Productivity Tools

What is a URL Shortener?

Are you a marketer who wants to appeal to customers with short, to-the-point links? Are you a customer service representative who doesn’t want to share long support URL addresses on live chat? Or perhaps you’re just a regular internet user who is overwhelmed by long, confusing URLs and wants to know how to shorten a link. Regardless of who you are, URL shorteners can solve your concerns by condensing lengthy web addresses into manageable short URL links.

How Does a Tiny URL Work?

A link shortener automatically shortens the input link. This compressed URL acts as a redirect, which allows a web page to be accessible under more than one URL address. So, both the original URL and the short URL link will direct the user to the same page.

These tiny URLs can either be permanent or expire after a set period depending on the options available by the tiny URL maker. As such, it is important to research which link shortener provides the customization options that you need.

shorten a link

Why use Tiny URLs? 

Short links are a great tool for enterprises, marketers, and even individual users. They are simple to use and manage and, quite frankly, more aesthetically pleasing than long links. Internet users and potential customers are more likely to click on a short link than a long, jumbled one. Additionally, tiny URLs take up less of a post’s word count on sites like Twitter and LinkedIn. So, you can use fewer characters to reach wider audiences and garner more clicks and views.

Consider the following example from Droplr. The web address for Droplr’s web page discussing Slack + Droplr integration is https://help.droplr.com/key-features/slack-droplr-integration. This link cannot easily fit into a messaging box and is difficult to type out. 

However, using Bitly, this URL can be shortened to the following link, https://bit.ly/2FFWPss, which is much easier to view and type.

Of course, one issue with this compression is that it is no longer obvious what information can be accessed on the web page. This is why many online services that offer URL shorteners also include custom links that let you design your own branded links with a paid subscription. These subscriptions typically include detailed analytics and link management services. This is great for marketers who want to assess which advertisements appeal most to which users and then customize their links accordingly. 

How Else Can I Use Tiny URLs?

Various tools and apps use short URL links to spread content and information. For example, Droplr generates a short link for every screenshot, GIF, and screen recording that a user takes. This link can then be shared on various platforms like Slack, Intercom, and Discord to display the image in-app or link the viewer to its location in the Droplr cloud. Droplr uses short links so that users can share content quickly and easily.

discord url shortener

Another example of a tool that uses tiny URLs is Discord. Whenever you want to invite new people to your Discord server, Discord’s URL shortener generates a new short Discord URL that can be sent out to anyone. Those who click on the link can choose to join the server. Influencers and others who sign up for Discord Partners can choose to create a custom Discord link instead of one randomly generated by Discord.

How to Shorten a Link

Shorten a link using TinyURL

It is easy to create a tiny URL with the right URL shortener. Generally, most link shorteners follow the same steps as TinyURL above. All you have to do is input your long link into the short link generator and click the shortening button (in the above video, this button is marked by the phrase “Make Tiny URL!”).

If you create an account on a URL shortener, you can check your short URLs after you make them. You can track clicks and other information for each link. You can also edit their slug or redirect them to a new site.

The best URL shorteners include customization tools that let you choose a custom branded domain, domain extension, or link ending. Branded domains let you use your own domain name in the place of the link shortener’s domain. For example, the above link ‘https://bit.ly/2FFWPss‘ could instead be generated as ‘droplr.link/2FFWPss’ if the custom domain ‘droplr.link’ had been purchased and synced with my Bitly account.

Most free URL shorteners do not include custom links, though Rebrandly offers five custom domains and 500 branded links with its free plan, while BL.INK‘s free service includes one custom domain and 1,000 branded links. Still, as branded links get about a 34% higher click-through rate, they are an important tool for marketers and customer service teams regardless of cost.

Are There Any Downsides to Tiny URLs? 

avoid scam

Unfortunately, in recent years, tiny URLs have become a tool for scammers and spammers. Because short URL links don’t include the name of the website they direct to, they can be used to send users to unexpected sites or even URL addresses that have been blacklisted. This practice can be used for something as innocent as rickrolling to something as damaging as infecting a computer with malware. The best link shorteners constantly scan and disable spam-related short links from redirecting.

Another potential downside is that if the URL shortener shuts down, the link will no longer redirect to the correct location. This phenomenon, known as linkrot, leads to broken and dead links that either redirect to the wrong site or stop working altogether. This is why it is important to use a link shortener that is well-known, safe, and sustainable. 

The Advantages of Tiny URLs

bitly shortener

In all, the advantages of tiny URLs outweigh the potential problems. Link shorteners create URLs that are short, sweet, and to the point. They are important tools for businesses and users who want to increase website traffic and attract customers. Custom links in particular are vital for businesses or influencers who want to increase brand name recognition and brand name trust in potential customers.

Though short URL links can be used for nefarious purposes, most link shorteners include security measures that guard against misuse. For example, Tiny URL includes a preview feature so you can ensure the contents of a link before clicking on it, while Bitly’s plans add domain safeguards and 2FA that keep your account safe from hackers. As long as you use a reputable URL shortener, you will be able to create short URL links that are safe and attractive.

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