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How to set up your own URL shortener

2nd February 2015

URL shorteners are incredibly popular for a lot of large organisations, especially on social media.

What is a URL shortener?

URL shortening is a technique in which a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) may be made substantially shorter in length and still direct to the required page. This is achieved by using an HTTP Redirect on a domain name that is short, which links to the web page that has a long URL.

For example, Bitly is a very popular URL shortening service. By using their system, I have shortened a piece I wrote on our work with The Winnie Mabaso Foundation from the Cosmic website from http://www.cosmic.org.uk/websites/portfolio/ilamula-house to bit.ly/1EycYL5 - this is much shorter and looks a lot more attractive on social media and your website!

How to shorten links

You can shorten any URL you like just by going to a website like www.bitly.com or www.goo.gl. There are many different options for shortening URLs, it’s just about finding the one you like. Bitly and Google’s shortening services have developed a strong reputation, so people will recognise these links when they see them.

Can I use my own branding for my links?

Yes! Lots of companies such as The New York Times (nyti.ms), WordPress (wp.me), Moz (mz.cm) and the BBC (bbc.in). These make links look much more professional when they are branded and instantly recognisable. And the good thing is, it’s not as tricky to do as you may think. All you need is a short domain name! Once you have chosen your domain name and registered it, you’ll need to head over to Bitly.com and register an account.

  1. Register for an account at www.bitly.com and confirm it via e-mail.
  2. Go to Settings. This is found underneath your username in the top right corner.
  3. Select the Advanced tab.
  4. See the second section titled “Branded Short Domain”. Then choose “Activate a Branded Short Domain for personal use.”
  5. Enter your short domain name in the text box provided.
  6. You will then be provided with an IP address which you will need to set as the A record for your domain name. You can do this yourself in your domain name control panel, or just ask your system administrator.
  7. Once the DNS have propagated (this can take up to 24 hours), all links you shorten using Bitly will now be shortened with your own custom domain name!

This looks great on social media and can be done for a relatively low cost.

If you’d like to know more about this, using social media or updating your website, please get in touch with Cosmic on 0845 094 6108 or e-mail us on [email protected]!