Link shortening, the act of turning a long URL into something more like 10-13 characters, has become an important online activity. So much so that tools have cropped up just to provide this service.
For example the URL for this specific post is https://ducttapemarketing.com/blog/2011/01/10/link-shortening-for-branding/, but a shortened version that would direct people to the post could be this http://ducttape.me/shorter1
Tools such as bit.ly, ow.ly and even Google’s goo.gl convert links to tidy a version, and perhaps equally as important, provide link analytics that can teach you a great deal about the traffic to clicking of a certain link.
Sharing links to content, both your own and that which you find useful, has become a very important tactic and Twitter’s 140 character limit certainly made shorter links necessary.
As this tactic of aggregating, filtering and curating content grows, brands have started to look for ways to provide shortened links as a standard branding practice. You’ll find links throughout social media to Pepsi as pep.si and C-Span as cs.pn. Amazon links on Twitter automatically shorten to an amzn.to link.
Now with the launch of new service from link shortening leader bit.ly, any brand, regardless of size, can have their own branded link shortening tool with the use of the free bit.ly pro service.
The service is fairly easy to set-up, provides you with real-time click data and integrates into service that already use bit.ly such as Tweetdeck or CoTweet
Here’s how to set your branded shortener up:
1) First you need your own short domain. This is no big deal you just have to register a domain that you use for the short versions of your link. I use GoDaddy, but any registrar works. I do like GoDaddy because you have access to what is called the DNS record and you’ll need that little techie step to complete. You want this link to be as short as possible, but also offer some branding. I chose ducttape.me because, while not the ideal 3-5 characters it had tons of branding and is memorable.
2) Next you’ll need to create a bit.ly pro account and register your short domain (ducttape.me) and what they call your tracking domain, which for me is ducttapemarketing.com.
3) Now you need to set-up the newly created short domain so bit.ly can use it. This is done by changing a DNS record setting called the A record (this is what is called an address record and is used to map a hostname to a specific IP address, but all you need to know is to tweak it is easy) – once you open up the setting in your new domain’s DNS record find the A record setting, make sure it is set to @ and change the IP address, per bit.ly to 184.108.40.206 (Note this is the new short domain, not a domain you use for your main site or anything else.)
4) The last step in the process is for bit.ly to verify that you indeed own the URL that listed as your tracking URL (for me ducttapemarketing.com). You do this by following the instructions, but essentially they ask you to add some code to your homepage or upload a file to your site with some code. If you have access to your hosting and can edit files, this is not hard.
5) Once all of this is done bit.ly will try to verify the tracking domain and the short domain, but be aware this can take 24-48 hours to filter through so I suggest you come back the next day and see if it’s working rather than getting frustrated trying to get it to work the minute you set it up.
6) Once you are all ready to go you can start creating short links and posting them to wherever you post links. I would also recommend that you integrate with tools, like Tweetdeck, that you might use. These tools use what is called an API Key that allows you to use the tool without giving out your passwords. Your bit.ly API is found under settings. For Tweetdeck you enter this key into the Tweetdeck settings under “services” and then Tweetdeck will use your short URL whenever you post to Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.
You use your bit.ly account to brand shorten any link that you might want to post to any social site or in email newsletters.
You can also share your API key with others, in your organization for example, if you want the entire company, team or franchise group posting with the branded link. A word of caution here though, don’t share your key outside of your immediate circle of trust as you don’t want people doing evil things with your brand.