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I was recently asked by a Divi Theme Users member to write a post explaining about shortlinks and how to use them.

Your wish is my command!

 

What are Shortlinks?

Shortlinks are simply a way of shortening a long link to a web page. They’re commonly used on social media, especially on Twitter where character space is at a premium. Here’s an example taken from Google’s Twitter feed:

Example of a shortlink

 

In this instance the shortlink “goo.gl/XZJuuN” corresponds to the link “https://medium.com/backchannel/the-view-from-the-front-seat-of-the-google-self-driving-car-46fc9f3e6088“. As you can see it’s much more economical to use a 13-character short-link rather than a Twitter-busting 103-character URL. The shortlink looks a lot neater and doesn’t wrap over multiple lines. It also leaves a lot more room to include other information in the tweet.

So how can you use shortlinks in your own social media or website posts?

 

Using Shortlinks

There are a number of shortlink providers including Google URL Shortener, TinyURL and Ow.ly. My preferred shortlink provider is bit.ly so the following information comes from that site. But all providers are very similar in terms of the way they work and the services they provide.

With bit.ly you can sign up for an account which helps keep track of your shortlinks and the numbers of clicks they receive. But this is not necessary to use the service. To get a shortlink simply go to bit.ly’s website and enter the long URL you’d like to shorten in the box at the top of the screen:

Shorlink 1

 

You will then automatically be redirected to a screen showing your new shortlink:

Shortlink 2

 

By simply clicking the “Copy” button the shortlink will be copied to your clipboard ready to insert into your social media post, blog post, or wherever else you want to use it.

 

Customising Shortlinks

What if you want to personalise your shortlink to link in with your name or your branding? How do we set that up?

If I log in to bit.ly and shorten the same link to Susan’s blog post as I used above, the shortlink that is returned is my own branded shortlink – http://babs.link/1RIAkTm. It links to the same blog post but instead of being prefixed by “bit.ly” it’s prefixed by my own domain “babs.link”. This is very easy to set up in bit.ly, and is free (other than the cost of purchasing the domain name you want to use).

First you need to sign up for a free bit.ly account and verify your email address (you need to do this before you can personalise your shortlink), then purchase your domain name from the registrar of your choice. It doesn’t matter who you use.

Sign in to your bit.ly account and then go to settings:

Customising a shortlink 1

 

Then select the “Advanced” tab and click on “Activate a Branded Short Domain for personal use:

Customising a shortlink 2

 

Here you are given the information you need to set up the branded shortlink, including the DNS settings you need to change with your domain registrar in order to link the accounts:Customising a shortlink 3

 

Bear in mind that once you change the DNS records it may still take some time for the change to propagate, so the shortlink may not be available straight away. However, once it’s set up you’ll be able to automatically use your branded shortlink to create short URLs for your social media or website.

One thing to note. With the free bit.ly account, the suffix of the shortlink has to be unique across the whole of bit.ly. So, for example, you couldn’t change the link to the blog post above to read babs.link/testimonials as the “testimonials” tag has already been taken by another bit.ly user:

Customising a shortlink 4

 

This does place some limitations on the service as most easy-to-read suffixes have already been taken. But overall I still think it’s a great way to maintain your brand image throughout your online content.

Babs Hobbs
Babs provides website design and development services, SEO and social media strategy services. She is based in Glasgow, Scotland, and loves Apple gadgets, coffee, "Orange is the New Black" and a decent Sauvignon Blanc.
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