There are a TON of free Short URL services out there, Bit.LY, Is.GD, Tr.IM and it is nice that they provide integration with Tweet Deck and other software, and offer you some statistics, but they are a BAD idea. Why? One day a change in the Terms of Service makes them go from Forwarding service to being a “Link Bar” (like Digg did).
Trying to focus on the positives. Having your own URL Shortening allows your own branding. If you run a website called Daves Discount Emporium you might register DDE.IN or Daves.GS. This lets users know that they aren’t about to get “Rick Rolled” by the link they have been sent. Having your own URL Service lets you do useful things. Forwarding URLs when you change where you want them to go. For example you might have a the latest version of your software download be Daves.GS/Download.
If those aren’t enough reasons, how about some of the negatives.
Short URL services can link to anything, as a result many of them trip Spam Filters in eMail, are often filtered by proxies. While “Reputable” services are unlikely to do it, you also risk that the service will forward only 90% of your traffic, or will present a different URL to Google’s bots when they ask where the link goes.
Short URL’s don’t always use a 301 redirect, which means they don’t pass authority, this means that you aren’t gaining authority from all the discussion around your URL
Because a Short URL can link to anywhere many of them actually can cause negative effects in search engines. There is what is called a “Bad Neighborhood” penalty for having 301s from a domain that has linked to Spam, Illegal Material, or sites that broke Google’s rules.
So how do you set up a Short URL? There are a lot of ways ranging from a few lines of code, to a commercial product that runs about $100. It all depends on your needs and how you are going to use it. And if you are a client, of course BlackwaterOps can help.