Shortening and unshortening links
Link shortening is a technique used to substantially shorten URLs, while still directing to the same page. Most links that are shared on social media are shortened links, rather than full URLs. Links that you drop into the composer when scheduling posts through Buffer are automatically shortened. By default, they'll be shortened using the buff.ly link shortener, but this can be changed to bit.ly if desired.
⭐️ The buff.ly link shortener is available on all plans, while bit.ly and the option to set up your own custom link shortener are only available on our paid plans. Learn more about our plans and pricing here.
🎥 Keen to learn more about link shortening and Google Analytics? View our tutorial videos here!
This article contains the following sections:
Changing your link shortener
Link shorteners are set individually for each social channel, meaning you might use buff.ly for some channels, and bit.ly for others (for example). To change your link shortener, select the channel on the left hand side of your dashboard that you'd like to change, and then select the Settings tab.
Under the General tab, you'll find a section at the top called Link Shortening. In the drop down menu, you can choose between buff.ly and bit.ly. You can also select "No Shortening" if you want to disable link shortening completely.
You'll also have the option to connect your own custom link shortener if it's registered with Bitly. Please see section below for more information.
Some social networks do not support or encourage the use of link shortening. For example:
- At the moment, Pinterest does not allow posting of shortened links to their platform, so you will not see link shortening options in channel Settings.
- Similarly, using a link shortener on Mastodon is actively discouraged, so you will not see not see link shortening options in channel Settings.
- While you can create posts with links on Instagram, Instagram does not allow clickable links in the captions of posts. Additionally, Instagram posts with links in the captions may be flagged for spam. If you're looking to draw followers to a specific link with your posts, check out our Instagram Shop Grid feature.
Setting up your own custom link shortener
Follow the steps below if you'd like to connect your own custom link shortener. Please note that it will need to be registered with Bitly.
If you have multiple custom link shorteners, registered under different Bitly accounts, and you'd like to connect different ones to different channels within Buffer, please log out of your Bitly account before going through the steps below. You'll then be prompted for authorization, at which point you can ensure you're logging into the Bitly account you'd like to use.
- Register the domain you'd like to use
It’s important to note that this domain can only be used for shortened URLs. Your short domain name needs to be 15 characters or less (including the dot and extension), or your links won’t display your custom URL.
- Add your domain to Bitly
You'll need to sign in or register for a Bitly account. Once you’ve logged into Bitly, you’ll need to go to Settings in the top right hand corner, and then click on the Advanced button.
Under the Branded Short Domain header, select whether you’re using your short domain for personal or business use. Bitly should then ask you to verify your email address.
- Create a DNS record for your domain name
The next step involves changing your DNS information. A DNS is what makes a browser point to a website, so this is where you’re telling your custom short domain to point to Bitly. To update your DNS information, you’ll need to go to the website where you registered your domain name.
Updating your DNS is typically pretty simple and should be very similar to the instruction below, even if you don’t use Name.com. For Name.com customers, you would log into your Name.com account, click on your short URL, and then click on Update DNS records.
You would then need to edit the A record for your site. You can do this by changing the IP address to 220.127.116.11. If there isn’t an existing A record, add a new one. Where you see host, you can either leave it blank or add an @ sign. Either option works because they do the same thing. It’s also important to note that you should only have one A record. If you have more than one A record, you should remove all of them that don’t point to Bitly’s 18.104.22.168 IP address.
- Verify your domain ownership
Now that your A record has been added to your domain name you need to go back to the Branding Domains Settings on Bitly and click the Verify button. When you do this, your domain should then be connected to your Bitly account.
- Connect your Bitly account to your Buffer account
Next, log into your Buffer account, select the channel on the left hand side of your dashboard that you'd like to change, and select the Settings tab. Under the General tab, you'll find a section at the top called Link Shortening. Click Connect Bitly. Follow the steps to authorize Buffer to connect to your Bitly account.
- Try it out!
Finally, schedule a new post, paste a link into the composer, and make sure it's shortened using your new custom link shortener!
Unless you have explicitly disabled link shortening for a social channel, any links you paste into the composer will be automatically shortened. By default, the buff.ly link shortener will be used, but this can be changed by heading to Settings.
In some cases, you may prefer to use the full link instead of the short link. To do this, hover over the link in the composer after it's been automatically shortened and click Unshorten.
📝 Please note, it's not possible to unshorten a link once the post has been saved. In that case, you'd need to create the post again and delete the original post.