You are writing and rewriting your tweet for the hundredth time, frustrated with the fact that everything you want to say just won’t fit in 140-characters limit. You might be seriously considering sacrificing basic literacy just to be able to fit in the link! Not to mention that the idea of mentioning your friend was long discarded. The nightmare!
But it doesn’t need to be that way – there is a cure!
In an effort to help us out, as our friend Nikola noted, “the good people of the Internet” created a tool called an URL shortener. URL or link shorteners take our long web addresses and give us a simple short URL that will fit into any tweet and won’t break comments or blog posts.
But there is something else short links are good for – personal branding.
You must have noticed how some publishers and brands use their own branded short links when tweeting or sharing their content. By making their links as short as possible they are making sure they have enough space left for the most important thing – text message – and that their branding is consistent across all media.
Branded short links are great for personal branding as your followers know exactly where the link will take them once they see it shared across the web.
Here is how you can make your own branded short links with Bitly:
1. Choose and Register Your Domain Name
Each bitly account can be connected to one custom domain free of charge and it is pretty easy to set up. First step is choosing your domain name, which is the most important and the hardest part of this process.
With bit.ly, instead of appearing like this: bit.ly/awesome-post, your links will appear as: yourdomain.me/awesome-post
Registering your domain is easy and you can do that here. What’s challenging is choosing the right short phrase that will complement your brand. With TIME we see that they used .ME domain for clever domain hack and created “ti.me”, which works perfectly for their brand. For people that want to add that personal touch and meaning to their short links, branded .ME short domain is the perfect choice.
You can use our Whois box in the upper right corner to see if your domain name is available. If it’s not, you will be presented with similar options you can try. Don’t be afraid to get creative!
NOTE: Keep in mind that the domain you connect with Bitly will only be usable as a shortener; you won’t be able to use it for anything else.
2. Set Up Your Branded Short Domain in Bitly
Register for free and log in to your bitly account. Go to “Settings”, and then to “Advanced”.
After you click on “Activate a Branded Short Domain for personal use” you will be asked to enter the short domain you wish to use with Bitly. For the sake of this tutorial, I have registered dot.me as my short domain.
After you click “Add” Bitly will ask you to manually set your DNS A Record to make your Branded Short Domain point to Bitly’s IP address.
I was given the following directions for doing that:
The Bitly – Create a DNS record for your domain
The way you update DNS varies depending on your domain registrar. In general, the process goes something like this:
• Log into your domain registrar’s website.
• Select the short domain you want to modify.
• Find the section for managing DNS entries. The name of this section varies, but is usually something like “DNS Configuration,” “DNS Records”, “Advanced DNS,” “Total DNS”, “Host records,” or similar.
• Edit the existing A record for your site and change the IP address to 188.8.131.52 If there is no existing A record (which is uncommon), add a new one. The A record’s “host name” should be either the character @ or your base domain (both mean the same thing). You should only have one A Record. If you have more than one, remove all others and leave only the one pointing to Bitly’s IP.
DNS records are pretty sensitive and you should not mess with them if you’re not completely sure what you’re doing. Don’t hesitate to send a support ticket to your host or domain registrar with whom you registered your domain and ask them to do it for you. At least, that’s what I did. 🙂
3. Verify Your Domain
It will take up to 48 hours for the change to take place, after which you will have to go to Bitly’s Advanced Settings again to check if your domain was verified.
If you get this message, everything is in working order. If not, just wait a little longer.
4. Ta Daaa!
You can start using it! Paste your long URL in the box at the top of the page and wait for the customization window to popup. There you will be able to choose your custom bitlink from the list.
You can take advantage of Bitly’s customization feature and create even more meaningful links. Bitly will use your new domain and provide a random set of characters to represent that specific URL, but you can edit those to be something that your audience will more easily understand and remember, like I did in the picture above.
BONUS TIP: Keep track of link performance
There are many shortneres available and more of them are being introduced each day, but there is a reason why Bitly is one of the most popular shorteners out there – besides the option of customising your short links, it has unparalleled statistics and a range of other attractive features.
If you create a Bit.ly account, every short link you ever created and its real-time statistics is archived. That means you can monitor the performance of your links over time and re-use them when necessary. On their “Stats” page you can see all your short links listed, with information on total click and shares your links received in selected period, referrers and country from your clicks came from.
If you open a specific short link, you will get detailed statistics for that link, starting with number of total clicks to this content. You can achieve the same with just pasting your link into your browser and adding “+” at the end.
You can also see which social networks are driving traffic to your link. If you connect your Twitter account to bit.ly you can see tweets that include your short links. I recieved most of the clicks form LInkedIn, which indicates the content was something LinkedIn members found interesting enough to click on.
You can also find heat map that displays countries with highest number of clicks in deep red. On the right you can see breakdown of countries your clicks came from with absolute number of clicks and percentage of its share in total number of clicks.
You can also see who shared your content. In this case I shared it the most, with 5 anonymous shares grouped together. You can see up to six people whose shares gained you the most traffic.
Another amazing feature is the option to group all your links into “bundles” centered around a specific theme.This is especially useful for people who are running multiple projects with different social media accounts. Additionally, you can invite up to twelve friends to work on a bundle with you with option to see who added which link and when. All collaborators can comment on links and share them, or the whole bundle on Twitter, Facebook, email or anywhere else.
As you can see, there is a lot to be gained by using branded short links, especially if they are .ME! 😉
Now go ahead and create your own short .ME links!