Websites aren’t for the faint of heart are they.
Between the hosting and the setup, you’ve been run ragged.
You eventually got past that and wrote your first post. You crafted magnificent prose. Gave it a killer title. And now you want to share it.
And now you’re trying to listen to the other gurus and share your content with the world. But the URL is too long and looks ugly.
Been there. Done that.
Fortunately, I have a solution for you. Shortlinks.
What is a Shortlink?
Shortlinks are alternative URLs to your posts. Their key feature is that they are… well… short. Shortlinks are short links. You’ve got to love descriptive names like that.
They serve two primary purposes.
- To obey character limits without sacrificing content (*cough Twitter cough*).
- To make it easy for someone to type or write down.
Those long URLs recommended by SEO pros are good for search engines and pleasant to read. But they’re bad for usability.
Shortlinks are easy to use, and forward to the long URL. Giving you the best of both worlds.
Where Can I Get a Shortlink?
There are a number of websites and services devoted to shortlink creation.
My favorites are:
But there are a lot more than that.
Most of these sites simply require you to copy and paste your long URL in a text field and click a button. They then return a shortened version of the link. Like this:
Run through the bit.ly website gives
Much shorter. Much easier to type or write down if needed.
Following that short URL redirects you directly to the long URL.
Try it yourself. Find a long URL and shorten it.
Can I Automate Shortlink Creation?
Absolutely! In fact, WordPress already includes a mechanism for automatic shortlink creation.
If you go to the edit page on a published post and look right above the editor, you should see a “Get Shortlink” button. Click it and a shortlink will display.
The problem is, by default, WordPress uses your normal domain name and simply shortens the rest of the URL (the permalink).
That is certainly shorter. And if your domain name is short, that might work. But if you have a long domain name, it’s not much better.
Fortunately, there are numerous plugins available that will customize the shortlink even more.
Shortlink Plugin #1: JetPack
JetPack is a fantastic WordPress plugin. It packs a ton of functionality and improvements into one well-made package.
One of the improvements is automatic shortlink creation using the wp.me domain. Simply install JetPack and activate the WP.me Shortlinks module under settings.
Your shortlinks will now use wp.me.
Shortlink Plugin #2: WP Bitly
I only recently discovered the WP Bitly plugin, but it is my new favorite shortlink plugin.
If you have a Bit.ly account (and you should because it’s awesome), this plugin integrates your WordPress install with your Bit.ly account. All published posts will get a Bit.ly shortlink.
This plugin also works with custom shortlink domains, which I’ll discuss momentarily.
There’s a bit more setup required than JetPack’s shortlink module, and you’ll need a Bit.ly account, but the plugin and Bit.ly website have good instructions to guide you along.
Can I Use a Custom Shortlink Domain?
Yes. You can purchase and use a custom domain name.
Usually shortlink domains are related to the personal or professional brand they are associated with.
tweetthis.jtmorris.net could become twths.ly for example.
If you’re lucky, you can make some clever word play with the top-level domain (top-level domains are the .com, .net, .me, .ly, et cetera).
The social media management service Hootsuite, whose mascot is an owl, creates shortlinks using the ow.ly domain. The New York Times uses nyti.ms. TechCrunch uses tcrn.ch.
A website like Domai.nr can help search for available shortlink domains. Once you’ve found one, you can then purchase the domain through a reputable registrar.
Purchasing a Domain
You’re probably already familiar with domain names as you needed one to setup your website. You can, and probably should, use a similar procedure to purchase your short domain.
If you bought it through your hosting provider, look to add another domain to your account.
If you used a different registrar, use the same one.
If don’t already have one, and need a domain name provider, I currently use Namecheap.com. I couldn’t be happier. Their prices are reasonable, their selection is superb, and domain purchasing and management is simple. I highly recommend them.
F.Y.I: If you purchase a domain or other product from Namecheap using the link I provided, I will receive a small commission. However, my endorsement of their service would still stand without affiliate benefits.
So purchase a clever domain name that is short, and reflects your brand.
Once you’ve found and purchased your domain, you’ll need to configure WordPress to use it.
Custom Shortlink Domain Configuration
There are several plugins available that address this need. I used to use a plugin called Custom Shortlink Domain. It was very simple and worked perfectly. There are several similar plugins available.
However, I’ve since moved to using the previously mentioned WP Bitly plugin, and it can use custom domain names.
The custom domain gets configured on the Bit.ly website in your account settings. Their website explains the procedure nicely. Once your settings are configured, the WP Bitly plugin will generate shortlinks using your custom domain name.
Using Shortlinks With the Tweet This Plugin
Once you have configured WordPress’ shortlink, telling Tweet This to use it is a cinch. Simply visit the Tweet This settings page and choose “Yes” next to “Use Shortlink?” and save the settings.
And that’s all there is to it. From that point forward, all automatically generated Tweet This URLs will use your shortlink format.
However, be aware that most shortlink customization plugins do not create shortlinks until your post is published. If you’re using one of them, Tweet This will insert placeholder shortlinks until the post is published.
If you have any questions about shortlinks or how Tweet This uses them, let me know. I’ll be happy to help.