How to find the perfect domain for your custom link shortener

How to Find the Perfect Custom Domain to Use as Your Link Shortener

Inspirational ideas on how to choose the domain for your custom link shortener

Surely you want to embed your brand name into all the links you share, right? So you’re buying a new domain for your custom link shortener? But you might be finding it hard to narrow down your options.

Sometimes when you have too many choices…

You don’t make a choice.

It’s called the choice paradox and is a well-documented psychological struggle.

But don’t worry…

After studying 100s of domain extensions and buying dozens of domains myself, I’m here to give you some advice on the best and worst options when it comes to picking your custom branded link shortener.

But first, let’s talk about some of the “rules” of buying domains…

If you still haven’t chosen a brand name for your business, I’d recommend starting with
 this post on choosing a brand name. And if you haven’t built a strong branding strategy for your business, I’d recommend downloading this e-book that we put together in collaboration with HubSpot.

Why you don’t need a .com domain

You may have heard that a .com domain  is better…

And they are. As Rand Fishkin said during one of his Whiteboard Fridays:

“…Cognitive and processing fluency dictates that we should go with something that’s easy, that people have an association with already, and .com is still the primary thing that non-tech savvy folks have an association with.”

And this is completely true – when you are building an entire website.

But it goes completely out the window when you are using the domain specifically as your link shortener.

With the recent unlocking of thousands of gTLDs (generic top level domains) and with more constantly coming on stream, you can now own yourbrand.pizza, yourbrand.awesome, or yourbrand.marketing etc. So release that “icky” feeling you might have about .ly, .link, or .io and embrace the freedom of choice when making your decision.

Virgin is doing it… You can too:

Virgin Uses a Branded URL Shortener

Should it be short?

In short, yes…

But not at the cost of anything else, like readability, or keywords.

Domain name length matters significantly less than you think it does. And significantly less than it did 5 years ago.

Business or pleasure?

You might be thinking you want a new domain for both business and personal use. I have a couple domains for both myself.

Before deciding which domain to buy, you’re going to have to make a choice for which domain you want to buy at this very moment. Are you buying it for your personal brand and personal link shortener? Or is it for your company or business?

If you are thinking about both at the same time, you’re going to gridlock your brain.

Choose one. Got it? Good.

And if you run a personally branded business, like our friend Ana, at socialana.com, then we are going to call it a business account, and you may still want a separate personal link shortener later, but let’s focus on the business for now.

This would be a pretty sweet link shortener name for Ana:

Custom Domain URL Shortener Lookup

How Much Should You Spend?

Probably not much…

Certainly not over $50 unless you’ve got a big budget and are positive that you will use the domain a lot.

The truth is, there are plenty of domains available for as cheap as $2, so there’s no reason to get your heart set on something too expensive.

That being said, some domain extensions cost more than others. I bought a .tips domain for $22, and a .wtf for $35. I felt like those extensions are fun and worth the extra costs, but you don’t have to splurge like me if you don’t want to.

At Rebrandly, we’ve secured partnerships to give you domains starting at $2. If you’re on a budget, stick to those domains.

If you do have the budget, expand outside of the cheap domains.

What if you don’t want to buy a domain?

If you really don’t want to spend the money or are just against registering another domain right now, there is still hope. You can use an existing domain to create a subdomain as your link shortener. Here’s what that might look like:






In order to connect a sub-domain in Rebrandly all you have to do is go into your DNS records and create an A record, then simply let us know to look for it.

I typically wouldn’t recommend this as a long-term strategy, but if you’re hesitant to purchase a domain, or you just want to give this whole branded domain link shortener thing a try, this is a great way to start.

But what do I know? AT&T is using a sub-domain for their social shares.

ATT semi-branded sub-domain URL Shortener

IMO it looks dumb as heck and I think they can afford a custom domain… But whatever…

Picking your personal URL shortener domain name

Personal is pretty simple, as you should most likely go with yourfullname.link (or just your first name if it happens to be available). But, if you’re ready to spend a couple dollars more, you do have more options than that…

Check to see if your first name happens to be available in these domains:

.cool – a little corny, but it is still kinda cool. If you have a more common name, you can do something like “johnis.cool.” We bought brandonis.cool

.tips – If you have a massive content or educational marketing angle… Or if you share a lot of tips on your social channels.

.marketing – If you’re marketing to marketers and are trying to build a personal brand as a marketer.

.social – if you are a social media marketer and think you will be in this industry for a while (otherwise maybe go with .marketing).

For my personal sharing, I use derric.link, and that’s where I keep all of my social accounts organized and where I share things specific to myself and my personal brand. Want to follow me on your favorite social network, just go to derric.link/”your fav social network.” Here are all my favorites:

derric link personal branding example of using a url shortener

Embedding a message inside your custom shortener

You can also consider making the link a statement or phrase, such as:













I can go on all day like this…

The question is, what domain name can you think of that relates to both your brand – be it personal or business – while also making a fun statement. And how will that statement tie into how you create all of your links?

How Rebrandly Works

For instance, if you buy johnlikes.to, then when you share an article on “10 Social Media Tools” you will probably create the link johnlikes.to/use-social-media-tools. Whereas if you just have john.link, you might create the URL slug john.link/social-media-tools.

I just want you to acknowledge the difference in your link creation strategy before purchasing the domain, because this will help you determine if the domain fits right or not.

There’s nothing worse than buying a new domain, only to find that it’s really hard to share links under it, because it the link doesn’t read quite right when you create those links.

So what do you think? Inspired yet?

Choosing your business URL shortener domain name

The first choice is how branded do you really want to go with your link shortener?

You can keep it simple and leave your brand name in the domain name, or you can get crafty and use this as an opportunity to market to your audience. The choice depends on these factors:

Do you have a small brand name or a large brand name?

If small, then you aren’t going to get a lot of value out of staying with your brand, and you may find more value in catering to your audience.

If it’s large, then this is a great opportunity to use the link shortener with your brand name for additional awareness and reach.

Here are some ideas worth thinking about for various businesses:



free.pizza (everyone loves free pizza, I predict 500% increase in CTR – even if you don’t sell pizza!)






startup.talk (for a podcast or something)









gaga.goo (if you sell baby clothes)


What if you’re a small brand that is looking for massive growth?

If you’re a startup, or your company is moving towards becoming mainstream, then you could consider sticking with the branded domain name.

I’d say it depends on how strong you really need the brand to be.

Take this e-commerce shopping site Kitsch, for example:

MyKitsch Homepage

They are a brand reliant company. People buy from them specifically because of their brand and the quality it represents. A company like this will benefit even more than most from using a branded short domain as their link shortener. And… They do! Look at how clean their Instagram URL looks:

MyKitsch usesa abranded link their isntagram bio to track clicks and website traffic

You can’t even tell that’s a shortened link, it looks extremely natural. Guarantee a random generated URL would not get as many click-throughs as this link. Great job Kitsch!

And they’ve got the added bonus of easily tracking clicks, being able to add tracking parameters to that link or change the destination URL based on sales.

So for you, think of your brand, and where it is heading. Do you need to exemplify your brand, or exemplify your industry, or your customer first?

Branded link shortener domain name examples

Here are some ideas for the extension to use while keeping your brand in the domain:

Mybrand.link – this is probably the safest way to go, you should probably buy this domain regardless to prevent others from having it.







Mybrand.help (to point to your massive knowledge base or FAQ)


As you grow, you may also want to buy mybrand.sucks so as not to have someone else running around with that domain name sharing content.

Advanced strategy – using custom domains that fit the right content at the right time

Here’s how this works…

Use the mybrand.link domain for all content pointing back to your site.

Get another domain that speaks to a specific content type or target audience, and use that domain when directing people to other sites.

For example, I have brandings.link, and smedia.tips. If I am sharing something on branding, I use brandings.link, and if it’s about social media, I use smedia.tips

I keep the domain name relevant to the content I am sharing. Think that will get a higher click-through rate?

I do and we’ve been working on compiling the data to prove it.

Final thoughts

There are soooo many choices available when it comes to purchasing your own custom domain, especially as a link shortener. If you’re thinking about spending more than $2 on a domain, I’d recommend writing down your favorite 5 in a list and asking other people what they think. Feedback is the fastest way to validate whether it’s a good idea or a bad one.

You could even consider creating a Twitter poll and letting your audience make the decision for you.

The sky is the limit when it comes to choosing a domain for your custom short URLs. If you can dream it, you can make it a domain for your custom link shortener, just be sure that people will actually “get” it.


What do you think? Are you going to purchase a fun or playful domain? Or is it strictly business? I’d love to hear your domain ideas in the comments below.

Further Reading:

This Article is About:

  • How to pick a domain name
  • Domain names for your custom URL shortener
  • Picking a domain name for your branded links
  • Domain names for your personal custom short URLs
  • Domain names for your business vanity URLs

Originally Posted: July 20th, 2016.
Post Updated: June 16th, 2020.



Head of Growth at Rebrandly. Derric is a lifelong entrepreneur and passionate about helping startups and marketers not suck. He speaks, practices, and blogs about growth and digital marketing on Rebrandly and across the universe.