Using a vanity domain name for URL shortening

Since a few weeks I’m using my own domain name to create short URLs. When choosing the right solution, I had some particular requirements:

  • Being able to use any domain of my choice
  • Have total control over the syntax of the generated links when I want to
  • View statistics on how many people click my links
  • Decent integration into my regular Twitter apps

Get a short domain name

Because shortening links is the purpose here, go for the shortest domain possible while maintaining your personal brand. I went for thvo.me (because it somewhat resembles my name) and registered it with my DNS provider DNSimple. While at it, I also registered some variants - but that’s just me, I can’t resist it.

Choose a URL shortening service

Before going with a  particular service, it’s crucial to have a look at the Twitter clients that you use. Some clients have built-in support for URL shortening services or some just use the native Twitter one. These are the Twitter clients I use on a daily basis:

Only the MetroTwit for desktop application supports custom URL shortening sadly, but when I post links to Twitter it’s usually from this client so I was ok with that. MetroTwit for desktop has support for a lot of services:

MetroTwit URL shortening

When I look at what other services I use to post links to Twitter, immediately TwitterFeed) came to my mind. Now I don’t really like TwitterFeed that much because it always has performance problems as far as I’m concerned. But it does what I want it to do: posting links for new blog articles to Twitter and LinkedIn. What is nice about TwitterFeed is that it is owned by bit.ly and supports its custom URL shortening mechanism so I went for that!

Configure bit.ly to use your domain name

Next thing you have to do is register an account with bit.ly, head over to the Settings page and click the Advanced tab. Now I already have a custom domain configured so I can’t register another one. But basically it boils down to this:

  • Tell bit.ly what domain you want to use
  • Change your DNS configuration to point to bit.ly DNS Settings for bit.ly
  • Let bit.ly verify the DNS configuration
  • Configure bit.ly to use your domain name by default

A good step by step overview can be found on the bit.ly support site.

When you’re done, it looks like this - you can even redirect the root of your custom domain to your normal website if you want:

MetroTwit URL shortening

Use your custom domain in client applications

Once you’ve set it up it’s time to use it in your favorite Twitter client. First of all you need to get your API Key from bit.ly:

Bit.ly API Key

When you get your key, use it in your Twitter client like this:

MetroTwit configuration

That’s it - you’re done! Whenever you post a link to Twitter via this application, your URLs will be shortened with your own short domain name.

Gimme some stats

As a benefit, you now also see how many people clicked your links. Like this one, when Scott Hanselman decided to retweet one of my links:

Bit.ly Stats