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You may have noticed companies like foursquare have started their own short-links. Usually using a three character domain followed by a cute top-level domain (TLD). These aren’t good for much from a technical perspective, but from a branding perspective… every single person who retweets one of your posts, or uses one of your “share this” buttons is sending your brand out to everyone on their list.

Sure beets ow.ly.

Today I’m going to take you all through the steps required to set up your own url shortlinks using the free and ever popular bit.ly

Step 1: Find & Buy a shortened domain to use

This is the hardest part of this entire process. Finding a serviceable domain for a shortener can be a huge pain. For one, you want to keep your shortened domain, well, short, and almost every three letter or under domain has been registered in the main TLDs.

Your first step should be to find what TLD you want to use. Wikipedia has a great list of domains that allow commercial/vanity use. Other URL research tools, such as Bust-a-Name, are also useful.

Step 2: Register for Bit.ly Pro

The first step is getting a Bit.ly pro account. To sign up visit bit.ly/pro and sign up. They will give you the option of using an existing bit.ly account, or creating a new one. Once registered you will have to input your domain and your shortened domain.

Step 3: Set up your Domain

Once the above is done you will need to set your shortened domains Address Record to point to the IP address that Bit.ly gives you. If you’re not sure how to do this then ask your IT guys, but it ain’t hard.

Step 4: Verify your domain

Bit.ly will allow you to do this a number of ways, the easiest of which being uploading a file to your root directory. You can also add a meta tag to your home page, or set a CNAME record to point to cname.bit.ly.

At this point your custom URL shortener should be usable.

Step 4 (optional): Set up your tools

You’re going to want to setup a quick shortening device for your web browser. Bit.ly provides a browser plugin and a series of bookmarklettes at their tools page. Additionally you can try the following:

Tweet this buttons

If you use a “tweet this” button, you can pass it through bit.ly. They provide instructions and code samples here.

Use custom URL’s with Twitterfeed

You can set tweet deck to use bit.ly custom URLs. Just edit a feed (or create a new one) and under advanced options select “post link” and form the drop down select bit.ly. Click bit.ly settings and enter your user name and API key.

And that’s it. Now you should be able to use your own branded, custom short links.

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