We have all seen them before, URL shorteners can be extremely beneficial. From conference/workshop presentation links to making it easier to get students to an important website, a URL shortener can save time and hassle. The benefits of a URL shortener go far beyond taking an ugly web address and turning it into something useful.
Up until recently, Bitly.com was my shortener of choice because of the custom slug option. For example I can take any URL and turn it into something relevant to my needs. A couple weeks ago I presented a session at #TCEA17 that covered Adobe Spark. My session information can be found at bit.ly/tcea17spark. That same link would look like this if I didn't use Bitly.com. spark.adobe.com/page/yePeu5I97Rxdl/. It doesn't take long to realize that my unique bitly link is much easier to get people to access. I couldn't survive without bitly, as it also tracks analytics on my links which can be helpful in many ways. For example as an Adobe trainer, I have to log my trainings, and I can easily use the link clicks as a verification of how many people I had in attendance, without having to waste any time during the session.
Some of you may use goo.gl, t.co, ow.ly, or tinyurl to name a few others. In the end it doesn't really matter which one you use, but the ones that allow you to customize and save your shortened links tend to work best.
But what if we said, you could create your own short URL's.
A couple weeks ago I discovered the easiest way to set up and use my own branded short links, and best yet, the first year was totally free, and after that all I have to worry about is the cost of my domain name. The setup couldn't have been easier as the site I used did all the work for me. Rebrandly.com allows you to purchase your own short domain name and it sets up everything. They even have free coupon links that can be found in various blog articles on their page. Click here to visit a blog article that includes one of their free coupon links. So my first year was completely free and set up and ready to go in minutes.
So what exactly does this look like. My blog site that you are on, is www.edtechthoughts.com. This domain is pretty simple as is, but it is not only about making a URL shorter. There are many benefits to this idea beyond making links shorter. My custom short domain is edtech.link I only save 6 characters by using the short link, but in addition to saving a few characters, I also gain the ability to create custom endings or slugs and I never have to worry about someone else using that slug already. If you have used Bitly, you understand that because thousands of people are sharing that domain, the slugs sometimes are a challenge to make the way you want them. I only have myself to blame for not being able to use a slug.
So we know we can make a link shorter, and can customize it. Why would you need to do any of this though. You can use QR codes, or user hyperlinks when linking to things online, using a short url just creates more work that takes up time. For a lot of what we do daily this is true. Let's look at a few ideas for using custom short URLs
- Social media profile links - Example follow me on Twitter at edtech.link/twitter - I never can remember exactly what my profile link is for various social media sites.
- Short term landing pages. @jmattmiller held a one week conference #ditchsummit. He could have created a subdomain for free on his normal domain. Then using that subdomain he could have created a landing page for his summit. That subdomain can be long. If he had a short domain like ditch.link he could share the short link and it will automatically take his visitors to the landing page he needed. Or he could create a whole new domain name, and set up a site there, for the added domain name cost.
- The incredible Kasey Bell - the guru behind www.shakeuplearning.com shares a wealth of resources and I am sure she has several analytics pieces set up on her blog. But if she uses goo.gl or bit.ly style shortened links, people cannot easily recognize those links as being part of her "brand." If she used something like shake.link or shake.me or even shake.tech her links would still be recognizable while being a bit cleaner. Again the short aspect isn't the key. The key is in the slug or the part of the / symbol. Now with this short domain, she can take any of her content and "slug it up" the way she wants to create effective links that will capture someones attention. And best yet, is she can still track those clicks on Google analytics, goo.gl, or bit.ly depending on her needs.
- For many of us that do not have high traffic on our sites, or thousands of followers, this might seem like a lot of work, but I still find it beyond helpful. But lets take the king and queen of educational book authoring and publishing, Dave and Shelley Burgess. Dave's website www.daveburgess.com is highly successful and he doesn't have to use these ideas but what if he got a short link centered around his #tlap hashtag. Again something like tlap.link would provide him with a way to use strategic links that simply take people back to his full site. Would the more memorable links be able to benefit him in any way?
While most educators are not in the marketing business, even a school district could benefit from having the flexibility to create custom urls for various needs. I am curious, do you use short urls? Which service do you use? Would you be able to benefit from creating your own custom short domain, for around $12/year? I would love to hear your feedback on how and why this could benefit you. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to hit me up on Twitter. I am more than willing to discuss ideas and help you get your domain set up.