Many of us do a lot of communication via the Internet these days— for example, regularly emailing and posting URL links for various purposes. The process of copying and pasting a URL is almost a no-brainer, but often we come across those long URLs that look absolutely atrocious when pasting them in an email or on in a forum thread.
Most Twitter clients like YoruFukurou will shorten long URLs for you, but for other occasions when you need to shorten URLs, there’s Bitly.com. If you‘re never visited Bitly.com, you might be surprised about what you can do in addition to shortening URLs.
If you’ve never used an URL shortener, Bitly makes it easy, even without you having to register on its site. You can copy a long URL and paste it in the URL text box of Bitly.com.
Click the Shorten button, and voila your long URL is shortened and ready for you to use. You can cut and paste your shorter version and use it anywhere you like. As far as I know, that shorter version will link to your original URL for as long as it exists on the net. But wait, there’s more.
If you think you will be needing an email shortener on a regular basis, you might as well go ahead and register on Bitly‘s site. They offer some convenient tools to make shortening URLs a faster process. Head over to the Tools page and you will see instructions for adding a Bitly bookmarklet and/or browser extension to your favorite web browser. This way you don’t have to do all the copying and pasting in Bitly.com to get your shorter version.
You can also add a “bitly sidebar” to your browser. It’s pretty cool because you don’t have to add it as a browser extension, but as a link to your Bitly account that shows up in the the sidebar. In addition to creating short URL versions in the sidebar, you can get personalized stats about your Bitly links, create Tweets right from within the sidebar, and see who is linking to your URL on Twitter, FriendFeed and blog comments.
Bundled & Custom URLs
Sometimes even shortened URLs don’t quite look attractive enough especially for non-tech savvy Internet users. In this case you definitely want to use Bitly‘s customize feature, in which you can add a name or tag to a shortened URL to make it more recognizable.
So for instance when you go through the process of shortening a URL, you should click on the Customize button and then add a descriptive tag or title, and Bitly will do the rest.
If you have a collection of URLs that you would like to share, you can create what’s called a “bundled short URL”. Bitly will assign a shortened/customized URL for all the links you add to the bundle. When someone clicks on the link, they will be taken to your Bitly page where all the links can be accessed.
But it won’t be just a list of links. Bitly will download and add a thumbnail photo and the title for each link in the bundle. If the title is not available you can manually add it.
Here’s an example I quickly put together for a bundle of Automator articles I‘ve written- http://bit.ly/automatorarticles. You can later go back and add additional links to any of your saved bundles.
Power User Features
If you‘re becoming a power user of URLs for say marketing purposes or you just want to monitor the traffic your URLs are getting, Bitly probably offers everything you need.
As all your Bitly created URLs are saved to your account, you can actually monitor the traffic those URLs are getting. Bitly offers all sorts of tracking stats about your URLs, including the number of clicks, the origins of those clicks, and the referring sites.
If you hang out in Bitly.com long enough, you’ll discover several other features for further customizing your links and stats page. In your Bitly account settings, you can, among other things, create a custom short domain name for your Bitly links. For example The New York Times uses “nyti.ms” for their short domain.
The process takes a little work, but it’s worth it if you want have a more professional edge with your URLs. You can also create a tracking domain to “gather metrics for all users that are shortening links to your site”.
It took me a while to realize all the features Bitly has to offer, and now it’s my favorite go-to page for when I need to share links with a little style.
Let us know what you think of Bitly.com and other similar sites. Also check out our other articles about URL shorteners – 6 Cool URL Shorteners With A Twist Which You Should Try Out, 6 Interesting Flavors of Short URL Generation & Manipulation.
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