Everyone hates long URLS specially the ones with a lot of cryptic url parameters. It’s long, non-descriptive, and difficult to remember. You’ll also have a hard time posting these long urls on social sites with “character-limits” as it will surely eat all of your character bandwidth before you can even post your actual content.
This is where services called URL Shorteners comes into play and it was developed with one sole purpose – to shorten your long URLS. Now, you might be asking “Isn’t it using services like this will have a negative impact on my SEO?”. If we’re talking about 5 years ago, yes, but today, URL shorteners have evolved and it’s actually quite mandatory to have it if you care a lot about your online exposure and SEO. How? It’s by customizing your shortened urls using your own brand.
In this guide, we’re going to use one of the most popular URL shorteners service called bit.ly. If you haven’t already, open your favorite browser and visit https://bitly.com/. Feel free to read about its features. This guide assumes you already have a bit.ly account, so before continuing, make sure to sign up and login. After logging in, you will be redirected to your bit.ly dashboard.
Your bit.ly dashboard shows all of your created bit.ly links. In case you’re already using bit.ly, you’ll notice that your links are formatted like this http://bit.ly/1iidA9N. This is the default formatting and url naming of bit.ly and most of the time, it’s enough for the majority of users. But this is not what we want! We want our links to stand-out among the rest!
On the top right of your dashboard, click the MENU icon. This will show you your account menu list. What you want to click here is the SETTINGS button which is under the options menu.
Upon clicking the settings button, another window will popup with 3 options. What we want here is the ADVANCED SETTINGS button
The advanced settings menu is where we can find the option to customize our bit.ly links called Brand Short Domain. Upon clicking this link, it will show us the necessary steps to customize our default bit.ly generated links.
The steps involved sounds scary at first, but it’s actually pretty simple. It basically involves buying a domain name and setting up the necessary DNS records on your domain name so that it points to bit.ly servers.
There are a lot of domain registrars available and it’s up to you which ones to use. For the purpose of this guide, I’ll be showing you how to set up your your domain’s DNS servers to point to bit.ly servers (assuming that your domain was purchased from Namecheap). If you haven’t purchased a custom domain yet, go ahead and purchase one first.
Upon signing up and purchasing your custom domain from namecheap, you are now able to view all of your purchased domain names on your dashboard. Click on the manage button to setup your custom domain. This is where we will assign the necessary DNS servers so that bit.ly can start using it.
On the manage page, find the NAMESERVERS settings uption and change it from Namecheap BasicDNS to Custom DNS.
Input the DNS servers listed on your bit.ly branded domains settings page. It will then propagate to bit.ly servers and sometimes it takes 24-48 hours to be fully setup. To verify if your custom domain is now usable, head over to your bit.ly dashboard and under SETTINGS > ADVANCED SETTINGS > BRANDED DOMAINS, enter your own custom domain on the field provided and click VERIFY DOMAIN.
Once verified, you will see something similar above. Congratulations! You can now start using your branded bit.ly links!
“What if my domains were purchased using a different domain registrar?”
The process is going to be pretty much identical. You just need to know where to find your domain’s settings page on your preferred domain registrar. Every domain registrar has a settings page where you can update/change DNS records.
“Will it really take up to 24-48 hours before I can use my own custom branded domain?”
Most of the time, no. My personal branded bit.ly link only took roughly 20 mins to propagate. Just regularly click the verify domain button on your bit.ly dashboard to check if your custom domain is already verified.