Following our infographic explaining what an Intelligent Link is (hint: it’s a marketer’s best friend for solving some unique challenges) we wanted to share a bit more about who the players are that provide the smartest URLs in the business.
The following infographic identifies 26 intelligent link management services broken down by the industries they focus on, the problems they can help solve, and their approximate size. We’ll go in depth on each of these breakdowns and provide a short bio of each service.
Please note that this is a rapidly growing industry so if we missed something please let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep the blog post updated!
Please note that we classified each company into an industry, or group of industries, based off their website, the features they provide, and their primary or featured client’s use. This doesn’t mean that some of these services can can’t be used in multiple industries (and often are).
Musicians, labels, distributors, and their marketing agencies have embraced the benefits of intelligent links.There are seven companies that focus on the music industry. Two of those (Linkfire and TheGenesis) were built specifically for music, and another three were built as a secondary tool by digital marketing agencies within the music space (Found.ee / The Found Group; SmartURL / Gupta Media; Flyt / Dash Two).
The most common features for intelligent link management services in the music space are targeting and affiliation. All have some degree of support for iTunes, but as noted by the volume ranking, there is a major movement towards the “interstitial” feature to support the fragmented landscape of music streaming.
Note that the now defunct glnk.it and mixeeba.fm services, were two of the original intelligent link services and were music focused.
As Amazon has risen as the de facto online bookstore, they have adopted a global strategy of creating region and country specific storefronts (eg. Amazon.ca for Canada and Amazon.de for Germany). This has created a large demand for a smarter link than the basic Amazon.com URL when promoting a physical or digital book to a global readership.
The core feature in the book space focuses on link translation; having a link that will automatically support the majority of Amazon’s 14 international storefronts.
Two of these services are more open intelligent linking tools that have flexibility to link not only to books, but other products across multiple global ecosystems as well. These are Linkredirector and Geniuslink. A-Fwd also supports more than just books but is limited to only products within the Amazon ecosystem.
Unfortunately, many of the services that offer link translation only do it on the most basic level (more details on this in a later blog post!) so if you are an author or publisher looking to use one of these services be sure to test your links!
Relative to the other industries, apps are not as dependent on intelligent links. Many of their technical marketing challenges can be solved by integrating an SDK directly into their app.
However, one of the marketing challenges with apps is getting people to the app in the correct app store. This requires “targeting” but not like what is common with books or music, where location based targeting is essential. For apps, targeting focuses strongly on directing the user to the correct app store for their device / operating system. To maximize conversions, clicks from an iOS device should be sent to the App Store, clicks from Android to the Google Play Store, and clicks from Windows devices to the Microsoft Store.
There are only four intelligent link services focused on helping marketers sell products. This category is popular with both affiliate marketers as well e-commerce / brand marketers who are promoting their own products to a global audience.
Geniuslink offers deep support for the international collection of global Amazon stores and affiliate programs, but is also flexible enough to support other global e-commerce ecosystems.
ClickMeter isn’t focused on supporting any specific product type or marketplace, but rather on conversion reporting and general affiliate marketing.
Content was our “catch all” category when a service didn’t specifically cater to one of the other four industries, or focused strongly on social media. These seven intelligent link services offer a variety of features, but perhaps the most notable is the ability to add retargeting pixels directly into a link.
What makes an intelligent link management service more than just a URL shortener is that a marketer has the ability to modify a link to help solve some of their biggest marketing challenges. (See the Intelligent Link Infographic for more info.)
We’ve highlighted the nine different features that we think define a link as intelligent, and listed the companies that provide the service regardless of their industry focus.
One of the most popular features, link targeting, allows a link to be configured to redirect to different locations based on a variety of inputs such as geography, device, time, or language.
Services that offer targeting include: SmartURL, Linkfire, Geniuslink, Flyt, Onelink.to, Found.ee, BudURL, ClickMeter, Linkredirector, A-Fwd, DeepLink.me, Qlk.to, Hive, Rdrct.it, Prourls, and TheGenesis.
Taking targeting one step further, “Link Translation” is the “automagic” ability for a service to find the same book / song / product in a different store or storefront and redirect the click there. This feature is also known as “link localization” or “universal links.”
The intelligent link platforms that offer link translation include: SmartURL, Linkfire, Geniuslink, BookLinker, Authl.it, BookShow.me, EBK.link, BookGoodies, A-Fwd, Linkredirector, Relinks.me, DeepLink.me, A-Fwd, and Prourls.
Please note that these services all do link translation differently, some much better than others, so be sure to do your homework to find the solution that best fits your needs.
While retargeting is a popular tactic to remarket to people who have visited a website, the ability to set a retargeting pixel in a link is a relatively new concept. A small handful of intelligent link services now offer the ability to utilize retargeting anywhere people are clicking on links. This includes places like social media channels, emails, and other third party content.
Sometimes targeting or link translation isn’t as ideal as providing the consumer with the ability to choose their end destination. A link interstitial, which is essentially an optimized landing page that loads giving the consumer the ability to choose their preferred destination, can be best way to maximize conversions when lots of options are available.
This is a very controversial feature that provides the ability to brand third-party content by loading a call to action on top of it via an iframe. Billboarding can be helpful in retaining your audience’s attention when sending them to a third party website
A/B and multivariate testing have been important tactics for websites for quite some time, but now, savvy marketers are able to perform A/B tests with a single smart link, by distributing their traffic to multiple destinations.
While traditionally affiliate marketing can be an important revenue stream, it is also useful as a way to improve the sales reporting when promoting products within major ecommerce marketplaces. It’s also worth noting that automatic affiliation is often a secondary feature for services that offer link targeting or translation.
Some of these services may actually use affiliate marketing as their primary revenue stream, especially for their free plans. More on this in a future blog.
Like insurance, the ability to edit a link is something you never think about it until you really need it. Being able to maintain control of your link with the ability to correct or update it on the fly, becomes essential once an email is sent or a social campaign is launched.
Editing is becoming a standard feature for intelligent link management platforms and is offered by Linkredirector, Geniuslink, Linkfire, SmartURL, Flyt, URLgenius, Hive, BudURL, BookShow.me, ClickMagick, and ClickMeter.
Intelligent Link Services By Size
While it would be great to list each of these services by the number of links they serve, their total monthly clicks, or even how many active clients they serve, that data isn’t publicly available. Instead we used what we thought would be the best proxy for determining the approximate size of each service – the number of links Google recognized from each service for a specific period (Dec. 2015 in the case of the infographic).
The number of publicly placed links should have a close correlation with the number of active clients a service has, and the number of links the service serves. It should also have some degree of correlation with amount of clicks a service is processing.
However, we have to take these rankings with a healthy grain of salt for at least two reasons. First, some of these services support custom domains on their service. When a client uses their own domain, their links won’t be picked up in our Google queries. In addition, our Google queries are limited what the Google bots can crawl, so any services that are primarily used within apps will be under-represented.
If you have any suggestions on alternative ways to rank the services by size, market share or volume please leave a comment below.
Please note that some services provide the ability to get insights about a specific link so you can learn their click volume, distribution, etc. If you’d like to learn more about getting insightful metrics for some specific links then check out our blog about doing competitive intelligence with links.
The 26 Intelligent Link services
Below you can find short profiles on the 26 intelligent link services we’ve identified, listed in order of their size as described above. We are looking for your help to add any information we may have missed including new intelligent link services that we may have missed in our first go-around. With your help, we can make this into a helpful resource for those looking to find the perfect fit between their marketing challenges and an intelligent link management service.
Quick nav: SmartURL | Linkfire | Geniuslink |Sniply | Flyt | BookLinker | Found.ee | BudURL | Onelink.to | ClickMagick | Authl.it | URLgenius | ClickMeter | BookShow.me | BookGoodies | DeepLink.me | Linkredirector | Relinks.me | A-Fwd | Prourls | Hive | Rdrct.it | TheGenesis | EBK.link | RetargetMore | Qlk.to
SmartURL – “Globally redirect, track and manage all of your URLs” (MUSIC)
Domains used: smarturl.it, hyperurl.co
Launched in late 2011 by Gupta Media, based in Boston, Massachusetts USA.
Features include: Targeting, Interstitial, Affiliation, Translation, Retargeting, and Editing.
Costs: Limited free version, enterprise for $1,000 / month.
Linkfire – “Smart links for music marketing” (MUSIC only)
Domain used: lnk.to
Appears to have initially launched in 2013, then refocused on music in 2014. Based in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Features include: Targeting, Interstitial, Affiliation, Translation, Mobile Deep Linking, and Editing.
Costs: €9k / year (~ $850 / month) based on a 2014 article.
Geniuslink – “Smarter links for commerce” (PRODUCTS, MUSIC, BOOKS, APPS)
Domains used: geni.us, georiot.co, glob.ly
Launched in 2009 as GeoRiot, rebranded to Geniuslink in mid 2015. Based in Seattle, Washington USA.
Features include: Targeting, Interstitial, Affiliation, Translation, Retargeting, A/B Testing, and Editing.
Costs: three plans, starting at $9.
Sniply – “Attach a call-to-action to every link you share” (CONTENT)
Domain used: snip.ly
Appears to have launched in early 2014 with co-founders based in Canada.
Features include: Billboarding, Retargeting, and A/B Testing.
Costs: Free “Starter Plan” with paid plans going from $29 to $149.
Flyt – “A powerful link shortener, sales tracker, and money maker.” (MUSIC)
Domain used: flyt.it
Appears to have launched in early 2015 as a side project of Dash Two, who are based in Los Angeles, California USA. A slight pivot in early 2016 and is now independent.
Features include: Targeting, Affiliation, and Editing.
BookLinker – “One link for your book that works for all Amazon stores.” (BOOKS only)
Domains used: myBook.to, getbook.at, viewbook.at, viewAuthor.at, Author.to
Launched in 2013 then acquired by GeoRiot in late 2014. Now managed by the Geniuslink team from Seattle, Washington USA.
Features include: Affiliation and Translation.
Costs: Free to client (Earn affiliate commissions when the client doesn’t provide their affiliate tracking ID)
Found.ee – NA (MUSIC)
Domain used: found.ee
Appears to have launched in 2014 by The Found Group based in Los Angeles, California USA. Is now independent.
Features include: Targeting and Retargeting.
BudURL – “Secure & flexible link management for professionals” (CONTENT)
Domains used: budurl.com, budurl.me
Launched in 2008 by 44doors. Based in Austin, Texas USA.
Features include: Targeting, Retargeting, and Editing.
Costs: Range from $24 to $599 per month.
Onelink.to – “Simplify app downloads with onelink.to all app stores” (APP)
Domain used: onelink.to
Appears to have launched in 2011 by Mobile Interaction based in Stockholm, Sweden.
Features include: Targeting and Editing.
ClickMagick – “Track And Optimize All Your Marketing, All In One Place” (CONTENT)
Domain used: www.clkmg.com
Appears to have launched in 2014.
Features include: Targeting, Affiliation, Retargeting, A/B Testing, and Editing
Costs: Range from $17 to $97 per month.
Authl.it – “Create multi-region short URLs for Kindle eBooks” (BOOKS only)
Domain used: authl.it
Appears to have launched in early 2013 and is provided in association with the Kindle Users Forum.
Features include: Interstitial and Translation.
Costs: Free (leverage the Amazon Associates program and Skimlinks to earn commissions on your links.)
URLgenius – “Mobile Deep Linking for Omnichannel Marketers” (APPS)
Domain used: urlgeni.us
Appears to have launched in early 2014 by Pure Oxygen Labs based in Madison, Wisconsin USA.
Features include: Mobile Deep Linking and Editing.
ClickMeter – “Get the Best from your Links” (PRODUCTS, CONTENT)
Domain used: trk.as
Created in 2012, with team members in San Francisco (USA), Montreal (Canada), Rome (Italy) and Chisinau (Moldova).
Features include: Targeting, Retargeting, A/B Testing, and Editing.
Costs: Range from free to $349 / month.
BookShow.me – “Worldwide, easy-to-use Amazon book link redirects” (BOOKS only)
Domain used: bookShow.me
Launched in 2013 by eBooksHabit.com who are based in Sacramento, California USA.
Features include: Affiliation, Translation, and Editing.
Costs: Free without affiliation or $12 per book / link with affiliation.
BookGoodies – “Universal Link Tool for Amazon Books” (BOOKS only)
Domain used: bookgoodies.com/a/
Appears to have launched in late 2013 by BookGoodies.
Features include: basic Translation.
Costs: Free but links are always affiliated with their token.
DeepLink.me – “The Largest Mobile Deep Linking Platform for iOS and Android” (APPS)
Domain used: deeplink.me
Founded in 2013 by Cellogic, based in New York City, New York USA.
Features include: Targeting, Translation, and Mobile Deep Linking.
Linkredirector – “A url shortener for product marketing” (BOOKS, MUSIC, APPS)
Domain used: lrd.to
Founded in mid 2014 and based in Stockholm, Sweden.
Features include: Targeting, Translation, and Editing.
Costs: Free (but use the iTunes and Amazon affiliate programs)
Relinks.me – “Create a free universal book link and QR code for your Amazon.com books” (BOOKS)
Domains used: rxe.me, relinks.me
Appears to have launched in early 2015 and based in the United States.
Features limited to Translation.
Costs: Free (use the Amazon associates program)
A-Fwd – “Free GeoIP-Targeting for creating global Amazon” (BOOKS, PRODUCTS)
Domain used: a-fwd.com
Appears to have launched in 2013 by Woboq, based in Berlin Germany.
Features include: Targeting, Affiliation, and Translation.
Costs: 1% of clicks are affiliated with their affiliate parameters.
Prourls – “One link that works across all Amazon storefronts” (PRODUCTS)
Domains used: azon.ly, offrs.xyz, discou.net
Launched in late 2015 and based in the UK.
Features include: Targeting, Affiliation, Translation, and Editing.
Costs: Paid plan coming.
Hive – “Do more with your Social Accounts” (CONTENT)
Domains used: hive.am, hive.gl
Launched in 2015 and based in Budapest, Hungary.
Features include: Billboarding, Targeting, Interstitial, and Editing.
Costs: Free, $19 / month and $330 / month.
TheGenesis – “The World’s First Marketing Cloud for Music” (MUSIC only)
Domain used: gns.io
Launched in late 2015 by Gravity4, based in San Francisco, California USA.
Features include: Targeting, Interstitial, Affiliation, and Retargeting.
RetargetMore – “Smart URL shortener for marketing geniuses” (CONTENT)
Domain used: gl.al
Launched in late 2015 and based in Turkey.
Features limited to Retargeting.
Costs: Range from $9 to $99 per month.
Qlk.to – “One link, many devices – Autodetection from a tiny URL based on device” (APPS, CONTENT)
Domain used: qlk.to
Launched in late 2014 and based in London, UK.
Features limited to Targeting.
Costs: Range from free to $1750 / month.
Notes about “free”
Choosing an (intelligent) link management service shouldn’t be a light decision due to how hard it can be to transition links and data away from one, should your first choice not be an ideal fit. While the price should be a consideration in choosing a service, we encourage you to be sure to do your research, to make sure that the service will fit your needs.
Other Link Services
Wait! Where is Goo.gl and Ow.ly?
In this infographic and blog we are focused on “Intelligent links” where Goo.gl and Ow.ly are prime examples of basic link shortners. They do a great job of always redirecting clicks to the exact same location and providing some reporting, but lack any of the functionality mentioned above.
What about Bitly?
While Bitly is starting to dabble with intelligent link features (mobile deeplinking and the ability to edit a very specific subset of their links) the overwhelming majority of their links do not exhibit these features, therefore we’ve excluded them.
What about glnk.it, go2geo.com, mixeeba.fm, afflr.com, appsp.in and Translinker?
These are some of the earliest wave of link management services that didn’t make it. They are no longer active (or relevant in the afflr.com instance). As a result we’ve left them off of the list.
What about _______?
Great question! Please add a comment below and we can dive into seeing about getting them added to this list. Thanks for your help making this the most complete and accurate list of intelligent link management services available.
Update – August 22nd, 2016
A number of new services have appeared (either completely new or brought to our attention). We’ll be sure to fully include them in our next major update of this infographic and listing. These services include:
Toneden – fanlink.to
Books2Read – books2read.com
retargetlinks.com – re.tc
linkis.com – ln.is
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<a href="http://geni.us/linklandscape"><img alt="The Intelligent Link Landscape [Infographic] Smart url services by industry, focus, and size." src="https://d3oz3cv3q03w3b.cloudfront.net/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/IntelligentLinkLandscape_med-3.24.16.png" width="100%" /></a><br><p><small>Brought to you by <a href="http://geniuslink.com">Geniuslink: Smarter links for commerce.</a></small>
Intelligent Link Landscape by Geniuslink is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.