What is a URL Shortener?
The Ultimate Guide to when, how, and why you should use a URL shortener.
It’s a fair question… As a URL shortener and a company that specializes in everything to do with links, it’s something we get asked quite a lot.
So we thought we’d give you the entire breakdown on this secretly evolving industry. Find out how you can use a link shortener to your advantage.
Let’s jump right in…
What is a URL shortener?
A URL shortener is a simple tool that takes a long URL and turns it into whatever URL you would like it to be.
What is a URL Shortener? How to plug a URL into a URL shortener
How to plug a URL into the Rebrandly URL shortener
It couldn’t be any simpler than that.
I want to clarify that a URL shortener is the same as a link shortener… is the same as a link shrinker… a link compressor… a URL condenser… a vanity URL creator… I think that’s them all covered. They are all different ways of saying the same thing, which is that we want to take something long and ugly, then make it short and cute. To keep it simple, I will stick with the term URL shortener from today until the day I die.
What is a Custom URL Shortener?
A custom, or branded URL shortener, is when you’ve connected your own custom domain to a URL shortener which acts as a base for all the short links you create. Instead of using a generic domain such as bit.ly or rebrand.ly, you can pick your own.
It’s perfectly explained in this gif:
We always recommend using your own custom domain when sharing links online as it leads to increased link trust, brand awareness, and click-through rate.
If you want to find out more about the difference between branded and generic short links, you can check out the video below:
A Brief History of URL Shorteners
Since the dawn of the internet, links have been the way to get from one place to another online. Think about it, you either start by searching for something and then clicking a link, or by typing a link directly into your browser’s address bar. There’s no other way to get around.
Since the dawn of the internet links have been how you get from one place to another online.
CLICK TO TWEET
You can share links directly, embed them in “anchor text” like this, or use a custom link shortener to make your links branded and cool like this:
Derric.link/Twitter (hey… follow me on Twitter while you are at it.)
With the advent of Twitter and other social sharing platforms, lengthy URLs started to become a problem. Originally Twitter – who used to limit messages to 140 characters – counted all characters in a link. (Now it makes all links count as 23 characters), which meant sharing a URL like:
Would eat up the entire Tweet… Unless you used a URL shortener.
And Twitter did…
Originally TinyURL was the URL shortener of choice for Twitter, before the platform switched over to Bitly in November, 2009.
Then Twitter eventually came out with their own URL Shortener: t.co. Designed to both protect users from malicious links and shorten lengthy URLs.
Google followed suit by launching goo.gl in December 2009, and dozens of URL shorteners have followed in since then, all with varying features and revenue models. (Though, it’s worth noting that earlier this year Goo.gl announced it will be winding down its service).
But aside from this early necessity of URL shorteners for Twitter “back in the day” what can URL shorteners do for you right now?
What Can a URL Shortener Do?
URL Shortening has come a long way since its inception in the year 2000.
Here are a handful of pretty slick things you can do with your URL shortener today:
Obviously shortening a URL allows you to mask the original web address.
This is bad for us as consumers in the sense that it allows for spammers and hackers to hide malicious links from us. Thankfully, with security protection features from Chrome and other browsers (you use Chrome, right? You should…) we no longer have to worry about malicious link masking.