Evergreen Links for Authors – Part 4 – YOURLS – The Writer's Tech Stop

Evergreen Links for Authors – Part 4 – YOURLS

By Vanessa Kier | Tech Tips and Tools

Sep 04

Evergreen Links: A Recap 

In part one of this series, I talked about what evergreen links are and why you might want to use them. To recap, an evergreen link has two parts:

Part one is a link that is permanent and goes in the back of your ebook or on your marketing material. This is the link the reader clicks on.

Part two is the URL behind the permanent link that takes the reader to the place you want them to end up. This is the part you will change as necessary.

In the second and third parts of this series, I explained how to use the WordPress.org plugin Redirection and the web-based link shortener Tiny.cc to create your evergreen links.

For writers who don’t have a WordPress site, who want a free, branded URL that’s shorter than what you get with Redirection, or who want more statistics and control, YOURLS is a good option.

Reminder: What Is YOURLS Again?

In my two posts on Installing YOURLS and Installing Plugins for YOURLS, I explained that YOURLS stands for Your Own URL Shortener. It’s a standalone application that you install on your own domain. If you’re trying to get shorter URLS than those that use your regular web address, you can buy a short domain name and install YOURLS there. That’s what I did. I bought vkier.info and use that only for YOURLS.

Getting Started with YOURLS

LOG IN

At the end of the installation process, if you used Softaculous, you were given the web address for your admin panel. It will be something like https://yourdomainname/admin/index.php. To use YOURLS, log in with the username and password you set up during the installation process. 

CREATE THE EVERGREEN LINK

In the Enter the URL box, type your destination URL. This is the URL that might change. So again, going back to my example for a book that is not on preorder on Amazon, I’d enter the book's page on my website where the reader can sign up to be notified when the book is live. https://www.vanessakier.com/war-retaliation

In the Custom short URL box put an identifier. I use two- or three-letter codes to represent each book, each retailer, and where the link is going. So, if this is going to be a link included in the back of the previous book in the series, WAR: Opposition, I could create a short URL such as rtazop.

This would mean: 

rt = Book title is WAR: Retaliation

az = This is a link for Amazon (or it will be once the book is live there)

op = The link is going in the back of WAR: Opposition.

NOTE: Unless you’ve installed a plugin to allow uppercase letters or hyphens, the short URL can only have lowercase letters and numbers. No punctuation or spaces.

WAR Retaliation link on YOURLS

Click Shorten the URL to create the URL.

Once the link has been created, you will see a green notification bar. A box containing the short link will appear so you can easily copy the new link and put it on your printed marketing materials, in the back of your ebooks, in blog posts, etc.

Inside that box will also be the Long link and the Stats link (the URL with a + at the end). If you try to access the stats link from a browser where you are not logged in to YOURLS, you’ll need to log in. NOTE: This is assuming that you installed YOURLS using Softaculous (which defaults to private) or that when you manually installed YOURLS  you set it up as private. If your YOURLS install is public, then I suspect you could see your stats via that link without logging in. But I haven't tried this so I don't know for certain.

The new link will be the top link in the main table.

YOURLS interface

The left-hand column shows the Short URL, aka custom identifier.

The middle column, the Original URL, has two rows. The top row is a title YOURLS has assigned based on information it pulled from the long URL. You can change this. The bottom row is the long URL. 

Next comes the date the link was created. NOTE: This date does not update if you edit the link. It remains the date you created the link.

Then comes the IP address used when creating the link.

The second-to-last column is the number of clicks. NOTE: Unless you install a plugin to counteract this, each time you click on the link to test it from within the admin panel, you’ll be added to the click count.

If you hover your mouse over the right-hand column, four icons will appear.

The first icon is for accessing your Stats, as explained later in this post.

The second icon in the row is the Share icon. It brings up the Share box with the complete short link inside so you can easily copy it.

The third icon in the row is the Edit icon, as explained below.

The final icon in the row is the Delete icon.

UPDATE THE EVERGREEN LINK

Click the pencil icon in the far right column to access the editing features.

The YOURLS edit icon

This will open the editing panel.

Here you can change the long URL, change your short URL (not recommended, as this goes against the whole point of it being an evergreen link), and edit the title.

In the example above, this is where I'll go to update the Original URL with the URL for WAR: Retaliation's Amazon page once it's live there.

The YOURLS edit view

I love that YOURLS gives me a title option. That way, if I forget what my coding system is and I'm logged in, I don't have to bring up my coding explanation document on my computer. All I have to do is look at the title to remind me of what the link is for. However, if I upload a lot of URLs using a plugin such as Bulk Upload and Shorten only the long URL and the custom short URL can be imported. Not custom titles. YOURLS will assign a title just as with links you create inside the dashboard.

After upload, it can be a pain to then go into YOURLS and give each link an individually meaningful title. I have to confess that sometimes I'm too lazy to do this and so end up leaving the titles that YOURLS created during import.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned in the post on YOURLS plugins, I don’t know of any publicly available plugins that allow you to upload a long URL, short identifier, AND a custom title. I know one writer who paid a developer to make her a custom plugin to handle this along with other requirements she had, but that plugin is not available to others.

Statistics

The Stats icon looks like a bar graph. Since the new link I created above doesn't have any traffic, in the image below I'm showing you the statistics for a link that points to one of my YouTube videos.

The Stats icon is what you click in order to check your link’s:

Traffic statistics

This shows you how your link has performed across time.

YOURLS traffic statistics

Traffic location

Cool graphics to show you where in the world your clicks have come from.

YOURLS traffic location screen

Traffic sources

Gives the breakout between direct and referral traffic. In the below image I have clicked on the (details) link under Referrers in order to see those referrer URLs.

YOURLS traffic sources

Share

Another place to access the full short link so you can share it.

YOURLS share page

Searches

YOURLS offers a more robust search option than Redirection or Tiny.cc.

Go to the bottom of the YOURLS main admin interface to find the Search options.

Enter your search text in the box.

You can Search across: All fields, Short URL, URL, Title, and IP.

You can choose which field the results are ordered by and whether the results are shown in ascending or descending order.

A particularly helpful option here is to limit the search to links that have been clicked. Just choose More in the Show Links With dropdown and put 0 in the box for the number of clicks.

YOURLS search terms number of clicks

You can also search in relation to the date (remember, this is the date that the link was created).

I find Search most helpful when I’m searching for all links related to a particular book.

Once you click the Search button, the results will appear in the table.

YOURLS also will also display your search text above the table. NOTE: YOURLS only shows the text you used for your search. It doesn't show any other parameters you may have set.

YOURLS search text

In Summary

So, that’s it.

As you can see, YOURLS gives you a few options that Redirection and Tiny.cc don’t, such as more granular search options and the ability to bulk upload with the help of a plugin. 

Is it a good choice for you? Only you can say, but I love it and highly recommend it.

In the Next Post in This Series

I'll explain how to use your evergreen links in Vellum.

Until then, Happy Writing!

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