How To Create Personally Branded URL’s

URL Shortener

URL shortening is everywhere, from the king of the crop Bit.ly to is.gd, j.mp and dear old faithful Tinyurl (to name just a few), it seems every month a new service launches.

If you tweet a wealth of links as I do then it’s an essential part of the process. Up until recently I have been a very happy Bit.ly user. It is constantly being improved and updated and the wealth of data and statistics, make it quite rightly the ‘special one’, especially with Twitter making it it’s ‘unofficial’ shortener of choice.

However there is a growing trend to create and use your own URL shortener, taking back control of your links in the event of another tr.im disaster. It is also a clever piece of branding, with every URL bearing your signature or name. Even Coca-Cola now use their own branded shortener.

The Setup

I decided last week to experiment with my own shortener and on Friday I bought the domain gracesm.it (my first choice of gsm.it was unfortunately taken). I intended to redirect the domain to gracesm.it/h to make up my entire name, which also worked out well because Lessn (the URL package I would be using) works from a single letter sub-folder.

Lessn is a clean, quick DIY link shortening solution, I chose it, as unlike other services like Yourls, for example, the interface and functionality is elegant and perfectly efficient with a simple installation process.

Lessn

It has a simple approach that only requires you to set up a username, password, and database details in a config.php file, then upload your whole Lessn package to your server.

You can then login, paste a link and get the short URL with your domain name attached, followed by a number or letter, for example: gracesm.it/h/8. Lessn also includes a bookmarklet which you can drag to your browser toolbar, you then click the bookmarklet and Lessn will then show you a page with the shortened link, the original link and a button to tweet the link.

Final Touches

With the back-end complete, it was time to create a holding page with some information on what the site was about. It is a simple HTML page sprinkled with a little CSS with a purposely minimalist design.

Gracesm.it/h

I also uploaded a nifty little add-on from Debut Creative called Listr which lists all the original URL’s plus the shortened URL in a table so you can review the entire database on one page. The page can be made either public or private, depending on your preference.

One of the main drawbacks of using something as simple as Lessn is the lack of statistics that a service like Bit.ly offers. However there are certainly other packages that offer tracking stats, but for pure simplicity and elegance, Lessn is a tough package to beat.

EDIT: Abraham Vegh in the comments kindly suggested using the Lessn Pepper which tracks the most recent and most popular urls and referrers in your Lessn installation and displays them. You will need to use Mint to view the stats though.

I’ve decided to use the shortener only when tweeting my own blog links until Tweetie allows custom URL shortening.

The API

Tweetie 2.0 now supports custom URL shorteners (I hope the mac version will soon include this), and this means you can now use Lessn along with the best Twitter app around (my humble opinion).

Shaun Inman has written a short guide on how to set it up.

Further Resources

Summary

While there are advantages and disadvantages to using your own URL shortener, I think it’s a worthwhile addition for any blogger or tweeter looking to have both full control over their URL’s and reinforce their branding at the same time.

Is this an approach you have thought about taking? Or perhaps you are already using your own URL shortener.

If so, please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments below on this growing trend.

Image Credit

14 Comments

  1. Chris Rowe says:

    Great stuff.

    FYI the best place to look for those quirky domains is http://domai.nr

    :)

    • Grace says:

      @Chris I love Domai.nr but it wasn’t overly helpful in this situation. I ended up brainstorming a variety of names until I thought of using it with a sub-folder of H to make up my full name.

      @Adian Thanks Adrian, that’s a great idea, once I have shortened a few more links I will make the table of links publicly viewable.

      @Mike Go for it! Honestly it only took about an hour to put together, super easy but really fun :-)

      @Abraham Thanks for link to the Lessn Pepper, that’s a brill idea. Although I don’t actually have a Mint account, it’s certainly worth thinking about for the easy stat tracking.

      @Sean Cheers Sean, appreciate your kind words. That is a neat little shortener as well!

      @John Yourls is very good I would agree. I think it all depends on what you need, personally I love Lessn for it’s sheer simplicity, with a stats tracker I think it’s the perfect ‘starter’ package. Also Lessn now has an API.

  2. Awesome Grace! Thanks for sharing your experience branding your own shortener. I think is a great step for someone who share a lot of links like you 😉

    I hope to see a list of the links you share in http://gracesm.it/h/ too…

    See ya!

  3. Mike Grace says:

    This is GREAT! I’m really glad you shared because I have been thinking about doing something like this for a while but didn’t know where to start. Thanks for the great article.

  4. Abraham Vegh says:

    If you have Mint, Shaun Inman’s statistics app, he’s written a Lessn Pepper for it. You can download it from the Peppermill on http://haveamint.com

    The Pepper is designed to work with a Lessn install accessible via the filesystem, but with a little PHP-Fu you can make it work in any configuration. I use it for my personal short domain, avegh.com.

  5. Sean Hood says:

    Great post as always,

    I’ve had Lessn installed for quite a while although its a great utility my domain is quite long so i use a friends shortener instead (http://lnkr.it/).

  6. Abraham Vegh says:

    Small correction: The Lessn Pepper can work with any configuration of Lessn and Mint, but it still requires Mint to view the statistics, although I’m sure someone could extract out the core components and make it independent (although I’m not sure how kindly Shaun would take to that).

  7. John Girvin says:

    After the tr.im roller coaster, I decided to host my own URL shortening service using Yourls on the http://girv.in domain.

    I don’t mean to diss Lessn, but it wasn’t what I needed. I went with Yourls as it came with a ready to use API that made a couple of tasks much easier.

    First, I hacked up a script to export my existing tr.im URLs to girv.in using the same shortcodes (I’m not sure there was much point in this actually!). Then I integrated girv.in with WordPress to automatically send my new posts to Twitter complete with shortened URLs. Finally, like you, I built an index page to list all the URLs in my Yourls database.

  8. Grace, this is excellent. I definitely will look into creating my own for the Design informer.

  9. ryanve says:

    Thanks for the detailed info. One thing I do like about bit.ly is that everyone recognizes it, it doesn’t look like spam, and it doesn’t pop up with an annoying bar at the top of the screen. I might try lessn out with ryanve.com. It’s short enough and that’s what I always use as a username. Your further resources led me to find something related and useful—the WordPress plugin for su.pr that lets you customize a website’s su.pr-shortened urls. I just installed in on my site e.g. http://virtualmusic.tv/HhvC. But the downside is that it only works when you shorten them through su.pr. It would integrate better if su.pr was one of the shortening options for tweetmeme button.

  10. Jonathan says:

    Thanks Grace, ever since you mentioned your personal url shortner when we were talking about tweetie the other day I have been thinking about creating my own.

  11. Phil says:

    Is it possible create your own shortener with stats that aren’t attached to mint? I might give this a go though mint can sometimes be a pain tbh and the data isn’t very archiveable.

  12. Waasys says:

    I always recomend everyone who is goin to launch a website to spend enough time om choosing the right domain name, beacuse this will greatly affect your reputation and popularity

  13. Beau Giles says:

    Hi everyone,
    I too went with Lessn over yourls for it’s simplicity and elegant interface – I wasn’t really too concerned with missing out on stats and other details.
    However, a friend recently pointed me in the direction of Buttered URLs (http://jeremyknope.com/2009/08/30/buttered_urls/), a fork of Lessn.
    Buttered URLs adds on support for basic stats (number of clicks, top referrers), as well as custom handles (eg, instead of bgil.es/1r pointing to my last.fm page, I could use bgil.es/lastfm).
    And the best thing? It works just like Lessn, just run the upgrade script and it’ll add the necessary bits for stats without breaking your existing Lessn installation.

    Hopefully this helps someone out. :-)
    – Beau

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