A Custom URL Shortener: The key to Branding Your Links to Increase Reach and Engagement
Wondering how you can use your custom URL shortener?
Looking for creative, new ways to organize and share files, web pages, and content?
As a custom URL shortener ourselves, we have seen it all. From people just wanting to edit their Instagram bio link to people attempting to index their entire website.
We’ve put together a bunch of cool ways you can use your URL Shortener. Whether it’s to grow your brand or to simply engage more effectively with your audience.
Note: This article was pieced together by the entire Rebrandly team. Not just me.
When you’re thinking about how you want to represent your brand online – whether it is your personal brand or your business brand – there’s one no-brainer that you should always do:
Use your brand name on all the links you share.
A branded link improves trust with your users, increases brand awareness, and gets you more clicks on the content you are sharing.
So don’t do this:
And instead do this:
Here’s a handful of other ways we can use branded short links to improve our personal and business brands:
When Adding Links to Your Twitter Bio
By using a custom link, with real words, you further increase link trust and clicks. Isn’t that what you’re after? Follow Hayden Richards’ example:
And Sam Hurley’s example:
Sam Hurley said this about changing to branded links, “Changing from goo.gl to a branded link increased my click-through rate by 98%.”
|UPDATE – April 24, 2018: Lots of people will be changing from Goo.gl in the next few months, as the tech giant announced it will be winding down the service for current users by March 2019. You can check out the announcement here.|
Deep Linking to Pages Inside Your App
Have an iPhone or Android app? You can use what’s called a deep link to send people from a browser or another app directly into your own app, and to a specific page.
Oftentimes when doing this, the deep link is extremely long and may even have a ton of random characters in it:
But if you shorten and customize that link, you can quickly make it legible and memorable:
Note: Deep linking is not available on all URL shorteners and may be a premium version on some. Check your deep links after shortening to make sure they work.
Optimizing your Instagram Bio Link
In Instagram, you’re only able to insert one link into your bio.
This can feel limiting…
Unless you get clued up on a useful trick to optimize that link:
Using a URL Shortener (like Rebrandly :D) you can have one Bio link and just update the Destination URL when you want it to go to an updated page.
This works particularly well for blogs.
You can have a link like name.click/VisitMyBlog. You can then change the destination URL so that, when people click the link, they are always taken to your latest post.
Jenn Herman, a social media expert, has done just that and makes use of a branded short link in her Instagram bio:
Digital Email Signature
Using Branded Short Links in your digital email signature can be very effective. Most of us send out more than a few emails a day, so you could get some visits to your URL without much work. You can also track the link clicks which is pretty cool.
You can either put the link in the signature or embed it in anchor text and simply use the UTM parameters and link tracking to report on how well you’re getting business through your email signature.
About Me Section for Guest Blog Posts
Ever write a blog post where the only link you’re allowed to post that goes back to your site is in the “About the Author” section?
That link is VERY important for getting value out of your guest blog post. First, it’s a backlink, which Google likes very much. And Second, it can drive traffic, which can then convert to a user, lead, or customer.
But how do you know if it’s performing? What happens if you want to redirect that backlink to a new page, or a custom page dedicated to that audience?
If you use a short link, you can at any time add UTM parameters to the link, change the destination URL, and track and report on the clicks and traffic that link is bringing your business. Now I wouldn’t recommend using a generic link shortener here, like a Bitly or a Rebrandly, as that type of link is likely to lead to a lower level of the index by Google. Use a branded short link for better results.
And if you’re concerned about using a short link because it will lower the SEO value of the link, don’t be. Between my explanation on the SEO value of short links on Quora and Matt Cutts’s explanation on how Google treats URL shorteners and 301 redirects, we are fairly certain that nearly 100% (if not 100%) of the “link juice” is being passed through.
You may have a well-organized file and folder system on your computer…
But what about the websites and pages that you access through your browser?
If you are online regularly, you may as well get organized. Here are some ideas for sorting out your digital life:
Create a Short Link for All of Your Social Channels
Does anyone ever ask you for your LinkedIn or Facebook account details, only for you to have to rumble around looking for your own social profile? This is especially troublesome if you have a common name and don’t remember your designated URL.
Using a link shortener will instantly and forever solve this problem, and it has for me. All I did was take all of my favorite social channels and create a short link for each of them using the exact name of the social channel as my URL slug.
So now, instead of going to linkedin.com/…uh, I forgot what my LinkedIn is, does it have an “/in/” in it? Or maybe it’s my full name and not just first and last…
No worries, just go to derric.link/linkedin and it will work every time. Very easy to remember and very easy to share with others.
Link to Your Company Website from Your Personal Accounts
Just like linking to your company site from your email signature, you can link to it from all of your social accounts and use a URL shortener in conjunction with UTM parameters to track how much traffic you are personally driving to your own website.
Here’s how my month is going:
56 visitors and 2 conversions, all of my own personal marketing efforts. Not bad.
Ever come across a great article that you want to share or read later?
Sure there are a few bookmarking tools like Pocket or Flipboard, but you can also use your link shortener to bookmark your favorite posts, and then come back to read, comment, or share on those posts later.
Simply go to your favorite article and hit the Rebrandly Chrome Extension button, type in your custom URL slug, then click “Tags” and “Add New” to create a new tag for this article. Label all of your articles with a tag like “articles” or “my guest posts” or “marketing blogs” and save the link.
Then you can come back into your Rebrandly dashboard and simply sort for the tag you’re interested in:
Tracking and analyzing your marketing efforts is probably the number one reason to use a URL shortener. But it’s the organization of the links that allows for granular tracking. Here’s how you do that:
Use UTM Parameters in Short Links to See Where Your Traffic is Coming From
First things first, when talking about driving free traffic from social media, there are two buckets the traffic comes from:
- Traffic driven by our companies direct social media marketing efforts
- Traffic driven by everyone else and those who share or post our content
Most businesses are not properly segmenting this traffic.
But have no fear… UTM parameters are here!
Simply create a unique short link with slightly different UTM parameters for each of your social channels.
Pro tip: If you’re lazy or don’t currently drive a lot of traffic online, just use one link and add this generic line of code to the end of your link, and it will track for all of “Social Media”:
If you are driving a lot of traffic, then go ahead and swap out the source for “Facebook,” “Twitter,” “Linkedin,” etc. And label each new short link as:
etc. etc. You get the picture.
Now, you can use the channel-specific link to share the post to each channel and will be able to easily see how the traffic comes in from your Google Analytics dashboard:
Analyze and Report on the Success of Various Blog Posts
When you use short links to share content, you can easily hop back into your Rebrandly dashboard and see which content took off, and what fell flat.
This is very helpful for understanding which headlines performed better, which content people are responding to, and which posts just plain worked and which didn’t.
While you can of course look inside Twitter analytics to discover similar insights, it can be handy to do this inside of your URL shortener’s dashboard as well.
Track Campaign Effectiveness
When you’re launching a larger campaign, such as a promotional blast going out to all social channels, it’s important to track the effectiveness of not just each channel, to determine where you might want to focus more efforts or ad marketing spend, but also on the overall effectiveness of the campaign itself.
For example, I run a handful of events in San Diego, where I funnel 12 Meetup groups to 1 Bizzabo page and need to understand which groups are performing best from click to conversion. We can track all that inside our dashboard using Rebrandly’s tagging feature.
In my opinion, this is the HUGEST thing you could do with a URL shortener. Regular retargeting is the act of “pixeling” (or tagging) users so that you can serve them targeted ads later.
Link retargeting gives you the ability to “pixel” people that click on a link, but aren’t necessarily going back to your site.
If you combine the forces of content curation and link retargeting, you’ve got a way to drive highly targeted traffic for half the cost. And the audience is already warmed up to you, as they clicked on a link you shared.
Fix Broken Links
Sometimes you need to change the location or name of a webpage, or maybe even a whole site. But what will happen to all those links that you shared online? They will start pointing to non-existent pages and you will lose all that trusted authority you got from getting all of those backlinks.
If you use a URL shortener to link to the new pages, you can then change the destination URLs of links on webpages you no longer control, like on a Forbes article you guest wrote.
Use Custom Short Links to connect with people. By personalizing them with your brand and unique keywords, you increase trust and make it more personal.
Sharing your Social Groups with People
Do you have a Slack or Facebook group you’d like to share with your audience? Create a memorable short link that will make it super easy to point them to your group.
Giveaways and Contests
Using a Short Link is perfect for a giveaway. You are able to highlight the value for people straight away, encouraging link trust and engagement.
We use this for all our coupon giveaways:
The link is clear and concise, but in the backend, we are tracking clicks and conversions to know the true value of our campaign.
CTA in SnapChat or Live Video
Ever used a visual or audio call-to-action in your Snaps or Live videos?
How are you going to track that effort if you just send them to the homepage?
Instead, before you start your video, create a custom short link for it, and add UTM parameters to track the clicks and conversions.
For instance, by adding more info to your Periscope Live URL Slug, you can inspire more people to engage.
The image below shows good examples of how not to do it:
Boom, now you get more clicks and can better track your Live video marketing efforts.
Links inside Email Blasts
Increase your engagement by using branded short links in your emails.
There is even a chance that using a generic link shortener will hurt email deliverability, as Google has blacklisted Bitly and other publicly available URL shorteners in the past.
Instead, use a branded short link when sending emails to a large audience. (Of course, you can send whatever you want when just messaging a friend).
When you become an affiliate, you are usually handed an ugly link with some code on the end that is your personal tracking number. People don’t want to click on that!
Instead, use a custom short link and show people your brand, and the brand of the product you are supporting.
Note: You need to disclose when sharing affiliate links online, don’t forget about that.
Messaging on Social Networks
Increase your engagement by using branded short links in your messages to connections on platforms like LinkedIn.
I don’t know Adarsh really well and I’d really like to know where I am going when I click that link. Turns out it’s a great marketing tool, but the link that gets me there doesn’t reflect that at all.
Click to Tweets
Click to Tweet limits your free usage to 5 Tweets, then you have to pay. Also, they use their own URL shortener when you’re sharing those links, ctt.ec.
Instead of creating multiple Click to Tweets and being roped into a paid version, simply create one and click on the link. It will take you to a URL that looks something like this:
Which automatically displays this text on the screen:
What you can do now is simply copy this URL into your URL shortener and save it under a short, memorable name. This bypasses Click to Tweet and allows you to create an endless supply of Click to Tweets.
Tell Viewers More with Short Links
When sharing an article, you could use your URL Slug to add info that may get people to click more: e.g. name.link/CoolTwoMinRead
Share all Sorts of Files
Wondering how to share a Dropbox or Google Drive file with your social media followers or email list?
Use a short link.
You can get shareable links for any files being stored on the cloud these days. In Google Drive simply right-click the file and click “Get shareable link”:
From there, you need to set file sharing status in order to make sure others can view or edit your content:
Warning: This will allow anyone with the link to view or edit your content. Therefore don’t use this with sensitive files or folders.
Share your daily/weekly/monthly update with the team in style: brand.link/WeeklyGrowthSuccess
Share updates and engage with staff over email or Slack in a cool way. Staff pic of the week. Staff joke of the week. Case study of the month.
Use a branded short link.
Personalize Links to Clients
When you share with your clients, why not create a custom short link for them.
Add their name in the URL Slug. Personalizing these links adds that something extra to your communication.
For E.g. Share your case studies with client’s
Put up your best testimonials online, and share a short link to the URL.
And when you receive new awesome testimonials, just update the destination URL, and update your short link.
Post a job advert on multiple job sites and use a URL shortener to track where submissions are coming from.
Also, customize those short links, sparking the interest of job seekers and encouraging them to click.
Don’t be generic like this:
Link to Your Resume, Portfolio, or CV
When you are job hunting or freelancing, stay on top of your game and be professional with a branded short link for your CV, portfolio, or resume. That way you never run out of resumes to hand out and can easily point anyone to your life’s work.
Use a Branded Short Link to Land a Job
This could be the extra touch that lands you that interview.
Events and Offline Marketing
When people aren’t near a computer, you can have a hard time getting them back to a website. Use the power of the branded short link to get more users to take action.
When you’re next presenting at an event, share your presentation with your audience with a short link. Besides being cool, this makes it easy for people – The link is easy to remember, and when clicked the slides automatically download.
You can even use your short links to engage even further with your audience. You could share a short link with them during your presentation, inviting them to answer a question, give feedback, receive a coupon or a key insight. It can make your presentation a little more dynamic.
Ever try to share a link on your T-shirt? You probably just went straight to your homepage… Rookie move. You see, by sending people to your homepage from a T-shirt, you lose all ability to track them. They will just blend in with your direct traffic.
Instead, send them to a short link that is memorable and pronounceable, and one you can actually track.
Lanyards are a great place to have branded short links. Every guest gets one, and you can use URLs that are specific to the event e.g. event photos, presentations, contact links, etc.
Great place to have a branded short link. Short links are memorable and easy to use, giving your printed content a chance to go further. It’s also a great way to monitor the performance of your printed content, by including and tracking short links within it.
These travel tags are supercool. It’s such a missed opportunity to not have a short link on them. Months or even years down the line, when someone sees them and wants one, it’s an opportunity for a Brand to stay alive.
Having a short link (like Derric.link/Card) gives people a way to easily contact you. It’s easy to remember and makes a printed card that much more valuable.
And if I run out of business cards? Just have them go to derric.link/card and it will connect them back with me.
Another cool thing to note: if your details change down the line, you can just update the destination URL.
Adding custom short links to your printed signage gives you an opportunity to really engage with your audience and build brand awareness.
Don’t you think sd.zoo/memories would be better?
Create a custom short link for each billboard location so that you can tell where you are getting the most hits, and what billboard needs to get cut out of next quarter’s budget.
Also, if you have CTA like in the above image, instead of just printing ‘Apply Now’ make it a short memorable link that people can instantly connect to.
This obviously extends well past billboards to park benches, bus sides, taxi tops, storefronts, etc.
If the specific ideas above weren’t enough for ya, here’s a brain-dump of all the possible things you can share with your branded URL shortener:
When a radio presenter needs to share a URL on the radio, a custom short link is the way to go.
These links are pronounceable and easy to remember, making it a lot easier for your listeners to recall when needed. They make a radio presenter’s life a whole lot easier too, giving them just a few short, meaningful and real words to call out to their listeners.
If BBC Radio needed to share the link below over the radio, bbc.in/AnswerMachine would be a whole lot easier to remember than bbc.in/2dy7zeg
Tell your business or personal brand stories using unique short links.
I often see people sharing their daily transformation stories, and think it’s a missed opportunity to personalize and potentially increase engagement.
Your Favourite Memes
Because Memes are cool, so why not use custom short links for your shares to make your shares all-round cool?
Random numbers and letters really aren’t great to look at. The post below deserves a custom URL Slug don’t you think?
Your Favourite Gifs
Because Gifs are cool, and also deserve a cool customized short.
Sharing Links to Social Posts
Sometimes you want to share a Facebook post on Twitter, or in a Slack channel.
Use a personalized short link, because people like real words instead of random mixture of numbers and letters.
Infographics are so super duper cool, and people love them. After you’ve spent all that time creating them when you share on your social networks why not use a custom short link to maintain that quality?
Don’t share quality content with generic links:
Share Pinterest Boards
Extend the reach of your Pinterest boards by sharing them in emails or on other marketing channels.
Top 10 Lists and Roundups
Know who your favorite speakers are? Favorite blogs? Favorite books? Make a list under your own branded URL shortener at:
Then tell your audience to go down the list to find out which blogs are their top picks.
The same can be done with anything. Top 10 Football players… Top 10 marketing conferences… Top 10 marketing videos…
Top 10 Vanilla Ice songs (OK, no matter how hard you try, you can’t do that).
Share your favorite videos from Vimeo with cool Branded Links.
You don’t need to be using long links like this:
Share your YouTube videos too. Shrink YouTube videos before sharing them by using your URL shortener and not YouTubes.
Add your brand name to your links, and give them unique URL slugs that tell people more about what you’re sharing:
Top Music Playlist
E.g. Share a Spotify playlist – Just copy the URL, shorten and brand, share online:
Share recipes with branded short links and make them look so much tastier.
Don’t use long links like this:
(Note: You will still include @Yummly, it’s just the long URL you are improving)
When you can use branded short links like this:
Perhaps you want to take people on a journey, or transformation, or travel, or goals, anything.
Customize your links so they know what they are getting:
How To / Tips
People love a good How To. So share your weekly tips/inspiration/guides with your audience with custom short links. Encourage them to engage by personalizing them:
Photos and Albums
Whether you’re sharing one specific image with a friend or a full album of an event with colleagues or attendees. Use custom short links to share your images.
Your Flipboard Magazine
Your New Product on eBay
Promote and sell your product with a unique short link. You can also use UTM Parameters to track where the most hits are coming from.
Also, you can use short links within your answers to make it easy to change destination URLs if needed.
For example, we’ve been sending all of our Quora traffic back to our homepage, but what if we create a “Welcome Quora users” landing page and want to shift the traffic to the new landing page.
If I was using a regular link, I’d have to change the link for every single one of my Quora posts, but using my own branded link, I only have to change the destination URL inside Rebrandly.
Share your favorite font/s with your fellow creatives/designers
E.g. from dafont.com to kyley.link/TopDailyFont
Also, if you are one of those super creatives and you create your own fonts – share them with a unique link. Branded short links increase engagement, so could lead to more interest and conversions. If it’s available for purchase, track where your clicks are coming from, so that you know where to promote your new font creations to get more hits.
Typeforms and Surveys
Share a survey with a personalized link. When the survey is over, change the destination to go to another page on your site, possibly with the results, so that users aren’t being taken to a dead page.
Other situations that you could personalize and increase engagement with a custom short link:
- Book Releases
- Research Docs
- Successes – Personal or Company
- Audio Books
- White Papers
- Newsletter short links via mobile
- Media Press Kits
- Public Service Announcements
- Virtual Events
- Vlog Posts
- Forums and Groups
- New Album / Song Release
- Product Demo
- Google Calendar Event
And on it goes…
OK, that is literally every possible way we could think of to use a URL shortener. But we probably missed something, so tell me:
What did we miss? What are you currently using your URL Shortener for?
We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.
- The six best URL shorteners and how to choose the right one
- The entire history of URL shorteners
- What is a URL shortener?
- URL shortener API: How to integrate with a link shortener
Originally Posted: September 2nd, 2016.
Post Updated: December 28th, 2021.