How I Created My Own Short / Custom URL

by Drew Carls


You’ve probably already seen short or custom URLs for companies (like nyt.ms for The New York Times or utex.as for The University of Texas at Austin) but now Bit.ly is offering their tracking service with custom short URLs through their Pro version.

Searching for an available URL

I went to Domainr to begin searching.  By far the best tool to search. From here, I tried a lot of different versions of my name but many were taken or too expensive to buy.  In most cases your new short URL is purchased from a different country.  Mine (drewshar.es) comes from Spain. Drewshar.es isn’t exactly short but it works for me.

Tip 1: You only want to purchase domains that shorten your domain before the ‘/’. You do not want to purchase drewsha.re/s for drewshares.

Tip 2: Try variables of the short URL you are looking for or leave out vowels. (I chose not to since I assumed most people wouldn’t immediately know it was my short URL.)

Purchasing your new domain

I use GoDaddy for my personal website and I use them for my custom short URL.  GoDaddy makes it very easy to purchase most domains from other countries. Domainr will also show you if GoDaddy sells that country’s domain name. In some cases countries will require you to mail in large fees. I would opt to find a name that a US domain provider services.  My Spain (.es) domain was slightly higher than my .com domain.

Signing up for Bit.ly Pro

I was already a Bit.ly user, so I requested to be part of the Bit.ly Pro Beta Program.  This part was a little tricky for me.  I only completed the custom URL request.  You’ll answer a series of questions (and, yes, you need to already own your domain). This approval process can take a few business days.

Setting your domain with Bit.ly’s A Record

For GoDaddy, I logged in and went to the DNS Manager.  You will now need to change the A (Host) setting.  Bit.ly’s IP address is 168.143.174.97.

Next will be a process that Bit.ly will require to verify this has been done. After approval, Bit.ly will send you the link to test this. Depending on your short URL and domain registrar, the A Record make take a few hours to process.  Mine was almost instantly.

After this process is complete, your Bit.ly account will now shorten all your URLs to your new short URL.  This will even take place on your other apps, like Twitter for iPhone or TweetDeck, wherever you use Bit.ly.

If you need help with this process, let me know.