Short and Sweet: Benefits of Setting Up a Custom Link Shortener
Website links (or URLs) are often quite long. Many companies use a custom link shortener to reduce the number of characters in a URL when they're looking to share white papers, blog posts, and other content — and not just because it helps them stay under character count limits. Shortened links can be used to easily track and measure web traffic, clicks, marketing campaigns, and traffic sources.
Custom link shorteners can also serve as an extension of your brand name. For example, "frth.sc" is a pithy version of "fourthsource.com". Shortened brand names are also easier to fit into presentations and print publications, where space is at a premium.
How to Set Up Your Own Custom URL Shortener
1. Register a short domain name
Despite the fact that tweets can be up to 280 characters, the ideal length of a tweet is 100 characters. The ideal length of a Facebook post is just 40 characters. The shorter your link, the more intriguing content you can include in social media updates without losing impact. When you consider that URLs typically not only include a domain name (name of the company/site) and a top level domain (such as .info), but often also the name of unique page or blog post, like in the URL afilias.info/new-tlds, you don't have a lot of characters to work with.
Registering a short domain name is one way to end up with shorter URLs. You can simply use initials for your brand, truncate the name, or opt for a word that will resonate with your audience, regardless of its similarity to your brand name. For example, a distributor named “Reliable Restaurant Supply Center" might register the domain name RRSC, reli, or cook, serve, eats, chef, and so on.
Short domain names are in short supply, though, for popular top level domains (TLDs) like .com or .org. One advantage of choosing a unique TLD — like .red or .llc — or a country code TLD — like .pr, .bz, or .me — is the greater availability of short domain names. The two-character country code TLDs are also perfect for creating your own custom URL shortener. The restaurant supplier noted example above could use its initials in conjunction with a two-character TLD: rr.sc.
2. Point the custom domain to your existing website
If you don't have a website yet, you can, of course, launch your website with the short domain and TLD you just registered.
A URL like rr.sc may not be ideal for branding purposes, though, so most companies have a slightly longer URL (for example, cook.pro) that they use for most of their communication, and the custom URL shortener is simply used as a great way to share links. Start by redirecting your new URL to your existing website URL. This is typically done by logging into the site where your domain is hosted, going into domain management, and designating the URL of your existing website. Setting up this redirect will automatically route traffic that clicks on your shortened links to the same page on your existing website based on the “slug." For example, if our restaurant distributor has a web page for pots at ReliableRestaurantServices.info/pots and purchases the domain rr.sc, they can start sharing the much shorter link rr.sc/pots by making sure the link redirects automatically to the right page on their website.
Since slugs themselves can be lengthy (think of the extremely long URLs on sites like Amazon.com), a free tool like YOURLS or (if you are using WordPress) the free WP to Twitter plugin can come in handy. They enable you to designate replacement values for a link's actual domain name and slug, and then routes the web traffic coming in on the links with your replacement values (such as your custom short domain and a short slug) to the original pages or posts. This allows you for example, to share a link as rr.sc/tuscany instead of rr.sc/pots-and-pans-from-tuscany-on-sale.
You can find out more about using and setting up multiple domains for your website here.
Setting up your own custom link shortener allows you to share shorter links on social media — and anywhere else less is more. Best of all, you can set up your own shortened links using custom and unique domain names quickly and at a very low cost.