Custom Shortlinks with bitly

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If you spend any time using social media, you have likely encountered website links that look a bit different.  Instead of the full address, it looks like an abbreviated form.  These URLs are called shortlinks, and some examples are:

  • t.co from Twitter
  • goo.gl from Google
  • Ow.ly from HootSuite
  • bit.ly from bitly

custom-shortlinks-with-bitly

Today, we’re going to focus on bitly.

How does a URL shortener like bitly work?  Basically, it takes a long URL and shortens it to an easier-to-use alternative, or shortlinks.  For instance, look at the link below:

http://www.wakingupcatholic.com/weekly-bible-verses.html

This link is 56 characters long, but shortened with bitly, it becomes only 20 characters:

http://bit.ly/12YR4sx

It may not seem like a lot, but 36 characters can make a difference when you are limited to only 140 characters on Twitter (which is exactly why Twitter automatically shortens your URLs for you).  And I have seen some URLs that are 75 to 100 characters long – that’s over half a tweet!  After posting a link of that size, there would be little room for anything else.

Before we get too far, why would we want to use a URL shortener like bitly?  Why not just allow Twitter and other services to create shortlinks for us?

First, bitly offers some fantastic statistical tools to see how many people actually clicked on your shortlink.  If you are sharing links on a variety of social networks, you can track how many people are clicking on each one.

The stats show how many people clicked on the link, which websites it was shared on, and even the country that originated the click.  Helpful tools for anyone trying to understand where their traffic is coming from.

Checking the stats is easy.  Simply add the “+” sign to the end of the bitly shortlink (http://bit.ly/12YR4sx+).  More info on that can be found here: http://bit.ly/12YSseA.

Another reason to use bitly (and the primary purpose of this article) is because it offers the ability to create custom shortlinks for your URLs, making them something fun and unique.  For example, instead of using bit.ly for my links, I purchased the domain cth.lc – a shortened version of the word Catholic (remove all of the vowels).

Next, I added the subdomain wu, for a finished url of wu.cth.lc, short for Waking Up Catholic (the name of my website).

So let’s look at another example:

http://www.amazon.com/Waking-Up-Catholic-Converts-Becoming/dp/0989531902/

Becomes:

http://bit.ly/12GBi9U

Customized to:

http://wu.cth.lc/12GBi9U

And I can check the stats here:

http://wu.cth.lc/12GBi9U+

From 73 charactes down to just 23, and some great stats to go with it.  It’s a quick and easy process, helps to promote your brand identity (if you have one), and is just plain fun.

I hope that you enjoy creating your own custom shortlink.  Now that you know how to do it, the only thing left to do is find a creative short URL to use for your site.

For more information on how to set up your own custom URL, go to: http://wu.cth.lc/12YYonX.  If anyone else would like to hop onto the cth.lc domain with me, contact me to find out more.

Read more of our Tech Talk columns.

Copyright 2013 Chad R. Torgerson

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