How to build your own, private, URL shortener

By | August 23, 2015

I recently made my own URL shortener on a custom domain name. Here’s how, and why, I did it.

Why use a URL (link) shortener?

To make your links shorter, and not as ugly as the full link. On a lot of social media platforms, you can’t add links as HTML, so you’ll have to use the entire link. When linking to a subfolder on a website (for instance: http://yourwebsite.com/example-of-a-subfolder-with-a-relatively-long-title), or to an affiliate link, you’re probably dealing with a long, or non-descriptive URL. Shortening your link will change that.

So why not use bit.ly, tinyurl.com, or goo.gl?

  • All of these sites don’t allow you to change the destination of your link once you’ve set it up.
  • All good, descriptive, bit.ly, tinyurl.com, and goo.gl links are already taken. For instance, you can’t use bit.ly/my-blog to link to your blog, because it’s already taken.
  • Using those link shorteners, you’re not in control of everything. Using your own URL shortener, there is no need to worry about the shortening service removing your links, or having your links breaking.

Register a domain name for your link shortener

Because we’re making a link shortener, you want to find a short domain name! Also, if you can still make it somewhat descriptive, that’d be best!

I like using Namecheap.com to register domain names. I found this domain name:

go2xyz-domain-registration-namecheap-2

It’s only 3 letters, and “go2” sounds like “go to” which makes some sort of sense for a URL shortener. The .xyz TLD’s were actually discounted when I registered, so I only paid $1 to register this domain name.

You could try and find a good domain name with a 2 character TLD to save a another character.

Adding the domain name to your web hosting account

Once you’ve got a domain name for our link shortener, you need to host it. If you don’t have web hosting yet, here’s how to get cheap hosting (with cPanel).

Once you’ve got hosting, you’ll have to add the domain name you registered for your link shortener to your hosting account. For more information on that, see these video instructions:

Or this article for both of these steps.

Redirecting links from your website

Now you’ve got your domain name hosted, there are a couple of obvious ways to redirect links from your domain name. You could set up redirection using cPanel. However, I prefer another option; using a WordPress plugin called Pretty Link Lite. This plugin makes it easier to navigate all of your redirected links, and also shows you some data, like how many clicks your link has received, and when.

This means you will have to install WordPress. To install WordPress on your domain name, see these video instructions.

Because you’re not going to publish any content on your site, you could just leave the default WordPress installation and don’t add any content. Another option is to use a landing page theme, and type a short piece of text explaining what the site is used for, in case people type in the root domain (in my case, go2.xyz).
I ended up making a landing page, with a few lines of text, and linking to this article in case the visitor is interested in making one himself:

private-url-shortener-go2xyz

 

Now all there’s left to do, is to install the plugin that allows you to redirect links from your site. There are a couple of options available for WordPress, but my favorite is Pretty Link Lite.

Here’s how to set up Pretty Link Lite, and add links to redirect:

That’s it! You now have your own URL shortener!

This is my final result:

Landing page: go2.xyz
An example of a shortened URL: go2.xyz/Namecheap

Have fun making your own! If you have any questions, let me know by posting a comment below. Oh, and I’m also interested in hearing what domain name you ended up using!

 

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