Social Media

How to Create Your Own URL Shortener

As a consumer or someone just surfing the net, you probably don’t really care how or why a URL is shortened, and that’s the idea. You might notice that the link is short and doesn’t look like the company name, but by now this is so common that paying attention to what the link looks like just isn’t something on anyone’s mind. In fact, many people I’ve spoken with don’t even notice if a link is shortened at all. So who cares? Small business owners should.

A lackadaisical attitude toward URL shorteners isn’t smart for small business owners. Which URL shortner you use (or lack thereof) when you post or share links coming from your website is something that could affect your success on the web. Fortunately, if you’ve never heard of URL shorteners or never bothered to pay attention; you’re not alone, and it’s easy to understand how these tools work and why they matter.

A Quick Overview: How URL Shorteners Work

As discussed above, a URL shortener is a service that will take your very long URL and change it to a smaller URL. If someone clicks that shorter URL, they are still going to be taken to the page you originally shared.

URL shorteners are used on major social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, so there is a very good chance that the information someone shares on those networks is already being shortenered without you (the website) needing to do a thing. Many companies also use a general, free shortening service such as Buffer (buff.ly), bit.ly, Google (goo.gl), or Hootsuite (ow.ly) to ensure that the URL will be shortened if someone tries to share something directly from their page (usually by clicking one of their social sharing buttons). You create an account and with the shortening service and you’re set.

Consider the following example:

shortener

As you can see, this link is shortened to this: techwy.se/NCqMs.

The original link would have been: http://www.techwyse.com/blog/mobile-marketing/get-google-google-places-reviews-local-business-easy/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social&utm_campaign=Free

The biggest benefit here is of course the fact that the URL is easier to read and more manageable, which helps make sharing a link look better. Visit my SEMRush article to learn more about the analytic and sharing benefits all of these different shortening services can offer as well as how to get started.

The Benefits of Creating Your Own URL Shortener

As discussed above, you can absolutely shorten a URL and setup an account without having to create a custom shortener. The example above, however, is a custom shortener from TechWyse, and they surely did that for a few different reasons:

  • Custom URLs look professional.
  • They offer consistent branding no matter where your content is shared.
  • It creates link trust, which helps readers feel more confident in sharing your material.
  • You create a unique identity that helps you stand out.
  • There is no need to pass link juice to a third-party domain if you choose to host your own (more on this later).

Many companies are using their own custom URL shorteners including Search Engine Journal (sejr.nl), Search Engine Watch (sewat.ch), Mashable (on.mash.to), and Eloqua (elq.to).

Step-By-Step Guide to Creating Your Own URL Shortener

  1. Decide if you want to host your own custom shortened URL (the most complicated option), or use a service to host the custom URL for you. Step 2 explains how to continue if you’re going to go the subscription route.
  2. Buy a vanity URL of your choosing. You will want to buy the vanity URL from the same place where your website is hosted if possible. When you’re trying out different URLs to buy, remember to try to keep it fewer than 8-10 characters and keep it looking similar to your website’s original domain name. Consider using Domai.nr for help with ideas.
  3. Setup the shortener by signing up for one of those third-party sites discussed above. Bit.ly is one of the most popular and very similar to your other options (and free), so the following steps will take you thorough using this site.
  4. Visit account settings when signed into Bit.ly, go to “advanced,” and click on the option “custom short domain.” You will be prompted to let Bit.ly know if you’re using the custom domain for business or personal reasons.
  5. Find your DNS settings page for the shortened domain you just bought and look for the domain’s existing A Record. This part can get a little bit complicated if you’re not a web developer, so visit this link to see screenshots and follow along.
  6. Make sure you choose this new domain in Bit.ly as your default short domain you want to use. You can also learn more here about different tools and apps you can use to help make using this vanity URL more automatically.

In the end, most agree that creating a custom URL is much easier than it seems. Have you created your own custom URL for your company? Have you seen any improvements in CTR or engagement since you made the switch? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

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