I’ve always wanted a short URL domain, and aside from some other business ideas I have (which I’ll come on to in a later blog post), its dead easy to setup, and apart from the cost of setting up a domain, completely free.
The first (and most important) task is to choose a domain. Now you could go about this by looking at the top-level domain list, TLD (available here), but that would be time consuming and, frankly, incredibly dull. Luckily, there’s a much, much easier way: Domai.nr. This site will take the combinations of words / ideas you enter and suggest domains of all sizes on all available TLD’s. It’ll also quite helpfully tell you if that domain is available or not and link to suggested registrars for the TLD.
For a short domain you’ve really got to be looking for 6 characters or less, including the . (dot) and TLD. While 7 is still okay, the shorter the better in order to stop your links taking up too much space (or being truncated) on Twitter.
You’re also going to need to check if there are any restrictions to the domain you want to buy. I settled on a .by domain (due to my surname ending in .by) and found there were no restrictions. However, there may be some TLD’s that will require you to provide evidence that you have a relationship with someone in that country and so on (some are even crazier – but I won’t go into those here).
This eventually led me to register ‘buz.by’ (awesome, I know, although unfortunately I couldn’t get ‘bus.by’).
The next step is to register the domain. Domainr uses and recommends 101 domains, but I found their service expensive and a little worrying (there are rafts of negative reviews online), instead I opted to register my domain directly with the local registrar. This required a little Russian – but nothing too off-putting, and it worked out to be about a 1/3 of the price of registering with other 3rd parties.
Total cost so far: $12 USD / £7 GBP
Time spent: 5 minutes
Now go away and make a cup of tea / coffee / go to a theme park while your domain is being registered.
The next step is to setup a DNS provider. For this I’d recommend (hands down) using Zerigo. We’ve had some trouble with them in the past, but for a free service their ease of use and setup beats all other providers hands down. They offer a free plan for up to 3 domains, which is enough for you to host your short URL, main domain and one other. Sign-up takes 2-3 minutes, and setting up their service on your new custom domain should simply be a case of adjusting your name servers.
Cost: $0 / £0
Time: 3 minutes
It’ll take a few moments (or up to 72 hours) for your new name servers to take effect, so go and make another cup of tea / coffee / visit your parents while your DNS settings propagate.
On to the final step. If you’re reading this, the chances are you already have a bit.ly account; if you haven’t you can sign-up in 30 seconds using your Twitter or Facebook details (if you’re here and you don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account then… well, never mind). Recently bit.ly removed their ‘Pro’ service, which is great news for you, because the custom domain services are now completely free! To enable your custom domain, just log into bit.ly, click ‘Settings’, go to the ‘Advanced’ tab and follow the instructions and then you’re done!
Cost: $0 / £0
Time: 2 minutes