WHAT ARE SHORTLINKS, ANYWAY?
I first started really noticing shortened links on Twitter in 2008. I vividly remember thinking: brilliant!
It made perfect sense: tweets were limited to 140 characters, so to send someone to a particular article, a short permalink was helpful (example: t.co versus https://support.twitter.com/articles/109623).
I started using Tinyurl, and I remember followers asking me about it at the time. It was created in 2002(!) by a developer seeking an easier way to share cumbersome links in Internet forums.
As a longtime enthusiast of having too many browser tabs open (I’ve written separately about an awesome solution for that issue), shortlinks fit into my workflow for marketing and social posts naturally:
- Find riveting article on pertinent subject.
- Copy link, drop into link shortener.
- Grab & share adorable tiny link.
Along came Bitly: in 2008 it launched as a link maintenance platform, and I loved the idea of a single destination to both shorten and catalogue links. I switched.
By 2009, I started noticing branded links such as nyti.ms (via the earliest adopter: the New York Times) as a way to both shorten links and promote a brand.
As a marketer, I coveted them. I wanted branded links for my organization, so I began campaigning my CEO (it was a bit – pun intended – costly at the time).
By 2010, the service was more widely available (here’s a great how-to from Mashable), and by 2011 Twitter announced its own link shortening service (http://t.co) as well as auto-shortening in tweets. All the while, I remained pretty loyal to Bitly.
These days, link shortening on social media platforms happens automatically, so having a dedicated link shortening service may seem unnecessary.
WHY BRANDED LINKS?
A branded shortlink subtly emphasizes your brand. They’re great for businesses, publications and influencers who have worked hard to build a personal brand. Couple that with a dashboard for tracking clicks and link performance? Definitely relevant.
I’m a firm believer in branded short links if for no other purpose than to make everything look neat and buttoned up.
Whether I’m sending an email full of links for reference, sharing files via Dropbox/Google Docs with clients or creating an Evernote document with resources for our team, I use branded links.
So, get going. Bitly offers free branded link shortening, tracking & cataloguing for personal use: one clearinghouse for all the links you share repeatedly. Your only cost will be purchasing a custom domain.
HOW TO SET UP BRANDED LINKS
You can easily set up your own branded link in about 15 minutes:
- Head to Domainr (or similar) to browse interesting international domain extensions beyond the standard top level domains such as .com, .org or .net. Just type in your keyword and check out the options. For example, I typed “magpie” and would love to have scooped up an iteration of mag.pi or magp.ie, but no such luck.
Be creative! You can use international domain extensions even outside those countries (for example, I think that TheLi.st is brilliant, and the owners are clearly based in the good ol’ .us and not in São Tomé and Príncipe, the “intended use” for the .st domain. Cool, right?
- Purchase your short domain via GoDaddy (or similar) and head over to Bitly to set up your branded link. Simple instructions will walk you through how to redirect the DNS records for your new domain, or you can read more here.
- Begin creating branded links!
Enjoy! I love seeing branded domains around the interwebs. It tells me I’ve come across someone who really knows their stuff. So hurry up and start impressing me (and everyone else)!
Pro tip #1: the Bitly app lives in my social media folder on my iPhone homescreen, so I can easily create branded links anytime. If I run across a great article that’s relevant for my audience, I share it via branded link (always giving proper credit, of course)… it’s just one more way to establish credibility or serve as a resource for your industry!
Pro tip #2: Bitly offers a Chrome extension and other resources for quick and easy link shortening right in your browser.
Pro tip #3: Bonus: you can customize links for even better branding (or to easily remember an important or frequently visited site. In other words, I can share http://litlmagpi.co/SpringWallpaper vs http://litlmagpi.co/2n3K4zt. Nice, right?
Share your thoughts and questions! Will you give branded links a go?