- Google uses goo.gl
- Hootsuite uses ow.li
- OECD uses oe.cd
- Twitter uses t.co
How to configure a link shortener: YOURLS software
Installing the link shortener was not easy. Most of the sources I googled recommended the free and open source YOURLS (Your Own URL Shortener) software. But installing it was difficult for a non-technie (you have to create a SQL database, configure the installation, create a .htcaccess file, and other set up details). The .htcaccess file (a very powerful file) can lead to unwanted side effects if not careful. I learnt this the hard way - it wiped out all my websites at least 3 times because I did not configure it properly.
How to configure a link shortener: Using bit.ly
Fortunately, I recently discovered that bit.ly allows you to configure your own branded domain for free. Bit.ly is my favourite link shortener because it allows you to track link click statistics and it's API can be used with most other applications. Users of bit.ly should note that unless you configure your setting to private, anyone can see your link click statistics by appending + after your URL (a trick I learnt from Google Analytics Evangalist Avinash Kaushik's blog Ozcam Razor, used to spy on competitor links).
Using your branded URL with bit.ly
The first thing you have to note when using bit.ly is that it works as a redirect (i.e. deb.bi redirects to bit.ly), so if the extension is already taken up, it is not available. However, link extensions are case sensitive, so you can play around with it to find one that is available. That also means that if you get one character wrong, it leads to a 401 page (page for broken links that says the page does not exist). So I've made a couple of boo boos so far (e.g. my site is deb.bi/WantstoBuildaSchool and I've mistyped it as deb.bi/WantsToBuildaSchool as well as deb.bi/WantstoBuildASchool. Luckily Tobi Boonstoppel and Sasagu Kondo have kindly pointed them out to me.
Where to find a short domain
The best places to find short domains are: Domainr and 101 Domain. Some of the international TLD are very cheap (e.g. .ru costs $12.95, .de costs $6.95 while others are extremely expensive (e.g. most of the African ones are $300-600, and the Namibia domain .na costs a whopping US$5,749.99!). It's practically impossible to find a 4 character one like oe.cd except for those in the UK - Namecheap offer XX.UK domains (I tried to register DK.UK but you can't register the .UK if the .com.UK is already taken up and dk.com.uk belongs to Dorling Kindersley, the book publisher).
I highly recommend getting a branded short link. It's great for brand building if you're a business and with all the new TLDs, there are many options to choose from!