In the age of social media, everyone wants shorter, more shareable links. Services like Bitly promise just that — convert your long, cumbersome URLs into something neat and tidy to paste anywhere. But these URL shorteners come with drawbacks, especially for personal brands. As we move into 2023, here’s how to balance simplicity and branding when sharing links online.
The Allure of URL Shorteners
Chances are you’ve clicked on a link only to be greeted by a generic bit.ly or TinyURL redirect. The appeal is obvious — shortened links are easy to share on social media, embed in emails, or even print. A short, memorable URL beats typing out a long string of numbers and letters.
For personal brands and small businesses, URL shorteners seem like an easy shortcut to simplify linking. The major players like Bitly and TinyURL offer free accounts with core features like:
- Link shortening
- Click analytics
- Custom link names
The free plans allow unlimited links with vanity names like bit.ly/johnshop. For more advanced options, Bitly’s paid plans start at $29/month. Upgrades let you fully customize links with a branded domain instead of bit.ly.
So URL shorteners can help shrink links for social sharing and track clicks. But for branding, they come with significant downsides.
The Problems with Shortened URLs
Generic link shorteners completely remove branding from your URLs. Services like Bitly turn your links into a random string of letters and numbers.
While short and simple, losing your brand name hurts:
- Recognition: Users don’t know or remember who a generic link belongs to. Branding in URLs improves recall and return visits.
- Trust: Anonymous shortened links can seem suspicious to users, hurting click-through rates.
- SEO: Search engines favor branded links with relevant keywords. Generic URLs provide no context.
For personal sites, portfolios, or small business pages, branding matters. You want visitors who engage with your content to remember your name and return.
While Bitly lets you upgrade to a custom-branded domain, it comes at a hefty monthly price. Free users are stuck with links like bit.ly/XYZ123 — not ideal for establishing a consistent brand presence.
Alternatives to Branded Link Shortening
Rather than rely on generic redirect services, here are a few alternative approaches to simplify links while keeping branding intact:
Link Shortening With Rebrandly
If you do want to use a dedicated link management service, Rebrandly strikes a solid balance between ease of use and customization options.
It offers a free plan with one custom domain name and 25 branded links/month. Paid upgrades are also reasonably priced starting at $13/month. Rebrandly lets you connect and shorten links from your own domains.
For example, you could shorten blog.yourdomain.com/long-post-slug to rebrand.ly/shortname — retaining your brand while condensing the URL.
Rebrandly also includes a full suite of analytics to track clicks and engagement. For easy link sharing across social profiles, it’s a good Bitly alternative.
Use Link Management Plugins
The better way to keep brand identity:
If your website/blog runs on WordPress, take advantage of URL shortening plugins like Jetpack. It can automatically create shortened links for your content while including your domain name, e.g. yoursite.com/abc123.
The links remain fully branded and also help with SEO thanks to keywords. And it’s free for all Jetpack users!
Register a Short Brandable Domain
Your existing domain may be long and difficult to fit into links. Consider registering a shorter, brandable domain name that’s easier to share.
That will cost, but it’s much less than dedicated shortening services like Bitly. You can get a domain for a couple of bucks a month.
For example, if your site is at [yourfullname].com, grab a shorter name like [yourname].com to create memorable branded links. Forward the simpler domain to your main site.
Well worth it for branding.
Use Subdomains Instead of Generic Redirects
Another way to shorten branded links is by creating subdomains on your existing domain name.
So instead of yourwebsitename.com/post-name-XYZ, your link would be something like blog.name.com/XYZ. Your main domain name still appears while keeping the URL clean and short.
Most shared hosting plans include a high number or even unlimited free subdomains. Create them for specific content sections, campaigns, etc. Redirect each one to the target URL.
Focus on Branding in 2023 and Beyond
As a creator, freelancer, or small business owner, consistency and recognition should be top priorities this year. Treat your online presence as a cohesive personal brand.
That means keeping your name, logo, and URLs aligned wherever possible. Don’t let generic link shorteners dilute your branding efforts.
With a few simple tricks, you can shorten links for social sharing without sacrificing brand identity. Aim for solutions like subdomains or Rebrandly that let you customize URLs with your domain name included.
Strong branding leads to improved engagement, trust, and customer loyalty over time. Put in the small extra effort to ensure your links always lead back to your distinctive personal or business brand.