In Part 1 of Custom URL Shortening for E-commerce, we looked at some applications of how and why your company should use a custom URL shortener. In part 2, we will take a quick walkthrough of how to actually set up your custom URL shortener with Bitly.com.
Setting up a custom URL shortener only requires two easy steps. One of the steps requires some creativity, and the other requires a tiny amount of technical expertise.
1. Buy a Short URL.
2. Link it to your Bitly account.
Buy a Short URL
The first step in setting up your custom link shortener is to purchase a short URL. This is a domain that can only be used for link shortening, and won’t be available to use for anything else, so you couldn’t, for example, also host your website from the domain you’ll be using for your short URL. A good. short URL should be, well, short, but also relevant to your brand. Some strategies we used when deciding on a URL shortener for my site, PursuitYourself.com included:
1. Removing vowels / Abbreviating
Removing the vowels or using a common abbreviation will still leave a short URL readable and related to the original brand.
2. Alternative TLD
TLD stands for Top Level Domain, which is the suffix that comes after your domain name in your web address, ie: .com, .net, etc. For e-commerce sites, having an alternative TLD is usually a bad idea, but in URL shortening, it is common practice. It’s a great idea to look at TLDs in other countries, for example bit.ly uses Libya’s TLD “.ly.” To see what TLDs are available, run a simple Google search. One note about alternative TLDs is that their registration prices can vary wildly. A standard .com domain could cost $9.99-$14.99 depending on the registrar, but some alternative TLDs I looked at could go as high $99.99 or more…
What if your brand name isn’t as legible when shortened? Using a keyword related to your brand or the products or services you offer can also work. In my case, as the co-owner of a suit store, I might try one of these:
Finding a good short URL could take some time; once you brainstorm a list of possible short URL name directions, you can see what’s available to purchase. A good starting point is the website Domai.nr, which is a specialized search engine for short domains. Type in a word or phrase and it will try to find an available short URL. Like most domains on the internet, your best short URL idea might be taken, so you will need to search around a little bit and be creative. I also ended up using the site 101domain.com which has an extensive list of popular and not-so-popular TLDs to find the URL shortener I ended up using for Pursuit.
Link it to Your Bitly Account
Once you’ve purchased your new short URL, head to Bitly.com to set up your custom URL shortener. Bitly is the easiest URL shortening service to use, and employs incredibly useful tools for tracking and organizing your short links.
1. Sign in or create an account if you don’t have one already.
2. Navigate to the advanced tab from your profile view.
3. Select the kind of account you want. A business account provides much deeper insights for your brand, but it comes at a steep cost starting at $995 a month. For medium and small brands, a personal account works fine.
4. Bitly will walk you through the rest of the log-on process. You’ll have to enter the short URL you’ll be using, and change the A record of the domain, which is a simple process.
5. To Change the A record of the short URL, you’ll need to login to whatever registration service you registered your short URL with and navigate to the tab or page with the title DNS records or Name Servers. These screens differ greatly from service to service; the screenshot below is from 101domain.com. Once you reach the screen, click on either “Add A Record” or edit the existing A Record, and copy the address that Bitly gives you.
6. When you look back at the Bitly advanced tab, you’ll be able to see if your Bitly account has been successfully linked to the new short URL, when you see a green bar with “DNS Configuration OK”. The changes to your DNS A record took take up to 48 hours to update so you might not see “DNS Configuration OK” immediately after making all the changes.
7. When your short URL DNS configuration is all set, you can start using your new custom URL shortener; just paste the link you want to shorten into the “Paste a long URL here to shorten” box at the top of your Bitly page.
8. Type in a descriptive (but short!) suffix to your short URL domain, click save, and your link is ready to use.