A complete guide to using short links in text messages

With SMS, every character counts. 

A text message contains just 160 characters, so it’s vital to make the most of every single one. 

Standard links are cumbersome and use up your precious character allowance.
Long links in your text messages can also look suspicious. 

Benefits of using short links in your SMS messages

Increase click through rate
Long URLs in texts look messy, unprofessional and can even come across as spammy.

Decrease your costs
Long web addresses in texts might increase overall message length, meaning that the message is sent as a multi-part message. Instead of using 1 text credit to send the message, you could be using 2.

Track your click through rates
Using tracking tools like Google Analytics, you can track the click through rate and record the customer’s journey on your mobile optimised website.

Short links improve trust

A typical URL can get unwieldy, particularly if it includes an extension, like the example below.


This URL uses 39 characters or nearly 25% of the 160 character maximum.

And this is how that URL would look in an actual text.
It’s messy and cumbersome.

By using a URL shortener, you can increase the number of characters available to get your message across as well as making your texts look less scruffy.

Here’s the same text again, this time using bitly, one of the most popular URL shorteners.

We’ve freed up 18 precious characters and improved the appearance of the text when it lands on your customers’ phones.

How do you use a URL shortener in a text?

How do I shorten a link in a text message?
It’s a simple process.

Firstly choose one of the many providers available. (We’ll talk about choosing a URL provider later.)

Then simply copy and paste your long URL and press the ‘shorten URL’ button, (or whatever term the provider uses.)

Almost all providers allow you to shorten the URL from their homepage, for ease of use.

Here’s how the Bitly URL shortener looks.

How do you choose a URL shortener for your text messages

Frankly, you’re spoilt for choice.

There are literally dozens to choose from and they all basically do the same thing.

For a complete review, have a look at this article by G2 . It runs through a quick review of about 30 of them.

I suggest you don’t agonise too much about which one you use.

Should I use branded short links in my text message campaigns?

Most URL shorteners allow you to brand the links that you include in your text messages. So instead of your SMS having a bitly prefix like this example..


…you’d have a branded version like this example below.


The idea is that you will improve the click through rate by gaining more trust from the user that the destination is genuine.

The downside is that by including your company name, you may actually increase the size of the shortened link in your text. 

If your company name is reasonably long like ours, (The SMS Works), then you might want to use an abbreviated version in the branded link for your SMS.

But by shortening your company name, the abbreviated version might not be recognisable and you lose the benefit of having the branding in the first place.

See these examples…

https://bit.ly/3A4zEmx – unbranded short link

https://TheSMS Works/3A4zEmx – branded short link with company name. Too long.

https://TSMSW3A4zEmx – branded short link reduced to company initials. Short but not recognisable as our company.

For us, I think the benefits of a branded shortlink in our SMS campaigns are pretty marginal.

Most providers charge for this service so if you’re a regular sender of large SMS campaigns, it makes sense to explore this option.

If you only send occasional texts that include a short URL, you can probably stick with the free option.

Cost comparison for branded short links for SMS

Most URL shortener companies charge for branded links but Cuttly appear to offer this as part of their free plan. 

URL ShortenerWeb siteFree short links / monthCost of branded short links
Bitlyhttps://bitly.com/1000$29 / month (1500)
Rebrandlyhttps://www.rebrandly.com/Unlimited500 free. $29 / month for 5000
Tiny URLhttps://tinyurl.com/appUnlimited$9.99 / month 500 active URLs
Cuttlyhttps://cutt.ly/UnlimtedFree unlimited
Sniplyhttps://sniply.io/0$149 / month 5000 clicks
Bufferhttps://buffer.com/Unlimted$5 / month

How to improve the appearance of short URLS in text messages

Although short links look better than standard links in text messages, they’re still pretty ugly.
If you’re using unberaded short link, there’s not much you can do.,

For example this URL…


..is just a jumble of letters and numbers and there’s nothing you can do to change it.

If you’re using branded URLs there is some scope to improve the appearance of the URL by capitalising some of the letters.


Or with capitals


It’s an improvement, no doubt. This is about doing all you can to make your links user friendly and attractive as possible.

Are there any mobile network restrictions in adding a short URL to my text messages?

Not in the UK.

There are no restrictions on including standard or shortened links in texts to any of the UK’s mobile networks.

Although they are becoming smarter about identifying and blocking texts that contain suspicious links to phishing or scam websites.

Many other countries and networks do impose restrictions on including links in texts. 

It’s an ever changing position, so the best advice is to test that your links are being delivered before sending your text campaign.

Tracking clicks on your shortened URLS

Most URL shorteners offer some form of analytics, allowing you to track clicks to your landing pages.

These are very helpful standalone tracking tools to help you understand how many clicks your SMS campaign received and the customer journey on your mobile optimised website.

If you are already a user of Google Analytics, it is probably easier to track clicks using that as it will keep all your website analytics data in one place.

Can you use anchor text with your links in text messages?

When we link to sites on the web, we normally use anchor text rather than linking directly to the site by using their web address, like this link to our homepage for example. (With ‘link to our homepage’ being the anchor text.)

This isn’t possible with SMS.

SMS is just a plain text messaging tool with no ability to do anything other than display text.

It’s incredible that we’re still using it!

However, SMS is the only messaging tool that every mobile phone ever made can use, without having to download and install a new app. 


Standard links in texts use up way too many characters.

URL shorteners allow you to win some back by shortening your links.

Branded links look better than unbranded but only if the branding is retained and is meaningful to the person receiving the text.

If you’re a heavy user of shortened links, then the URL shortener’s tracking tools can be useful, otherwise Google Analytics is fine.

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author avatar
Henry Cazalet Managing Director
Co-founder and Director of The SMS Works, a low cost and powerful SMS API for developers. About Henry