Let’s admit it. Sharing long URLs is old-fashioned. No one likes long, ugly URLs on the web. On social media, we use short URLs just about everywhere. You too, can create your own URL shortener for free and that too, on your own domain! How, you ask? Well, keep reading.
Short URLs not only make it easy to share and remember, they also put professional impression on your readers. You can have a look at any large website -like NewYork Times, Microsoft, The Next Web etc, they have one thing in common: They use their own URL shortener. You too, should definitely have your own URL shortener. Why? Because you can!
Dude, What’s Wrong with Third-party URL Shortening Services?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing is wrong in using services like Google (goo.gl), Bitly (bit.ly) or any other service. URL shortening services like Bitly have provided the web with whole new way of sharing URLs. Thanks to these services, you no longer need to share a long, ugly URLs. There are services that even pay you for sharing links via their service.
But, if you want your links to look more professional, and you want to have complete control over your links, then you should consider creating your own URL shortener.
Create Your Own URL Shortener: Benefits
Besides carrying professional impression, your own link shortening service help you win visitors’ trust. They know that the links you’re sharing are safe.
In addition, you hold complete control over your links. You can add, edit, remove your URLs and their destination anytime you want. You can also decide the link itself.
You can also use your link shortener to cloak affiliate links. Readers don’t really like long affiliate links. If you cloak URLs under your own domain (like example.com/out/product), it convinces your readers to click on them, improving your CTR.
Many bloggers like me use their own URL shorteners because they want to keep a track of their URLs (like its stats, referers, location etc). Owning your link shortening service makes it very easy to stay in control and keeping a track of how well (or bad) your links are working.
The best part? It’s completely free to setup a URL shortening service on your own domain.
Is It Free? Like Completely, Totally Free?
Yes, you can create your own URL shortener free, completely free. We will not be using a third-party service like Bitly. We will use your own domain to do this. So if your domain is mycoolblog.com, then your URLs will be like mycoolblog.com/go/shortlink.
You will not be spending a single penny to create your link-shortening service.
If all this sounds convincing, you should definitely consider creating your own URL shortener. How, you ask? Well, keep reading.
How to Create Your Own URL Shortener for Free?
I like your enthusiasm -you really want to create your own URL shortener. But read the following requirements before you continue. This will make your work easier.
- You need to have a working domain and hosting plan.
- Basic knowledge of cPanel.
- In addition, you need to have a server with mod_rewrite enabled, running at least PHP 5.2 and MYSQL 4.1. Most modern hosts like SiteGround support these requirements out of the box. Check with your host if you’re not sure.
- A tank full of patience. New things often doesn’t complete quickly and it can take longer time and more efforts before successful completion.
We will be using YOURLS as the backend of our URL shortening service. YOURLS aka Your Own URL Shortener, is an open-source and completely free -yet very professional PHP script which will provide us with all set of tools required to create and manage short links.
Alrighty. Let’s begin, shall we?
Note: I will be showing the YOURLS installation on a SiteGround cPanel. Locations/names of options might vary a bit in your host.
Log in to your cPanel.
Look for your software installer (It’s Softaculous on most hosts) and click on it to open.
User the search bar above to search for YOURLS and open it from search results.
Once inside YOURLS, click Install tab. This will bring you to Software Setup screen.
Now we will choose our domain (if you have more than one) on which we need to setup URL shortening service. I am choosing techstuffer.com.
Next is to enter the directory in which to install YOURLS.
Remember: The directory you add here will become your short URL path. If I enter out, then my URLs will look like techstuffer.com/out/xyzabc. You can enter anything like to, go, out, refer, recommend or anything of your choice.
Also make sure whatever directory you enter, it should not exist already.
Whatever you choose, simply enter the word, without leading or following slash (/). I am entering out.
Now scroll down to find Site Settings and enter what should the name of your URL shortener site look like. You can enter anything. I’m entering Tech Stuffer URL Shortener.
Under Admin Account, enter your admin account name and password. If you choose admin, you will have to log-in to your URL shortener using admin and the password you choose here.
Caution: Choose a strong password, you don’t want spammers to log in to your service and use it for their purpose -unless you wish to create a public URL shortening service.
Now enter your name and email ID.
If you wish to change the database name and table prefix (not necessary), click on Advanced Options and do so. You can also choose to automatically upgrade YOURLS.
Take a look at everything you’ve entered. Note the username and password you chose. You will need this to log in to admin interface. Once everything looks as it should be, click Install.
It will take no more than a minute to complete the installation.
After the installation is finished, you will be presented with the success screen which will show the administrative URL of your URL shortening service. Whenever you wish to login to your YOURLS admin interface, you will need this URL. Mine will be techstuffer.com/out/admin/
That’s it. You have now successfully installed YOURLS on your server. You can start using it right away. How? Let me explain.
Continue reading How to Create Your Own URL Shortener for Free on the next page.