How To Create Your Own Free Vanity URL

What is a Vanity URL?

A vanity URL is a customized web address that includes the name of your business for marketing, branding, and search engine optimization (SEO) benefits. They are usually short and descriptive, and can easily be recognized as part of your business’s branding

A vanity URL is easier to remember, easier to share and easier to use. It’s a win for everyone!

Brands like Verizon Wireless (vz.to), RE/MAX (rem.ax) and Reddit (redd.it) have creative and recognizable vanity URLs.

Which one do you prefer?

Prerto Long URL

OR

Short URL Prerto

Here’s how to get a vanity URL

Bitly’s enterprise version offers you to use your own vanity domain like The New York Times’ nyti.ms. According to this Quora answer, the enterprise version of Bitly costs around $995/month.

Want to know the best part?

I am going to show you how to do this for free (almost).

Create Your Custom Own URL Shortener

This requires a little technical knowledge in setting up the backend but its an one time headache.

Step 1: Buy a vanity domain

In our example, we owned Prerto.com for the Prerto brand. We bought Prer.to from the Toronto domain registry. We paid $45 for a year in domain fees. Domain fees for countries vary significantly. For example, Puerto Rico’s (.pr) extension costs $1,000/year!

To find a suitable vanity domain, you can see all the available domain endings in this Wikipedia article or use Domainr to quickly find appropriate and available short URLs for your existing brand/niche.

Step 2: Find a hosting service

Something that can host a simple WordPress blog will be sufficient. If you’re planning to use this for your own brand, then you can make do with a shared server. VPS like DigitalOcean is also a good option but that requires a little more technical knowledge. This can cost between $5-10/month.

Step 3: Install YOURLS

YOURLS (Your Own URL Service) is free to use, an open source option that provides analytics and allows you to customize the URL.

Follow the installation instructions.

  • Unzip the YOURLS archive
  • Copy user/config-sample.php to user/config.php
  • Open user/config.php with a raw text editor (like Notepad) and fill in the required settings
  • Upload the unzipped files to your domain public_html or www folder
  • Create a new database (see Configuration – you can also use an existing one)
  • Point your browser to http://your-own-domain-here.com/admin/

Now you’re all done. You’ve successfully created your own vanity URL shortener.

Step 4: Login

YOURLS Admin

Use the user password you created in the configuration to login from the admin page.

Step 5: Create a shortened URL

Vanity URL

Simply enter your URL and the customized URL ending and hit the shorten button. You’re all set!

What’s the bottom line?

Total Cost: $100/year versus $11,940/year at Bitly!

If you’re publishing with WordPress, you may want to give the Better YOURLS plugin a try. It automatically generates a shortlink for each new published post, and it replaces the defaultwp_shortlink shortlinks with YOURLS links, making it easy to use them on your site. Note: You can only use the plugin once you’re installed YOURLS on your server.

YOURLS WordPress Plugin

YOURLS Analytics

This is what the backend analytics looks like.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 1.04.42 PM

vanity urls


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