James Mayes

Do you trust short-links?

In Social Media, Social Recruiting on June 21, 2011 at 5:18 am

This was first written as a guest post for Louise Triance and appeared on UK Recruiter. It now joins my archive.

There’s been a little more noise recently around the use of short or vanity URLs.  I’ve had one for some time, mostly because there were some scare stories a while back about the security of the pages hiding behind these links. I figure if the link is tweeted by James Mayes, and contains the domain jmay.es – it’s pretty clear I did it intentionally and am responsible for anything behind it.  Noticing a recent rise in interest, I offered to write up a very loose guide for Louise….

  • Start with http://domai.nr/  – enter the name of your business, your personal name, your blog, etc. It will then come up with suggestions of possible short domains you might like. It’ll indicate beside each suggestion (with a green square) whether that domain might be available.  Domai.nr will help you purchase these domains if you wish – I guess affiliate marketing for domain registrars is their revenue model.
  • Buy your domain.  You can use the domai.nr recommendation above, or any number of other domain registration services. Three noticeable differences between domain registration services at this point: (a) it’s a price-competitive market (b) the ease of use of the domain management tool and (c) the level of customer service available if you need help. Like anything, you get what you pay for.  I’m very happy with the provider I currently use, but I’m not about to pitch them on someone else’s blog – so come ask me on Twitter if you’re stumped for ideas.
  • Obtain a (free) http://bitly.com/ account.  Bit.ly are one of the main url shortener services out there and are well-respected. They’ve had the capability to support personal short URL’s for a while now, but only on private beta accounts (yes, I was lucky). Now though, it’s open to all, as part of their regular free account. Create/sign in to an account, go to Settings, then down to Custom Short Domain. From here, bit.ly will talk you through the detail of verifying ownership of your main site (ownership validation).  Once done, you can use you the new shortener for both your own site, but also for any other links you wish to share.

So why do it? As I explained above, there’s a trust/ownership element to it. More than that though, if you choose the domain right, and other people then share or retweet it further, it can help your brand to spread.  Finally, the bit.ly analytics are pretty good. I can see not only how many times MY link has been clicked, but also how many times bit.ly has directed other traffic to that destination. By using the Chrome plug-in from bit.ly, I’m also notified by a pop-up if a link I shared starts trending – and of course, I can set thresholds on that so I can adjust sensitivity accordingly.

So, costs? Domai.nr is free, as is bit.ly – the only cost I’ve experienced in the last 6 months is in registering the actual domain.  You should note here that some countries are getting very commercial around the values of short domain names.  Mine was an early one, and thus (I think!) cost me about $20 – but a friend of mine checked out a short URL for his company name, and was quoted well over $2,000!  Those values are largely driven by the country you’re registering in – so if it seems expensive, get creative with your name/brand. If you need to know which country the domain belongs to, just Google the final couple of letters.

Finally – there are other ways. I know a couple of proud geeks who’ve enjoyed writing their own code for a personal domain shortener, rather than using bit.ly – feel free.  I use the method above because it requires nothing more than a cut n paste of HMTL code for the ownership validation described in step 3. The only limitation I’ve found is that I can’t redirect the home page too. My short-links work fine, but if you try visit jmay.es as a home page, you’ll get bit.ly – still I owe them a bit of publicity, it’s not like they charge me….!

  1. […] that of my followers. You can also use your own bit.ly account details for better analytics, your own custom URL, […]

  2. […] Bit.ly – always was good, but the enhancements this year allow for custom short-links. Instructions here. […]

  3. […] How quickly Alternion progresses past these earlier limitations, I don’t know.  Certainly though, for a product just into public beta, it looks remarkably extensive in ambition and polished in presentation.  What else does it need? Well, for me they’ve done a great job of the connectivity and they’ve nailed multi-account connections for Facebook and Twitter. I’m not yet seeing scheduling options though, or the ability for company accounts – seems a single-user product is the current aim. I’d like to use my own bit.ly account for link shortening too – read why here. […]

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