Setting Up Personalized Shortened Links Like Bit.ly with WordPress
If you spend any amount of time on social media you’ve probably noticed almost everyone uses short links in their status updates. Most of the time, folks use Bit.ly but some have gone a step further and opted for a personalized short domain. And you can, too.
Aside from the ability to easily share long links and the fact that you can easily track your short links, another benefit of using a personalized short domain is reinforcing your own brand. Every time you share a link with your friends or followers, you’re reminding them of your site’s domain name, which is great for somewhat passively promoting your business.
With that in mind, today we’ll explore a few different options and I’ll show you how easy it is to set up your own personalized short links with WordPress.
Setting Up Your Personal Shortlinks With Bit.ly
The first and the easiest way to set up personal short links is using Bit.ly. In order for that to work, you need to do a few things first.
Step 1: Register your own custom short domain
Head on over to Domainr.com and choose a shortened version of your domain name. You’ll have to get a little creative with this, depending on your primary domain name, but a few suggestions include eliminating the vowels or using just the first couple of letters of every word in your regular domain name to create a memorable shortened URL.
Step 2: Sign up for Bit.ly account
In case you haven’t already, go ahead and sign up for a Bit.ly account and verify your email address.
Step 3: Add your short domain to Bit.ly
Under your profile name, click on Settings > Advanced. You will be brought to the following screen:
Here, you need to click on Activate a Branded Short Domain for personal use.
On the next screen type in your domain name and click on Add.
Step 4: Point your custom short domain to Bit.ly
Using whatever service you chose to register your domain, create an A Record in your DNS settings that points to Bit.ly’s IP address – 126.96.36.199. Usually, that setting can be found in either DNS Zone File or Advanced DNS Settings, depending on your registrar. You will have to wait for the change to propagate, which can take up to 48 hours:
Step 5: Install WP Bit.ly plugin
To avoid going to Bit.ly every time you want to use your new short domain, install and activate the WP Bit.ly plugin.
The plugin will prompt you to get the OAuth token for your Bit.ly account after which your personalized short domain will be ready to use directly from WordPress whenever you publish a new post or a page.
Using Custom Shortlinks With Pretty Link Lite/Pro
In case you aren’t quite ready to invest in a short domain name, you can still create prettier shorter links. This is where Pretty Link Lite comes in.
Pretty Link comes in free and premium versions but the free version is more than enough to create shorter links.
While you can’t set up a branded short domain with this plugin, you can, however, customize how the links look. Instead of having a link like www.myblog.com/this-is-the-title-of-my-post you can set it to be www.myblog.com/mypost. In essence, WordPress already allows you to do this on the post editor screen but the big difference is that Pretty Links allows you to track and manage those short links in a variety of ways.
Using the plugin is pretty straightforward: after installing and activating it you can start by adding a new link.
With Pretty Link Lite you can:
- Track number of hits per link
- Track number of unique hits per link
- Generate charts and reports
- Organize links into groups
- Turn tracking on and off
- Create nofollow/noindex links
- And much more.
And if you need more features, then you can always upgrade to Pretty Link Pro.
Setting up personalized short links with YOURLS
YOURLS stands for “Your Own URL Shortener” and it’s actually a set of PHP scripts that you need to install on your own hosting server.
If you want complete control over your shortened links then this last option is for you. It’s a little more complex option than the other two since it involves getting your hands dirty in code but the upside is that you aren’t dependent on a third party service.
Sound good? Good. Let’s get to it.
Like with Bit.ly you will need to buy a short domain and then use these scripts to create a private URL shortening service that uses that domain name. Let’s walk through the process of setting it up.
Step 1: Download YOURLS
Download the latest version of YOURLS. Unzip it and look for user/config-sample.php. Rename it to config.php, save it to the same folder, and then open it up with your preferred text editor.
Step 2: Configure YOURLS settings
You will need to change the following lines like so:
And finally, the name prefix for all the tables YOURLS will need:
Finally, scroll down till you see this line:
$yourls_user_passwords = array(
Here, change the username and password for username1 to match your username and password. The rest of the settings are optional and pretty self-explanatory, but if you need examples you can view them here.
Step 3: Create a database
Login to your web hosting account and look for “MySQL Database” under the Databases column. Create a database with the name you specified in the config.php file as well as the user and password and assign it to the newly created database.
Step 4: Upload the files to your hosting account
Upload all files and folders in the exact same structure to the root folder of your web hosting account; usually public_html or www.
Step 5: Finish the installation
You’re almost done! Next, load a new browser tab and type in: http://yoursite.com/admin/install.php but replace yoursite.com with your domain name.
If everything is setup correctly, you’ll see the admin screen which will prompt you to finish the installation.
Step 6: Install the Better YOURLS Plugin
Finally, you need to download and install the Better YOURLS plugin which works similarly to the WP Bit.ly plugin but the main difference is this is designed to work with your new YOURLS URL shortener.
Is it worth the hassle? Even though the process is easy and similar to what you usually do when you install WordPress manually, it’s not something most people would do when there are other options available.
But if you don’t like depending on a third-party service such as Bit.ly and you want complete control over all your links then this option is a great choice as it’s free and only requires a little of your time to set up.
Using your own personalized, trackable, short URLs has a lot of advantages. It reinforces your brand instead of someone else’s, allows you to measure and track the impact of your social marketing strategy, and–of course–makes sharing your links easier.
As usual with WordPress, the three options we’ve covered here are not the only ones available to WordPress users. They are however the most straightforward and the easiest to implement as a starting point.
Which of the three options would you pick and why? Let us know in the comments below. And if you prefer another method please feel free to share.