The best URL shorteners to shrink long links

6 min read

For sharing links to the main pages of a website, you can simply copy-paste the URL (e.g. setapp.com). But when it comes to ecommerce products, social media, referrals, and other JavaScript-heavy destinations, URLs can get pretty long and unruly. URL shorteners solve this problem and help you share links online without feeling like you’re pasting in a novel. But which one should you use?

What is a URL shortener?

A URL shortener (aka a link shortener) is a service that turns long links into short and memorable ones (for example, bit.ly/test) for easy sharing, advertising, referral tracking, and more. 

There are both free and paid ways to shorten long links, with the latter generally offering extra features, such as branded links, custom domains, advanced analytics, and more.

How does a URL shortener work?

The way short URL generators work is by redirecting your long links through their own short domains.

Bitly, for example, owns bit.ly, so it’s able to redirect any page through the bit.ly domain by adding a few characters after the slash (e.g. bit.ly/sgtrv). Similarly, Rebrandly owns rebrand.ly, and TinyURL owns tinyurl.com. 

What are the benefits of using a URL shortener?

The main reason to use short link generators is aesthetic. Short links look much better online. Plus, they are easier to copy and paste, are more memorable, and are more likely to be clicked on.

Another non-obvious but valuable reason to shorten URLs is the ability to track analytics for links that don’t originate from your website. You can’t install a tracker on a Wikipedia page, for example, but you can track how many people clicked on your short link that leads to that page.

The rapid rise in tiny link popularity can be attributed to Twitter. In the early days, Twitter limited all tweets to 140 characters, which included links. The longer the links were the fewer characters were left for the rest of the tweet. That provided a great incentive for everyone to shorten URLs. And while tweets and other social media posts can be much longer now, it’s still customary to use link shorteners when posting online. 

There are some potential downsides to using link shorteners as well. Link shorteners have lower trust than regular links, since the final URL can’t be seen until the shortened one is clicked. This loophole frequently gets exploited by scammers and spammers online.

It’s also important to choose the URL shortener you use carefully because they control the redirect. URL shorteners that don’t have trusted track records can swap your redirect for one of their own at any time, resulting in your link directing people to spammy or scammy websites.

Top URL shorteners of 2024

Before 2019, the go-to service to shorten links was Google URL Shortener. It was free, easy to use, and created goo.gl short links that directed visitors anywhere online. 

After the Google link shortener was shut down, a variety of automatic URL shortening services sprung up to take its place. Below, we dissect six top link shorteners on the market today and help you choose the one that suits your needs best.

1. Short Menu: The fastest URL shortener on Mac

Unlike other URL shorteners that are primarily web apps, Short Menu is a lightweight utility that lives right in your Mac’s menu bar. 

Short Menu can shorten URLs automatically, as soon as you copy them to your clipboard, using either its own shrtm.nu domain or another popular service, from bit.ly to tinyurl.com. You can even manually add custom URL shorteners and use them with Short Menu natively. 

Short Menu, a link shortener app

You can also shorten links by using a custom keyboard shortcut and review all the link history right in the menu bar app, which syncs between your Mac and iOS devices via iCloud. 

The basic features of Short Menu are free to use, but you’ll need to pay anywhere from $0.99 to $5 for upgrades, such as access to all URL shorteners, the ability to use affiliate accounts, and more. Or get Short Menu with all the features included when you download it as part of the Setapp collection.

Pros

  • Shortens links from your Mac’s menu bar
  • Works with any URL shortening service
  • Automatically shortens copied URLs
  • Works with Mac shortcuts

Cons

  • No detailed URL analytics 

2. Bitly: Analytics and customization

With more than 600 million links processed every month, Bitly is the largest URL shortening service on the web. 

Bitly online shortener

The Bitly URL shortener uses the bit.ly domain. You can create a free account but it limits you to 10 short links a month (or 5 customized ones). To get link redirects, custom domains, in-depth analytics, QR code optimizations, and more, you need to upgrade to one of the paid plans, ranging from $8 to $199 a month. 

Pros

  • Trusted service 
  • In-depth analytics
  • Extensive customizations

Cons

  • Limited free plan
  • Expensive paid plans

3. TinyURL: Basic shortening

Launched in 2002, TinyURL is the oldest popular short URL generator still in service. While it doesn’t offer a ton of extra features, such as link in bio and QR code integrations, it has cheaper prices and a more generous free account allowance compared to Bitly.

For example, you get 30 branded or 100 TinyURL shortened links per month for free. Paid plans start at $9.99 and offer higher usage limits and detailed analytics. 

Pros

  • Easy to use
  • A generous free plan

Cons

  • Lots of ads on the website
  • Not the shortest link with the tinyurl.com domain

4. Rebrandly: Personalized links

One of the most recent entrants in the tiny link space is Rebrandly. Unlike other short link generators, Rebrandly doesn’t offer generic short links and focuses on creating branded links, using your own domain, right from the start.

Create a short link using Rebrandly

There’s a free plan that gives you 10 branded links a month, basic analytics, UTM parameters for Google Analytics, and even QR codes. However, for higher volumes and more in-depth analytics, you need to subscribe to one of the paid plans, starting at $14 a month.

Pros

  • Free custom domain short links
  • Simple analytics included
  • QR codes

Cons

  • Limited free account
  • Expensive subscription options

5. Go Links: Memorable shortcuts

An interesting twist on creating short and memorable links is Go Links. Unlike typical link shorteners that are meant for external audiences (e.g. sharing on social media or emailing), Go Links are meant to be easy-to-remember shortcuts used within your organization. 

Go Links

The way Go Links works is by integrating into the apps you use, from Slack to Google Docs to your browser. After that, you can create various Go Links, such as go/roadmap, for example, that could take you to a specific Trello or Asana board. Once a Go Link has been created, anyone on your team can use that link in any app, and it would automatically redirect them to the right place. With the right naming strategy, you can move around your documents faster than ever before and stop searching for important URLs.

Up to five people on your team can create unlimited Go Links on a free plan. Paid plans offer more users, organization tools, and AI-powered search results.

Pros

  • Customizable and memorable
  • Work in browsers and other apps (e.g. Slack)
  • Private to your team

Cons

  • Can’t be used externally

6. URL Shortener for Google Chrome: Browser extension

Apart from Go Links, one disadvantage of short URL generators is that you have to go to a separate website to create them, which takes you out of your flow, especially if you need to do it multiple times a day. 

URL Shortener extension for Google Chrome

URL Shortener for Google Chrome is a great solution to that. It works right in the browser and lets you shorten a long URL by clicking on the extension in Chrome. The extension itself runs on the TinyURL service underneath, so it will limit the amount of links to 100 a month, which is more than enough for most people.

Pros

  • Free (with limits)
  • Helps stay in flow

Cons

  • No customization options
  • Not the best design

What’s the best URL shortener for you? 

As you can see, it’s not clear which URL shortener is the best. You have to choose the one that’s best for your specific situation. Short Menu covers all bases and lets you get all the benefits from free accounts at different services. Bitly gives you in-depth analytics on paid plans. TinyURL has a generous free account with 100 links a month. Rebrandly lets you add your custom domain right from the start. Go Links are perfect for internal use. And URL Shortener for Google Chrome lets you stay in flow.

Try Short Menu for the next seven days for free, thanks to the trial of Setapp. Setapp is a platform of more than 240 outstanding apps for Mac and iOS across all imaginable categories, from web development to photo retouching. Download all apps today and find a few new gems!

240+ apps for $9.99
per month

Sign up to Setapp and try them for free.

Security-tested