You work hard to ensure a consistent brand across multiple social media and web sites. However, a key opportunity is often missed and it is one that really makes you stand out: a custom short domain. I decided to set one up for my site MWGblog.
A short domain allows you to shorten long convoluted URLs to something more manageable. To go the extra step, you can set up your own short domain so that the links you post carry your personal brand across the web. As an example, let’s say I want to link to one of the books I wrote a few years back. Now I can link to the Amazon page for the book like this: http://mwgblog.link/ZkYqN5 or I can customize the link further like this: http://mwgblog.link/podcastsolutions.
Here is what one looks like on Twitter:
I accomplished this in under 30 minutes using a Bitly account. Here’s how I did it.
STEP 1. Decide on Domain Name
First I had to decide on the domain name to use. I thought about a subdomain of MWGblog, something along the lines of go.mwgblog.com but in looking around I discovered that the .link TLD is now available. GoDaddy, the registrar I usually use, doesn’t offer .link but I found a deal on Hover. I’ve never used Hover, but with .link names on sale for just $5.00 I figured it was worth a try. It was easy and worked like a charm. I quickly set up an account and registered mwgblog.link. After a few minutes I got my confirmation email, confirmed my account and was ready to move on. (Note: Bitly requires that your domain name is 15 characters or less including the ‘dot.’)
STEP 2. Point Domain to your DNS/Hosting
Next I changed the nameservers on Hover to point my new URL to Media Temple where I host my sites. In Hover, go to Manage Your Domains and click to edit your domain. On the Nameservers line click edit and enter the nameservers for your host or DNS service. You’ll need to look these up for your hosting company. Bottom line, you’ll need a service that allows you to manage the DNS records. Here is what mine now looks like.
STEP 3. Set up Domain on Bitly
Next log in to your Bitly account. If you don’t have one just set up a free account. Go to settings in the top right pulldown menu and then click on the Advanced tab. Look for and click on ‘Activate a Branded Short Domain.’ Then fill in the information about the domain you are using. (Important if you are using a top level domain name this is the only thing you’ll be able to use it for. I.e. you can’t also host a site on it etc. It will just be for your short urls.)
STEP 4. Update DNS A Record to point to Bitly
Now head back to your hosting service and set the DNS A Record to point to Bitly. Bitly has you edit the existing A record for your site so that it points to IP Address 126.96.36.199. Here is a screenshot of mine once it was completed. (If you are using a subdomain here are some additional instructions.)
Next, depending on your DNS service you may need to wait a bit until it propagates. Some sites say it can take up to 24-48 hours. While this may be true, checking back on the Bitly site I had confirmation mine was working in under 10 minutes.
STEP 5. Start Using your new Branded Short Domain!
Make sure to set your new short domain as the default in your Bitly settings.
That is it, you are ready to start using your new custom short domains. You’ll get all the tracking information you are used to with Bitly. Best of all, you can also use other connected services like the Chrome Browser extension or WordPress Bitly plugin to automatically use your new short domain.
For bonus points, set the Branded Short Domain Root Redirect to your main site. This way if someone gets curious about your spiffy new short domain url and types just the main url in their browser they’ll land back on your home page.
$5 Link URL:
Of course you can use any domain name you like. I went with the .link because it fit perfectly for the use case and the price was right for this little experiment. At the time of this post they are on sale for $5 on Hover.