Keeping URLs Short and Sweet



If you use Twitter or follow other content-based social media, chances are high that you have seen a shortened URL at some point. Shortened URLs serve a few purposes: it’s easier to track sharing and click-throughs, take up less space and look neater, and can help you brand your web-presence. URL shorteners are even more valuable when the link you are sharing is a long one. I want to show you how to make your own custom URL shortener, to brand your business, or yourself.

Perhaps the most prevalent URL shortening service is Bit.ly which is what we will use in this example.

First you need to purchase the domain (URL) that you want to use in shortening future URLs. This URL is going to be separate from any other domains you own, and will be optimized to be very short. Here is a list of country-code top level domain names, which although variable in price, can offer some interesting opportunities for word play (i.e visual.ly etc.) The domain should absolutely be 15 characters or less.

For reference —  .US domain names are considerably cheaper than many. It is a great option if it can be worked into your design,.

Once you own the domain that you want to use for your custom URL shortener, make an account on Bit.ly.

Now that you have the domain and a Bit.ly account, go into Bit.ly “settings” then “advanced” and from here you can select “add a custom short domain.” Now you can set your own custom short domain to assign it to your Bit.ly account.

Now you need to create a DNS record for this short domain. Log in to your domain manager (i.e. GoDaddy.com, etc.) and select your new short domain, click on “DNS Manager” (or equivalent).

Now you need to edit the existing “A Record” for your short domain and change the short domain IP Address to Bit.ly’s (which at time of writing is69.58.188.49) The A Record host name should be “@” or the base-domain (they are the same thing), make sure you only have one A Record. This is what will perform the translating and redirection.

Now that you’ve done this, you just need to save all the settings and wait for the changes to register and propagate. This can take up to 48 hours.

That’s it. Pretty simple.


Doing this will enable you to have a ‘vanity-url shortener’ which can make it easier to track the links that you share while also keeping things more organized and neat. If you have a URL that is distinctive of your company or personal brand, the custom shortener can work to give you an identifying edge. It’s also a cool talking point. So keep it short to go far.

Reprinted by permission.

About the author: Maxim Wheatley

Maxim Wheatley is a recent graduate of Georgetown University, having studied Cognitive Science & Psychology. He is currently working to become an iOS development guru. His interests center around startups and new ventures, he has already been involved in three different startups, and started two small businesses before he graduated college. Currently based in Washington, DC, Maxim is always interested in talking about ideas and opportunities wherever they might be.

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