Everyone knows that link shorteners are valuable resources for both personal and business use. They're also extremely popular; after all, who doesn't want an easy way to shorten their web addresses? According to the developers behind Bitly, their service is used roughly one billion times each day.
As with anything in life, the cost of link shortener services can often be representative of their quality. If you're not interested in branding or tracking links, of course, there's nothing wrong with using free and generic link shorteners. However, if you do plan on utilizing your shortener for promotional purposes—and many businesses do—you may want to shell out a few bucks for something more powerful than what you get with WordPress' default URL-shortening service.
With that in mind, we'll be comparing the following paid services: Bitly, Rebrandly, CloudApp and Short Stack . We're going to start our comparison with price , then get into the pros and cons of each tool. By the time this article is finished, you should have a better idea of which shortener will work best for your business's unique needs.
In terms of overall cost , it's almost a draw among these four shortening tools. They all come at a flat rate that includes a certain amount of shortened links per month. After that limit has been reached, you'll need to pay an additional fee to receive more shortened URLs.
Here's how each service breaks down: Bitly: $19.95/month for 3,000 links Rebrandly: $13/month for 10,000 links CloudApp: $49/month for 100,000 links Short Stack: $22.90/month for 5,000 links
If you've decided that a paid link shortener is what your business needs—or if cost is your biggest concern and you'd like to know more about each service's free version—you can find all of the pricing information at their individual websites .
The Pros & Cons of Each Link Shortener Service
In order to determine which resource would work best for our own purposes here at HubSpot , we took a close look at how each tool handles its security , analytics , customization , and overall usability . Keep in mind that this article is based on our own research. It has not been sponsored or endorsed by any of the shortener tools we examined.
Bitly's biggest selling point is its ability to provide comprehensive tracking for shortened links. As such, the majority of its users are marketers who want to track how many clicks their links receive—and where those clicks come from—in order to generate more data-driven insights about their audience's behavior and interests.
Bitly also uses SSL encryption and two-factor authentication (2FA) when converting URLs into a shorter format, making it one of the safest services out there. That said, you should be aware that unencrypted HTTP links can be shortened and shared publicly, and there's no way to turn that feature off. Finally, if you log into Bitly from a non-trusted computer or browser, your account will have restricted access for 72 hours.
Analytics: Rebrandly & CloudApp
Shortening links with both Rebrandly and CloudApp allows you to use their built-in tracking services . In other words, as long as the tool is connected to any of your social media accounts or email address books , it should be able to tell you how many clicks each link receives. There's also a feature that lets you see how many times a particular link has been clicked on Facebook—and where those clicks came from—which may be helpful for some marketers.
Of the two, CloudApp provides more options for viewing your data. For instance, you can opt to view all of your link statistics in a single chart, or break them down by platform (social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, email providers like Gmail and Yahoo Mail) by clicking on the "View All" option. By comparison, Rebrandly only lets you see how many clicks each link has received via individual charts that are organized by week or month. It doesn't give you an overall look at your data when multiple links are added together.
Customization: Short Stack & Bitly
Short Stack is probably one of the easiest shorteners to use , since it comes with just three simple branding tools: custom URL titles, custom short URLs, and custom landing pages.
If you don't necessarily want to track your shortened links but would still like a link management tool that offers more than just a basic URL shortener , it's one of the best choices out there. It doesn't take much work to start adding keywords or phrases to all of your outgoing links—simply place the words and/or phrases between " " marks before and after your shortened URL. Here's what that would look like for bitly: And here's how it appears when posted on Twitter:
Quite simply, this is an example of how we can use branding to make our Bitly links look professional as opposed to looking as if they were created by a robot (which they very well could be).
On the other hand, Bitly offers more in the way of customization than any other link shortener. You can post widgets that display your brand's logo and full URL on your website or blog, add social media buttons to online posts and emails, create custom URLs for your brand's social media pages , and even allow users to "unshorten" their URLs so they'll see what the entire link would normally look like .
Usability: Rebrandly & Short Stack
As we mentioned earlier in our list of features , CloudApp lets you track individual clicks when your shortened links are posted to Twitter—as well as Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo Mail, LinkedIn, VKontakte (VK), Blogger.com, and Typepad. You can also see how many times a link has been clicked on each social media platform by adding up all of the clicks from multiple posts.
Rebrandly is just as effective when it comes to tracking your links, since it lets you add your own domain name or vanity URL to short URLs that are posted with its widgets . It doesn't matter what URL shortening service you use—as long as you shorten your links with Rebrandly and post the resulting shortened URL on Twitter (or any other social media site), you'll be able to track how many times it's clicked.
Usability: Short Stack & Bitly
Short Stack's custom landing pages make is one of the most pleasant tools for customers looking for a branded URL shortener. It comes with its own design studio, so you can easily upload your logo, add text or custom graphics , and even edit the colors to match your brand's. You can also choose where you want your page to link (e.g., "homepage" or any other page on your website).
If you like the idea of adding branding to all of your shortened links, but don't necessarily need a landing page builder included in that package , Bitly is the way to go . Because it's free for up to 5,000 customized links saved per month (with paid plans starting at $99/month), there isn't much risk involved in trying out this tool. However, if you decide later on that you want to use Bitly's landing page tool , you'll have to upgrade to a paid plan.
Security: Naked & Short Stack
Short Stack is one of the safest link shorteners on the market due to its security features . You can add multiple users with different levels of access, see how many times each short URL has been clicked from within your dashboard (instead of having to go through each individual user account), and set up email alerts so you can be notified if someone tries to change or delete a custom tracking link.
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