Today’s post is all about URL shorteners. While there are many out there, my focus is on ones I have used personally. At the end, I’ve created a chart giving you a quick overview of all 4 and their pros and cons.
Why use URL shorteners? They make life easier when sharing a link verbally or when creating a QR code. Below is an example of 2 QR codes. On the left, the original link. On the right, the link using a URL shortener. Which one could be easier for attendees to capture on their phones, especially if far from the screen?
In July 2017, I did a presentation on Microsoft’s accessibility tools for my local Microsoft Store. I created a OneNote resource to share with attendees using a Tinyurl link. For example, this takes you to our YouTube channel: https://tinyurl.com/gktechiesyt
Tinyurl is VERY easy to use. Simple paste your link and click Make TinyURL! You can also personalize your link by entering a custom alias in the 2nd field before clicking the Make TinyURL! button. Links are NOT case sensitive. https://tinyurl.com/GKTechiesyt works the same as https://tinyurl.com/gktechiesyt.
Easy, quick, and free! However, there was no data, nothing to tell me if anyone was using the resource I created. I kept updating the OneNote for me, but had no idea if others were viewing it.
Shortly after that presentation, a colleague told me about Bitly. You can personalize the link, change the link title, AND have data. Example: for internet search tips, see http://bit.ly/InternetSearchTips. Plus, there is a free version! You can see specific clicks in the last 30 days and the top 3 locations.
Now for the cons: What I found frustrating is that I can see the link for my accessibility resource has been clicked 15,368 times in 55 countries (as of 8/26/18), but cannot see the full list of countries. (UPDATE 5/21/19 – more countries are now listed in the free version! UPDATE 7/1/19 – those countries are gone again) Also, Bitly links ARE CASE SENSITIVE. bit.ly/internetsearchtips will not work, but bit.ly/InternetSearchTips will go to the correct resource.
Then along came Leslie Fisher‘s webinar and I discovered Delivr. WOW! Now I can see a LOT of data so I started sharing my accessibility notebook with this link: https://delivr.com/27zf2. With Delivr, you can pull a report for the last 90 days to view the traffic to your link. As long as I check it within those days, I can keep track of the countries specifically and even states and provinces.
So what are the downsides to the free version? Unlike TinyURL and Bitly, you cannot personalize the end of link so it isn’t as easy to share out verbally. You are also limited to only 5 links at a time. HOWEVER, you can change where the link points to at any time.
For example, I created a handout of internet search tips (Boolean tools) in Word (Bitly link). Then, a colleague imported it into Sway (Bitly link), inspiring me to use that medium instead. The Word link had already been tweeted out and I couldn’t change where it pointed so I had to create a new Bitly. With Delivr, I could have changed it, Internet Search Tips (Delivr link), so people who had the original link would get the newer format.
If you are sharing a link verbally, Leslie Fisher also introduced me to an incredible tool called Yellkey. What is Yellkey? Basically, when you need to share a link easily and quickly, drop it into Yellkey and a URL is created using yellkey.com/ and a common word is added to the end. For example, yellkey.com/star.
Upside/downside? That link only works for up to 24 hours. You set the time, however.
Be aware that links ARE CASE SENSITIVE. The add on word must be lowercase, according to my tests.
There are numerous other URL shorteners online, some with dubious reviews like AdFly, which sounds great to monetize your resource, but I found posts talking about viruses and scam questions.
Goo.gl has been used by many, but is no longer an option.
COMPARISON CHART and SUMMARY
They are difficult to rank, but I would put Delivr as my favorite due to the INCREDIBLY DETAILED statistics, though you cannot customize the link and you only get 5 links in the free account version. (If sharing a link verbally, you could paste your Delivr link in Yellkey and then have the user bookmark it.)
Bitly also offers free accounts AND you can customize the links and see overall statistics and 30 days worth of data. There doesn’t seem to be a limit to the number of links you can create. The free version doesn’t let you change the site the link is pointing to, but you could create a fresh Bitly.
Tinyurl is free, lets you customize, but does not give you data. No sign in.
Yellkey is free, does not let you customize, does not give you data, and has a time limit. Sometimes, I did not like the word it created. One example was Yellkey.com/fear which sounded negative, but you can just create another one. No sign in.