2009-12-14 - I'm currently updating this article based on recent changes at Twitter. You can now post up to 139 character URIs without invoking the URI shortening routine. This is BIG news but, there are currently some flaws that you'll need to look out for. More information forthcoming.
2009-07-10 - What is a URI Short? A shortened version of a URI (aka URL) used typically in a Social Media environment where character limitations are imposed e.g. Twitter's 140 character SMS updates.
There are a plethora of URI Shortening Services on the market. I'm only going to reference Twitter's default URI Shortener which is http://bit.ly/ as it provides the options I'll be discussing in this article.
The benefits of Custom Named URI Shorts far outweigh any additional time that may be involved in creating them. Twitter Search is a primary example of why you should be Custom Naming your URI Shorts. You have 140 characters to Tweet with. If you're not using all 140 characters effectively, there are missed opportunities, especially when it comes to anchor text in a Shortened URI.
Yes, you could also use Hash Tags (#) for keyword recognition and saturation, it is a common practice. What isn't common is the use of Custom Names in URL Shortening routines. I see some of the more respected names in the industry who don't take advantage of these features and I'm calling them out and stripping them of any and all Social Media titles, they don't deserve them yet. Not until they get IT!
You're not a Social Media Marketer if you're not taking advantage of Custom Named URI Shorts.
If you have any qualms with the above statement from @pageoneresults then I'd suggest you write a Blog Post about my incessant URI Shortening rants and tell me why you think a URI that looks like this http://bit.ly/Hsgbd can even compare to something that looks like this http://bit.ly/URI-Shorts. You can't, so don't even bother. You're welcome to @pageoneresults me and tell me off, I don't mind one bit. In fact, I invite you to. Be prepared, I BYTE hard.
Shortened URIs that contain randomly generated numbers and characters present a visual that doesn't really leave a clicking impression. Sure, we click on them all day long when they come from our friends as we trust them. But what about those who are not your friends?
Custom Named URI Shorts are a MUST HAVE! Using targeted keywords in your URI Shorts presents optimization benefits that few think about. I've thought about them and, I've tested them rigorously. I can tell you that those who use custom naming conventions in their URI shortening routines are reaping the many rewards that are associated with keyword rich anchor text. Not to mention leaving a clicking impression!
2009-07-20 - Custom Named URI Shorts instructions for bit.ly have been updated to reflect the http://Twuna.com/Bento-Box UI change.
Browse to http://bit.ly/ and enter your long link to be Shortened.
Click the Show Options link under the Shorten button to reveal the Custom Name and Share Options. Enter your Custom Name and click the Save button.
Note: You can use hyphens (*and/or underscores) to separate words which is recommended since Twitter Search cannot decipher concatenated words e.g. URI-Shorts or URI_Shorts vs. URIShorts.
* I do not recommend the use of underscores unless they are naturally occurring e.g. http://Twuna.com/o_O. If you create a URI Short for Twitter and you have an underscore after character position 30, it may be converted when you Tweet due to Twitter's automatic URI Shortening which is handled via bit.ly. You may end up with a Shortened URI Short and negate the creation of the Custom Name. You'll also create multiple 301s, in this instance 301 > 301> 200 or, Converted URI Short 2/301 > Custom Named URI Short 1/301 > Destination/200
** I utilize Fragment IDs e.g. http://www.seoconsultants.com/twitter/shorts/#Creating for #1Click Specificity.
After you click the Save button you'll be presented with Your bit.ly link: which you can Copy and Paste.
You can also share your Custom Named link by Signing In or Signing Up and sharing via the accounts you have connected to bit.ly.
Lately I've been using naming conventions that allow me to use the Custom Named URI Short in sentence format. Here's a recent Tweet I constructed using the sentence approach...
That's the Sweet Spot! If you exceed 30 characters in your URI Short, it will truncate at character 30, trim to character 27 and add the ellipses (...) e.g.
The URIs you see in the above screenshot with the ellipses (...) are more than 30 characters and were truncated by default Twitter actions. The URI is still intact but the visual is truncated. I've seen Twits cut and paste the truncated URIs and Retweet them so be careful when constructing your custom names. If you can, keep them to 30 characters or less. That's easy to do when using Twitter's default service http://bit.ly/ where you have an available 16 characters to work with.
You can post up to a 140 character URI if it is constructed properly.
The above Custom Named URI Short looks like this in Twitter Search...
I've been testing various methodologies on Twitter since 2008 July 24 when @GregBoser conned me into closing my IM and joining Twitter. I will never forget! Anyway, I had my dev team build a Windows based URI Shortening Module using .NET and .htaccess. It is strictly for personal use at the moment while I continue to test functionality, reliability, adherence to protocols, analytics, etc.
It's also a Companion Suite for my @Twunami Twitter Desktop Application which is still in development. I'm waiting for http://Wave.Google.com/ to be released before sinking any more time and money into @Twunami. After watching the Wave Demo, I'm convinced it will deprecate many third party Twitter Applications. Google have an entire section devoted to Twitter called The Twave.
If you have a short domain to start with, you can easily build your own URI Shortener. Cut out the middle man and keep your domain brand intact. If you don't have a short domain name, consider purchasing one. Think about this carefully as you'll want to brand your URI Shorts also. Tie both your main domain and the shorter domain together somehow through initialisms, creative use of TLDs, etc.
Keep it simple! Use a 301 Moved Permanently for the redirects and follow protocol when it comes to case sensitivity. http://bit.ly/ is case sensitive.
URI Short: http://bit.ly/URI-Shorts
I've extracted the last 10 Tweets from the @Econsultancy Twitter Timeline as of 2009-07-14 at 04:30:00-0700. Here is a prime example of 10 missed anchor textual opportunities.
Note: I Follow @Econsultancy on Twitter. With the volume of quality content being produced and Tweeted about, I'd like to see them step up to the plate and start using Custom Named URI Shorts to their advantage.
You'll thank me later, I promise.
@pageoneresults We don't use custom links due to the automated way we look for Bit.ly links to track Econsultancy's Twitter buzz.
@pageoneresults We want URLs shortened by 3rd parties (Twitter, Twitterfeed) to match the ones we shorten ourselves, so we avoid fancy ones.