I’ve been using the link shortener Bitly for years. It’s not something I think about terribly often — I set up an acct hooked it into some tools I use, and it shortens the links that I share in my various Social Media outposts. It works really well. I like it very much. It provides data on clicks etc and I can see which links and sites perform best. There are many link shorteners out there — but I realized something this week that gave me pause.
The Twitter account of a friend was hacked and sending out those classic phishing links that someone was “spreading nasty rumors about” me (oh no, not again!) or that I could “lose 22 lbs FAST!” Each of these had a Bitly-shortened link in it. This got me thinking that I don’t want to be using a tool that is a preferred tool of spammers and phishers. With a shortened, anonymous link that looks like this
http://bit.ly/16TGurG — a link to my recent InstaGram Post, on this site, click without fear.
It is easy to see why this would be a useful tool for those who phish the unsuspecting. However, I’ve got a body of links and data at Bitly that I don’t want to migrate. Most importantly, I want people to be able to trust my links. As a result, I took a few, relatively simple steps and created a customized shortened link, based on the name of my company, that now precedes all shared & shortened links: xrbn.co
Bitly has a nice writeup of how to do this, here.
The benefits of this are
It’s really not a difficult process, and the ability to do this has been around for a while. It just takes some effort to find a link that you like, and that works for your business. The tweaks to the DNS are actually easy, and since there is nothing living at the new URL (no site, no mission critical info) it’s not too scary to mess with A and CNAME records. If you use Bitly, or another link shortening service that permits customized URLs this is worth a few hours of your time to research and execute.