. These links aren’t really anything fancy, they’ve just been shortened. Find out in this article why shortening a link is useful, as well as the 5 best tools to do it for free and without coding.
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What is a URL?
From the English “Uniform Resource Locator”, a URL is a web address that provides access to a website and more specifically to internet pages. The URL is therefore useful for Internet users since it allows them to access specific content, but it is also useful for search engines. Indeed, the latter use URL addresses to index sites in their search results.
Faced with the mass of websites and web pages that are created every day, URLs have been standardized. Thus, a URL address will always be composed in the same way:
- The “http: //” protocol (“Hyper Text Transfer” which is a universal protocol that can be secured thanks to the SSL certificate;
- The public hypertext system “www” (“World Wide Web”) which designates all the HTML pages accessible from a browser (not to be confused with the http which designates the communication protocol between the browser and the www);
- The domain name (in the case of www.hubspot.fr, the domain name is “hubspot”);
- The domain name extension which identifies the country or the type of site (in the case of www.hubspot.fr, the extension is .fr);
- In some cases, the subdomain such as www.blog.hubspot.fr, “blog.hubspot” being a subdomain of the “hubspot” domain;
- In some cases the access path (like / blog) which helps the server to locate the access path to the requested page.
The URL address is important for two reasons. First, it allows you to be identified on the internet. It is therefore imperative that the domain name matches the business name of the company, otherwise it could create confusion among customers.
Second, the URL is relevant for the website’s natural referencing (SEO). On the one hand, it allows search engines to identify web pages, but the path also allows you to insert keywords. A URL can therefore be optimized for SEO.
Why shorten a URL?
The URL address allows access to a web page. It is therefore a navigation aid for Internet users. If the URL is too long, it will be less readable and it will be more difficult to share it. Especially since some social networks have restrictions such as Twitter where it is impossible to have more than 280 characters per post.
A shortened URL is therefore more attractive, especially if it is shared on social networks. Within the framework of an advertisement, certain tools which make it possible to shorten a URL provide more precise statistics allowing to improve the campaign.
How to shorten a URL?
Shortening a URL can be done in different ways. Either by creating a redirect, but this solution requires technical knowledge in web development, or by using specific tools.
The best tools for shortening a URL
Bit.ly is arguably the most popular tool of its kind and allows you to shorten a link with just a few clicks. In addition to this functionality, Bit.ly allows you to do what is called “link management”, that is to say to manage shortened URLs and to benefit from precise statistics on
- The creation of secure links (https);
- The geolocation of people who clicked on the link;
- The media from which the clicks originate (emails, social networks);
- Integration of links via an API compatible with more than 700 tools.
Bit.ly solutions are useful for social media and digital marketing as well as customer service. It is possible to shorten a URL for free on Bit.ly as long as you create an account. Beyond 100 shortened URLs generated, you will need to subscribe to a premium monthly plan. The first package starts at $ 29.
Rebrandly is another freemium tool that allows you to shorten a URL. The advantage here is that the service is free and you don’t need to register to use it.
Like Bit.ly, Rebrandly offers premium link management services:
- A collaborative dashboard;
- Customization of links;
- Precise analytical data;
- Redirection of Internet users to a specific page according to their geolocation;
- Personalized advice.
Shortening a URL is free on Rebrandly, however it is necessary to take out a subscription to access more advanced features. The first monthly plan starts at $ 29.
Tinyurl allows you to shorten a URL and customize the link for free. Regarding its more advanced features, Tinyurl offers statistics monitoring via a personalized dashboard.
This tool will be suitable for people who have basic shortened URL needs. Services are free up to 500 URLs generated monthly. Beyond that, you will have to take out the premium subscription at $ 9 per month.
Is.gd is a basic online tool that lets you shorten a URL. The advantage here is that the service is completely free and does not require the creation of an account. However, Is.gd does not offer any additional services, so it is not possible to track the statistics of the link or even customize it.
This tool will therefore be suitable for people with a specific need to shorten a URL.
Ow.ly is Hootsuite’s link reducer tool. Originally independent, it is now necessary to have a Hootsuite account to use it.
Ow.ly allows links to be shortened to improve sharing via social networks. The tool also offers a dashboard built into Hootsuite to track link click statistics.
This tool will be particularly suitable for people who already use Hootsuite to schedule their social media posts.
Shortened links have several advantages, including link readability and ease of sharing. They are also more suitable for browsing on a smartphone or tablet.
Shortening a URL can be useful in many situations (affiliation, sharing or advertising on social networks) because they make it possible to follow the behavior of Internet users, which is valuable data for improving your digital strategy.
But shortening a link is not always relevant, especially when the goal is to bring direct traffic to a website: the use of a link reduction tool could then distort Google Analytics statistics. This is why it may also be a good idea to create a redirect.
To go further, you can consult the article “Digital marketing campaign: 12 steps to success” and download this free guide forfind out how to set up a social listening effective.