EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 311 - May 20, 2012 - ISSN 1528-6703     5 of 7

How To Make Your Own Personalized Link Shortening Service

By Mark O'Neill

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Last time in EcommerceBytes Update, I explained to you what link shortening services were, the best ones that were out there and why you should be using them (see, An Introduction To Link Shortening Services). Today, I am going to go one better, and show you how to set up your own branded short links.

If you are an online seller, then you will know that online marketing and publicity are absolutely essential. You need to establish your own unique brand and make sure that it pushes all of your rivals out the way. That is the key to business and financial success. You only have to look at the ongoing battles between McDonalds and Burger King, or Coca-Cola versus Pepsi to understand the importance of branding.

But the Internet is full of noise and it can often become difficult to separate yourself from the pack. One good way to try and make yourself heard is to have your own short links.

Why are short links beneficial? Well, as I explained last time, long unwieldy links can look unattractive (and sometimes unprofessional), and people may be reluctant to click on them. Let's just quickly put it to the test. If you saw this link -

http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y212/m04/abu0309/s02

and then you saw this link -

http://bit.ly/J4nsmE

which one looks the most attractive to click?

The first link is better because it shows the source. While the second source has the advantage of being shorter, you don't really know which site you're being sent to.

Another problem with these shortcut links is that by forwarding and sharing these links, you are sending traffic and name recognition Bitly's way. Everyone sees Bitly's name, not yours. That's not the way it should be. Everyone should be seeing your name. That's where customized branded short links come in.

Now, as with everything in life, there is an easy way and a hard way to do this sort of thing. Personally I like the easy life so we are going to take advantage of a free service that Bit.ly offers where you can route all of your short links through your own personal domain.

Personalised Short Links Recipe
Serves Countless Links

Ingredients

  • One personal domain (with a short name and which will not be used for anything else)
  • One Bitly account (free from Bitly.com)
  • Lots of patience (as it may not go according to plan right away).

When buying a domain for short links, make it as short and memorable as possible (otherwise it defeats the whole purpose of short links). My website is Journal Of Curious Things, so I decided that the domain for the short links would be http://jcurio.us. It's short and it's easy to remember.

(Inspired by Part 1 of my article, David decided to get one for EcommerceBytes and registered ebyt.es through the popular domain-registration company GoDaddy. Here's a shortcut link to a May 12th post on the EcommerceBytes Blog: http://ebyt.es/K02Xte - you can see it's much shorter than this URL http://blog.ecommercebytes.com/cgi-bin/blog/blog.pl?/pl/2012/5/1336831866.html.)

Once you have your domain and it's active, create an account with Bit.ly account and log in. In the top right hand corner, are the settings - account name>settings. Click on that and scroll down to "custom short domain" and "tracking domain."

"Tracking domain" is the website where the links will be coming from. So in my case, http://www.journalofcuriousthings.org. That should be entered in the "tracking domain" section.

"Custom Short Domain" is your newly acquired short domain. Enter that under the "custom short domain" section.

It will then tell you to change your DNS settings in your new shortcut domain. This sounds difficult but actually it is not. But sometimes it takes a while for Bit.ly to recognize the new settings, hence the "lots of patience" I advised you to have.

All web hosting services have different styles of page. So you will have to hunt around in your account for the DNS settings (or send off an email to the web hosting company asking them for assistance). When you have located the correct page, you need to create a new A record. This simply points your domain towards Bitly and they will take care of the rest for you. So find the part of the page for creating new A records and enter your domain name in one box and in the A box, enter Bitly's IP address - 69.58.188.49. Then save it all.

(David notes that if you registered your shortcut domain with GoDaddy, you should log in and go to Domain Manager and DNS Manger. You will now be in Zone File Editor - click on the domain number to edit it - change it to the new number that Bit.ly gave you, and save it.)

Now go back to Bitly and press the verify button. It will then check to see if it can find your domain (it will ask you to check back in a few moments). If it has found it, it will say so and success is yours. If not, you need to keep trying till it works. Remember - patience!

Once it has connected to your domain, the main page of Bit.ly (while you are signed in) will now offer you the chance to run all your short links through your short domain via Bitly. And that is basically it.

Let us know how you got on with your short domain and how it is helping you promote yourself on social networks and other sites!

NOTE: Once you've followed the instructions, you'll notice that any shortcuts you make for pages on your site when you are signed in to Bit.ly will use your branded shortcut URL, but anyone else who makes a shortcut for one of your website pages will still receive a Bit.ly branded URL shortcut. That's because Bit.ly charges extra for having branded URLs. For example, if you shortcut a New York Times URL, it will automatically use their "nyti.ms" short domain - that's because the New York Times uses its enterprise Branded Bitly Service, which costs $995/month.


About the author:

Mark O'Neill is Managing Editor of the popular tech blog, MakeUseOf.com. He is a Scotsman, now living the ex-pat life in Wurzburg, Germany. You can also find him on MarkO'Neill.org.


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