We share links all the time. Links to videos. Links to the lunch menu at the burger place up the street. Links to a specific location on Google Maps. The list goes on. But oftentimes, these URLs are far from elegant. Let's look at a few examples, going from decent to awful:
Gross. Both Vimeo and YouTube provide short URLs, but you have no idea what they might contain. The McMenamins link alludes to what it might be, but you can't be certain. Then the Google Maps beast link is extremely detailed, with the location, latitude, and longitude, but it's longer than what is even allowed in a tweet at a whopping 160 characters!
To be fair, YouTube does offer it's own URL shortening if you click the Share button below any video. Looks like it shortens the URL by 35%, but you're still left with an ugly, random URL:
So how do we improve upon this? By using the wonderful, free tool called Bitly.
Bitly Makes Your Links Shine
Bitly is a simple service that takes a URL and shortens it. It doesn't stop there, though; you can track clicks, create custom URLs, and more. To use it, simply go to bitly.com and paste your link up in the top corner.
Even better though is the Chrome extension. If you don't use Chrome, you can also grab their bookmarklet here. Either way, it gives the functionality of being able to click a single button while on any website to instantly create a bitly link. Super convenient!
Now that we have everything in place, let's recreate those above links with a bit more usability.
Mmm. Sweet sweet succinctness. Now, if I wanted to, I could say any of these URLs out loud to you and you would be able to type it out in your phone no problem. Better yet, now I can find the Six Arms lunch menu by quickly typing out bit.ly/six-arms. Even one year from now.
With Great Power...
Now that you know the secret to custom URL shortening, you have a great responsibility; Bitly links should generally be used within context. Because they mask the website you're directing people to, you should give a little description in the message you send/post. For example:
We should research the logistics of owning a pet goat - bit.ly/naa-goat