How to Rock a Custom Short URL on Twitter and Instagram

If you're not using Bit.ly, Goo.gl, or another URL-shortening service to condense the links you post on social media, you've probably discovered that your URL can take up nearly half of your post. It also looks quite messy and unprofessional, particular if you've added a bunch of campaign tracking tags to the end of it. Luckily, the solution is simple and free: URL shorteners, as the name suggests, let you input a long URL, and they replace it with a shortened form that looks something like this: http://goo.gl/5rKVzy

Anyone who clicks on the shortened URL gets routed through the URL shortener's framework and is subsequently redirected to your original URL. This happens so quickly that the users never even realized they've been rerouted. Moreover, the URL shortener service keeps track of the number of clicks your links receive, so even if you're posting and external link (i.e. one where you don't have access to the website data!) you can still see how interested your audience were in your posts.

Why use a custom short URL?

The only downside to custom short URLs is that they don't tell users very much about their "final destination". When they see a link like that looks this: https://www.emmaenglishby.com/custom-short-url/ then they know straight away that they will be going to a page on my website, and that page will probably have something to do with custom short URLs.

But this: https://goo.gl/ndAGvO? Well, as far as your users are concerned, that could be going anyway. There's nothing to indicate that this has anything to do with your platform or brand. And sure, you can use your post caption to tell your audience where they are going, but on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, where short, snappy post descriptions are vital, that's not always possible.

That's where your custom short URL comes in. For example, when big media companies like TechCrunch tweet links to their site, they don't do so with a random series of characters, as is the case with most shortened URLs. They use a custom short domain that their followers can recognize immediately - "tcr.nch". Which instantly feels more sophisticated and tech-savvy than a plain old bit-ly link. It's like the difference between using a custom company email address to communicate with your customers and clients, or using a Gmail address.

And the best part is, even though it looks ultra professional, you don't have to be one of those enormous, big budget, internet giants to have your own custom URL - you, yes you, can have this set up in twenty minutes and for as little as $10 per year.

Here's how you set up your own custom short URL...

STEP ONE: BUY YOUR URL

You can buy a domain name from any number of domain registrars, including Dreamhost, NameCheap, and others. One of the most convenient for our purposes is Domainr, since it immediately suggests several possible URLs under a variety of domain suffixes (.com, .biz, .org, etc.). Then you simply choose a suitable short URL for your organization. For instance, the New York Times uses "nyti.ms." (Now that's using the force of brand recognition!)

STEP TWO: SET UP A BIT.LY ACCOUNT

Next, set up an account with Bit.ly or another similar service. It's free; all you need to do is verify your email address. Once you've logged in, select the "Settings" tab, click on "Advanced," and then choose whether your Custom Short Domain (the one you just bought) is for personal or business use. Finally, enter your custom short domain.

STEP THREE: CONFIGURE YOUR SHORT URL FOR BIT.LY

Head back to your domain registrar (i.e. the place you bought your domain name!) and point your short URL to Bit.ly's IP address. This sounds complicated, but it really isn't: just look for a tab labeled "A Record," "DNS" or "DNS Host."

Then input the IP addresses Bit.ly gives you. You need to create what's called a separate "A Record" for each one; your domain registrar should provide guidance on how to do this if you're not sure. Just be aware that it may take a day or two for the servers to update so you can use your custom domain.

STEP FOUR: ADD YOUR CUSTOM DOMAIN TO BIT.LY

Under Bit.ly's "Advanced" tab, verify your tracking domain. In other words, input the long domain you want Bit.ly to track (i.e. your actual website or blog address, not the new, shortened URL). You must verify that you own the address, and once you have, Bit.ly will convert any shortened links from your site to the new, branded short URL.

Customized, branded short URLs are a great way to track your results and brand your tweets at the same time - so your audience can recognise your brand instantly no matter what platform you're on. But I realise that not every enjoys the technical stuff like we do, so if you want a branded URL without have to mess about with name servers, just get in touch and I can set this up for you for as little as €50.