How (and Why) to Get a Branded URL

As I started producing my own newsletter for the first time, I was including URLs in-line with the text (instead of just hyperlinking text), and started to get frustrated with the length of some of them. Long URLs are ugly.

At first, my solution was to create custom bit.ly URLs, which I love doing in general. I’ve done this for nearly a decade. For instance, when I recently shared a compilation of the best branded bots, I created a custom URL bit.ly/brandedbots, and that links to the SlideShare deck. It’s amazing how useful that is. When I’m meeting with someone and the topic comes up, I can just give that custom URL. I often use this trick when giving any talk where I wind up sharing slides. I upload the talk right before the presentation begins, create a shortened URL, and then tell attendees to go to that link for all the slides. You’ll also notice that since I tend to use little text and lots of images in presentations, the SlideShare versions that I link to are heavily annotated. Doing that requires extra work, but it also ensures I wind up with a greater mastery of my own material.

Custom URLs seemed like a good option for the newsletter. But I didn’t have any consistency for those short URLs, and I missed out on building any brand equity. Then I noticed that bit.ly allows users of its free service to create up to 500 branded links monthly.

Here are the  steps you have to go through to make that happen:

1) Buy a domain to use for the redirects. I naturally tried looking for .ly links and found one – marketer.ly. The only downside: you have to use the Lybian domain registrar service register.ly, which reportedly accounts for 85% of .ly domains sold. I started the process to buy this but got stymied, only to have some success later after I didn’t need it (really, if you want that domain, let me know). Meanwhile, after exploring domain options outside .ly, I noticed mrktr.net was available, and it fit well with my serialmarketer.net domain.

2) Link the domain to your bit.ly account.¬†Create an account with bit.ly if you don’t have one. Once you’re logged into bit.ly, go to your main dashboard and click Settings > Advanced Settings > Branded Short Domains (under Domain Settings). It’s hidden so well that you wouldn’t likely think of even trying this unless you were looking hard for it; bit.ly should probably promote this far more prominently.

3) Update the domain registry. Bit.ly explains this in greater detail. If you’re less technical, there’s a very easy way to do this: buy the domain on GoDaddy, and use their phone support or live chat. They will walk you through it or even do it for you. As I’ve been buying domains more the past few months to launch a few sites, I can’t tell you how helpful GoDaddy’s technical support is. I have no business relationship with them and make nothing from referring you their way, so you can use whatever domain registry you prefer.

4) Create branded links. The most surprising part of this fairly easy process is that any bit.ly URL that you create automatically works with your new domain – and it even works retroactively. I created the bit.ly/brandedbots URL months ago, but it worked as mrktr.net/brandedbots as soon as I registered the domain. Granted, my own URL is a bit of a mouthful, so I’ll use it in the newsletter, and maybe figure out a new branded URL down the road that rolls off the tongue. Heck, maybe I’ll even use marketer.ly. I’m still learning, and if you’re reading this far, it’s great that you are too.