This is a technical post about what I’ve discovered in creating my own custom URL shortener. Hopefully, you can learn to do the same things I did, and my experience will save you some headaches if it’s something you’re interesting in trying.
- Using a URL shortener allows you to share more with others on Twitter and Facebook. When the links you share don’t take up so much space, you can focus on your message to your readers. And it becomes especially important when using Twitter, since you are only limited to 140 characters for your tweet.
- You can keep track of the number of clicks your shared posts get, allowing you to better understand your readership. Bit.ly keeps track of the number of times people click your shortened links, so you can get a sense of which links are more popular and when people chose to click on them.
- Making a custom URL shortener allows for more consistent branding. It’s great to use a URL shortener for sharing links with, say, your Twitter followers. However, if you’re able to do this while continuing to promote your website or business, then sharing this information with your followers becomes even more effective.
- Buy the URL you’d like to use for URL shortening. You will have one for your blog or website, but you’ll want to use a different URL for URL shortening. Select one that brands yourself, your website, or your business well, but keep it short (otherwise it defeats the purpose!).
- Twitter allows for 140 characters, so keep your shortening URL to 12 characters or less. I use micfarris.us for my URL shortening, but the New York Times uses nyti.ms. This way, you can tweet a shortened URL link (such as micfarris.us/WGtCik) and still have enough room to tweet a helpful message.
- Check out available web addresses. You can go to http://domai.nr/ to check out available URLs. I eventually chose micfarris.us for two reasons:
- It contains “micfarris” to further the branding for myself and my website
- The .us domains are a lot cheaper to purchase. GoDaddy sells .us domains for $3.99 for the first year, so it’s an inexpensive way to get started. I looked at getting micfarr.is (which is a domain from Iceland), but it cost $99/year, so I decided against it (for now!)
- Connect with a URL shortening service to let them know your new domain name. As I mentioned before, I use bit.ly – it’s free, and they do a great job with their URL shortening service. Here are the steps for performing this step using bit.ly:
- Sign in to your bit.ly account (or if you don’t have one, just create one)
- Go to “Settings” from the upper right pull-down menu (or click here), click the “Advanced” tab, and then click the “Add a custom short domain” link.
- Enter your new domain to assign it to your account
- Connect your new domain to the website for your URL shortening service. Here are the steps for performing this step using GoDaddy.com (the place that keeps my web address) and bit.ly (that performs the URL shortening):
- Log into GoDaddy.com, click on “My Account”, then click on “Domains”
- Click on the new domain you want to connect with bit.ly
- Under the “DNS Manager” heading, click on the Launch link
- The “A (Host)” record should be the first on the page, so we’ll want to change this to point to the bit.ly website. You’ll want to change the IP address (the four number sequence in this record) to 188.8.131.52. You should double check with bit.ly to make sure this is the right IP address (don’t just take my word for it!) To double check the IP address and for more specific information from bit.ly, you can go here.
- Wait patiently. It can take up to 48 hours for the new information to propagate the right settings through the servers. When I set up my custom short URL, it took less than an hour or so, but sometime it can take longer.
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