Build a free link shortener with Next.js and Vercel Postgres

Create a link shortener with Next.js and Vercel Postgres. Learn dynamic routing, database connection, and domain customization.

Monday, August 21, 2023

short link


Check the demo here

Check the source code here


Link shorteners have become a go-to solution for sharing lengthy URLs, especially on platforms where character count matters. They're simple, efficient, and incredibly handy. In this blog post, we're diving into the creation of a simple and free link shortener using Next.js and Vercel Postgres.

Vercel Postgres is my new go-to solution for free Postgresql database hosting. It offers a generous free tier for small projects and is easy to set up.

Since Vercel hosting is also free, we can build and deploy our app without any cost.

Our demo will showcase the following features:

  • Automatic redirection to the target link when a slug is accessed
  • Track the number of visits for each link
  • Display the stats of the links from the database


In addition to the requirements for creating a typical NextJS app, you'll also need a Vercel account. If you don't have one, you can register here.


The easiest way to follow this guide is to degit a Nextjs boilerplate.

I will be using TailwindCSS and TypeScript due to personal preference, but you can use plain CSS and JavaScript if you want.

Install dependencies

Remove unused files

Delete everything under the app and components folders

Setting Up NextJS - Part 1

Making a Placeholder Route Resolver

In a link shortener app, a 'slug' is a unique name for each shortened link. This slug helps the app send users to the right URL when they click on the shortened link.

We'll use NextJS's dynamic routes to make a route for our unique slug. For now, we'll keep it basic and just make any slug redirect to one page.

After running the app with npm run dev, we can go to http://localhost:3000/xyz and it should redirect to Google's home page.

Initial Deployment

Deploying our app first will simplify the process. Vercel provides an easy way to connect an existing project to a database, which we'll create later.

Installing the Vercel CLI

Start by installing the Vercel CLI:

Login to Vercel

Next, log into your Vercel account:

Deploying the App

Finally, deploy the app:

For more information on deploying with Vercel CLI, check out this guide

Setting Up the Database

Creating the Vercel Postgres Database

First, log into your Vercel account, navigate to the dashboard, and select the Storage tab. Then, click on the Create Database button.

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A dialog box will appear. Choose the PostgreSQL option and click Continue.

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You'll see another popup. If you agree with the terms, click Accept. Then, set your database name and click Create.

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Creating the Links Table

Currently, Vercel PostgreSQL doesn't offer a built-in interface for various operations. So, we'll use the query runner for now.

The query above will create a table with the following columns:

  • id: A unique identifier for each link
  • alias: The slug that will be used to create the shortened link
  • target: The destination URL
  • visit_count: The number of times the link has been visited
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We can add other tracking information like the source host, the user agent, etc. but for this demo, we'll keep it simple.

Adding a New Link Entry

To test our setup, let's add a new link entry using the following query:

We can browse the table using the Browse tab.

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Setting Up NextJS - Part 2

Installing the Vercel Postgres Package

Start by installing the Vercel Postgres package:

Connecting the Project

Follow these steps to connect your Vercel project to the database:

  1. Connect your Vercel project to the database
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  1. Pull the latest environment variables

Vercel simplifies the process of loading environment variables from the database. You can do this by running the following command:

  1. Install the Vercel Postgres package
  1. Update the route handler

Next, replace the content of app/[slug]/route.ts with the provided code.

Once the app is running, visiting http://localhost:3000/nggyu should redirect us to the target link.

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We're seeing a 404 page because we haven't created a home/index page yet.

Setting Up a Default Page (Optional)

In cases where no slug is provided, the app will attempt to resolve the root route, which isn't defined. However, you're free to customize this behavior as needed. For this demo, I'll set up the root route to display basic statistics for all the links in the database.

Create the layout component

Create the home page

This page will display the stats of all the links in the database in a table format.

Upon running the app, each visit to the alias should increase the visit count.

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Customizing the Domain

Without customizing our domain, we might end up with a longer link, which defeats the purpose of a link shortener. For instance, the default domain provided by Vercel for this demo is

With Vercel

Vercel allows us to modify our domain. Here's the process:

  1. Navigate to the Settings tab
  2. Select Domains
  3. Choose the domain you wish to modify
  4. Hit Edit
  5. Enter the subdomain you wish to use and click Save
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With a DNS Provider

The previous option is great, but there is Vercel branding in the domain. If you want to remove it, you can use your own domain.

Remember, this isn't free as you'll need to purchase a domain. I got mine from NameCheap

To set it up:

  1. If you're using NameCheap, go to the Advanced DNS tab on the Dashboard.

If you are using a different provider, you can google how to add a CNAME Record in <your provider>.

  1. Create a new record
  2. To direct all traffic to Vercel, I added an A Record with Host @ and Value
  3. Next, I added a CNAME Record with Host links and Value
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To add the custom domain in Vercel:

  1. Go to the Settings tab
  2. Click on Domains
  3. Enter the domain you wish to add in the text field
  4. Click on Add
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It may ask if you want to redirect your existing traffic to the new domain which I recommend doing.

Once set, you should have a fully functional link shortener app that's ready to be shared with the world.

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In conclusion, we've explored how to build a link shortener using Next.js and Vercel Postgres, set up dynamic routes, connect to a database, and track link visits. We also delved into customizing the domain with Vercel and a DNS provider, demonstrating the flexibility of our setup. Remember, while this demo is basic, it opens the door to endless possibilities for expansion. Happy coding!