Most web users are probably familiar with link shorteners.
They’re extremely useful for reducing long and unwieldy web links into something altogether more shareable.
They are also used widely by affiliate marketers to cloak affiliate links.
They can also be used to track clicks and shares.
Most commonly you may recognise shortened links like http://amzn.to/1KfHWp0 [Amazon shortener, available via bit.ly or as an Amazon Associate], http://buff.ly/1Mo3iSQ [Buffer’s link shortener, part of their software], http://ow.ly/i/6M3in [Hootsuite’s link shortener] or http://bit.ly/1GpTiG5 [Bit.ly link shortener].
By way of example, a link shortening service would take an ugly, unshareable link like:
It would then shorten it to something much more pleasant, such as:
So, in brief, link shorteners allow web users to make links more shareable, track links and cloak affiliate links.
They’re an essential part of any online marketer’s toolkit.
But did you know that you can brand and personalise your own link shortener for free if you’re a WordPress user?
Introducing Pretty Link
I’ve been using Pretty link for a couple of years now.
It’s a free WordPress plugin which allows you to brand your shortened links.
So, instead of having to share generic bit.ly or goo.gl links, it lets me share shortened links on my own domain name.
So let me give you a real-life example of that.
If I wanted to share the blog link http://paulteague.com/how-to-create-3d-book-covers-for-free/ I could shorten that to http://paulteague.com/3D.
Both links go to the same place, but the second version is a lot easier to share, and a lot easier to say out loud if I were talking about it on a webinar or at a training event.
My initial recommendation is to try out the free version, Pretty Link Lite, via the WordPress plugin directory:
I actually pay for the upgrade because I use it several times a week.
Pretty Link Pro lets me manage link shortening on a greater scale.
Bearing in mind that at the time of writing I have 299 links shortened on this domain alone (I have many more at http://thesecretbunker.net) so you can see how much use I make of this great tool.
Now I have an affiliate link for this product which is: http://prettylinkpro.com/amember/go.php?r=5018&i=11
As you can see, that’s a pretty ugly link to share!
That’s why, when promoting this product, I use the link http://paulteague.com/plp
Not only is it a lot neater, it has my own branding on it too, so it looks more credible and trustworthy.
Getting Started With Pretty Link
As with any WordPress plugin, you’ll need to get it installed first of all.
Once installed, it will appear in your left hand WordPress menu.
Select ‘Add New Link’:
There are several other menu options in the image above.
Groups allows you to create collections of links ie affiliate links, ebook links, useful web links for easier sorting and organisation.
Hits shows you where your link clicks originated.
Tools I tend to avoid this area, it’s a bit of a distraction!
Options is an area you might want to look at, but you don’t have to, Pretty Link is fine when you use it ‘straight out of the box’.
If you’re a Pretty Link Lite user, you won’t see the Pro options of course.
The image below shows the panel that you’ll become very familiar with as a Pretty Link user.
Remember, this all takes place within your WordPress site’s admin area:
In the image above, this is what the numbers refer to:
1: Redirection type – I set mine to ‘permanent’
2: Target URL – this is where you cut and paste your long link or affiliate link
3: Pretty Link – choose the ‘slug’ that you want to use for your shortened link.
Make it descriptive and clear.
Here are some examples of my own links, with the ‘slug’ marked in bold:
It goes without saying that you can’t use the same slug twice and Pretty Link will show an error message if you try it.
4: Title – this is for your easy reference, make it descriptive when you end up with 299 links you’ll be pleased that you did 🙂
5: Group – organise your links into Groups if that’s helpful to you.
6: SEO Options – without getting too ‘SEO geeky’, as these links are usually to 3rd party websites and not my own sites, I usually mark them as ‘NoFollow’ and suggest that you so the same.
7: Create – click on the button to create the Pretty Link
There is another menu to the right-hand side of that admin area, which you can see in the image below:
Parameter Forwarding is for advanced users, I’ve never had to enable it.
You should check Tracking Options so that you can monitor the number of clicks on each link.
In the image above, you can see the options that you are given in the Pretty Link admin area:
1: Name – The easy reference name that you gave to your Pretty Link in the previous step
2: Hits/Uniq – Total hits on each link and unique hits on each link.
Total hits will always be the same as or higher than unique hits.
If two people both click twice on one of your links, that’s 2 x uniques and 4 x hits.
Uniques is the most important statistic to monitor.
3: Groups – indicates the group that you placed your link in, if you’re using groups.
4: Links – easy access to all of your Pretty Links.
There’s a search bar at the top of the admin area too, so that you can easily locate links when you’ve moved into the tens and hundreds.
5: Target URL – a reminder of the final destination of your shortened link.
Watch How To Use Pretty Link In This Step-By-Step Video
In the short video demo below, I’ll show you how to create your links and what you need to be monitoring on your links.
Also see: How To Create 3D Book Covers For Free