URLs can get long…really long. When you have to hand-copy one from a newspaper column, magazine article, or whiteboard, the process is tedious and invites error. To make matters worse, now you have to hand-key that long URL into your browser. That’s why we have “link shorteners.”
Link shorteners let us turn a long link into a short one that is easy to write down. In the best cases, they are even easy to remember.
Good things are replaced by better things
The inspiration for this article is that Google has just announced it is phasing out it’s “Goo.gl” link-shortening service. You can read about that announcement at: bit.ly/frankbuck58.
You just saw a link shortener in action. Isn’t bit.ly/frankbuck58 easier than https://developers.googleblog.com/2018/03/transitioning-google-url-shortener.html ? Now you see why link shorteners are useful.
That’s the trouble with technology isn’t it? Just when you get something you like, they change it, right? The good news is that when something good goes away, it’s because something better has arrived.
“Good things are replaced by better things.
Let’s get started with Bitly
In this case, the “better thing” is Bitly. Go to bitly.com. Without even signing up, you can paste a long URL in the blank, click, and get something that looks like: “bit.ly/z67rai.” Pretty short, but not too memorable.
Create a free account to get more features. To create a shortened link, log into your account, click the orange “Create” button in the upper-right corner, and paste your link.
Now, the fun starts. You don’t have to accept the link they give you. In the “Customize” window, highlight everything after “bit.ly/” and type whatever you like. That’s how I get links that say “bit.ly/frankbuck58” instead of “bit.ly/z67rai.” If someone already has that link, Bitly tells you, and you can pick something else.
The ability to customize links is one advantage of creating a free account. Another advantage is that Bitly keeps up with how many times someone clinks your link. You won’t see who has clicked, but you will see the number of clicks for each day. That’s helpful information if you are wondering if people are actually going to the articles you recommend.
But wait, it gets better…
Perhaps you are already seeing the advantages of shortened URLs. If you’re a teacher encouraging your students to read an article, you get a shortened link and put it in the board for the students to copy. If you’re a business executive, you could suggest that board members visit “bit.ly/abcsummaryreport” for more details. If you’re a pastor, you could let the congregation know last week’s sermon can be found at something like “bit.ly/bestsermon.”
If you see the value of shortened links and plan to use them, you will also want to know the easiest way to create them. After creating your Bitly account, add the Bitly extension. If you use Chrome, go here. For Firefox, go here and search for “Bitly.”
With the Bitly extension, you can create a shortened link with just a few mouse clicks. While you are on the article you wish to shorten, click the Bitly extension in your browser toolbar. A window opens on the right-hand side of the screen with your shortened URL already created. One click!
If you want to customize the shortened URL, highlight the part after “bit.ly/” and change it. Click “Copy” and “Save.” Paste your new link wherever you like.