You probably have see top sites like New York Times, TechCrunch,
Mashable, The Next Web and others sharing fancy short links across their
social media profiles and you wondered how they did that. Well there's
just a simple short trick behind it.
The benefits to having your own custom short URL are things like consistent branding and increased link trust as readers know exactly where it will lead - no one likes clicking on random links.
Also, by using your own custom branded short link, you reinforce your brand awareness, as well as ensure that you're taking full advantage of all the benefits shortened links offer. Whenever you use a link shortening service, like bit.ly, the new shortened link comes with tracking information. The service will track clicks made on the shortened link and gives you valuable metrics and information.
Here are few examples of shortened links:
- bit.ly (Bitly)
- goo.gl (Google)
- ow.li (Hootsuite)
- youtu.be (YouTube)
- nyti.ms (New Your Times)
- tcrn.ch (TechCrunch)
- tnw.to (The Next Web)
Setting Up a Custom Domain
First you will need to purchase a short domain you will be using for the shortening service. Your URL will need to be fewer than 15 characters in order to work with Bitly.
While there are several tools you can use to search for short domain, we recommend domai.nr.
If you type in the word you want to include in your short URL, this tool will provide the different ways you might assemble it with a variety of domain extensions (TLD). It also lets you know which of these options are available for purchase. Since you're buying a domain designed to help you create shorter links than before, I recommend focusing on two-character extensions, like .co, .us, .to, .it, .im, and a domain name that's just 4 - 6 characters in length. Clearly it will need to be shorter than your current domain, yet still meaningful.
Let's assume your original URL is http://designgeek.com and you have something like http://dge.ek/1dhw6H as one of your site shortened link. If someone manually types http://dge.ek in their browser, it will redirects to bit.ly by default but you can change it in the settings to point to any URL of your choice, and note that you will not be able to have any content or website on this custom domain. The domain name should be dedicated to URL shortening purposes only when you are using it with bitly.
Once you have settle and purchase a domain, let's head to Bitly for a little setup.
Set Up Bit.ly To Use Custom Domain
Log into your Bit.ly account (or sign up for one if you don't already have) and go to Settings from the account menu on the top right, then Advanced.
Select either "Personal" or "Business" under the "Branded Short Domain" header, and add your short domain.
When you add your short domain, Bitly will provide you an IP address you will need to include in your DNS record in order for Bitly to verify your domain.
Set an A Record for Your Short URL to Point to Bitly
Log into your domain name registrar and add Bitly IP address to your A record, or DNS host, for your short URL to point to bit.ly's IP address (at GoDaddy, the A record is located under the "DNS" tab in the Domain Manager). Bitly's IP address is 188.8.131.52.
If you are using a subdomain for example; on.rcb.com, then you need to set a CNAME record and point it to cname.bitly.com
Once you have alter your DNS record, go to Bitly to verify your setup. It can take up to 48 hours for domain changes to propagate. You’ll know the DNS has been setup correctly when you can set your custom short domain as the default domain in your bit.ly settings.
Once your setup is complete, any url that you shorten from your site will use your custom branded domain, provided that you are logged into your Bit.ly account. This set up will not customize links to your site that others are sharing. That functionality, as seen with The New York Times , is only available at an enterprise-level Bit.ly partnership.
There's a WordPress plugin called WP Bit.ly plugin to automatically create short URLs for all of our WordPress posts and pages.
Note: One questions I get asked frequently about short links is whether they can hurt SEO. See what Google has to say about shortlinks.
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