Vanity URLs : Complete Guide How to Use

Vanity URLs : Complete Guide How to Use

You have probably noticed the short URLs that are under posts on Twitter or Facebook. Once you go to the site, the abbreviation is transformed into a normal address, which will visually look like the original link. The same happens if you enter in the address bar the name of the site that you saw on a billboard, passing car, or in an advertising brochure. Similar vanity URL examples can be found everywhere. It is time to figure out what a custom URL is, why you need it, and how to create a unique URL for your brand page.

What Is a Vanity URL?

A vanity URL is a custom link that allows you to shorten the address of any page in a concise format. Everything that seemed long and complicated can be compressed into a couple of understandable words. The appearance of custom URLs depends entirely on your imagination — there are no strict rules here. You can use a subdomain of the site, a reference to a brand, a specific service, or come up with a unique address that best conveys the essence of the business. 

Using masked URLs is a unique opportunity to expand your SEO strategy beyond the online world. Short addresses are better visually perceived, it is convenient to share them on social media to get more traffic. Additionally, they can be easily integrated into outdoor advertising, presentation, or the PR campaign of the brand in the media. The shorter the address, the easier it is to read and remember. It allows you to explain the services provided and thereby expand the audience of potential customers in a few words.

When to Use Vanity URL

The Promotion of a Multidisciplinary Business

Imagine that your company is engaged in landscape design: gardening, outdoor lighting, creating decorative reservoirs, and garden paths. Let’s call it Yardy.

The first promotion option is to create four separate sites for each type of service. This will allow you to target narrow-profile keys and get good positions in SERP. The problem is that your projects will not share the authority and reference weight necessary for a successful promotion. At the same time, the budget for resource development, optimization, and content filling will increase significantly. Additionally, potential customers who want to comprehensively improve their yard may not pay attention to the fact that you provide a full package of services.

You can launch a single company website and promote all services in parallel. This is a good option in terms of SEO, but not the best solution for outdoor advertising. Let’s see how Vanity URLs can help in this case.

In addition to the main domain yardy.com, you will need to register branded URLs for each business line: YARDYlandscaping.com, YARDYlighting.com, YARDYpondsandpools.com, YARDYmasonry.com. Use a 301 redirect to link them to the corresponding site pages: http://www.yardy.com/landscaping/, http://www.yardy.com/gardenlighting/, etc. You will get cute site names that will direct all traffic to the source pages, thereby increasing the credibility of the site. The budget for promotion will be spent as efficiently as possible. Here is a related article: 301 vs 302 redirects.

Outdoor Advertising and Analog Media

For potential customers to find out about your website, they do not need to be online. Having your fleet of wrap ads can be an important part of your marketing strategy. The same applies to banners, city lights, and other outdoor advertising. Bright design and memorable slogans attract attention, but for potential customers to learn more about your business and make an order, they need to be brought to the site.

The site address must be easy to read, memorable, and should at least partially describe the promoted service. A vanity URL fully meets these requirements. The site name YARDYlighting.com will work better than yardy.com/landscaping. Any information after a slash is perceived as white noise. The attention becomes unfocused and the chances that customers will remember even the domain become lower.

Television, radio, and the press still have their vast audiences. The potential of traditional media should not be underestimated. It is one thing to reprint a URL from an ad in a newspaper or magazine. Future customers should be able to easily google custom URL if they accidentally hear a mention of the business on the radio or TV. Therefore, the site name should be easy to pronounce and well perceived by the ear. 

Short branded URLs are a win-win solution if you need to put site information on printed products with limited space. They would look great on business cards, flyers, or souvenirs, such as t-shirts, mugs, key-rings, tote bags.

Opening New Franchise Products

If you open a representative office in another city or start a franchise business, it is not necessary to create a new website. Promotion takes a lot of time and money, and you want to get the result in the form of an influx of customers as soon as possible. Thanks to short URLs, you can use the authority of the main site to promote a new project. 

It is enough to create a subdirectory on the site with information about branches in each new city and link it via 301 redirects to the local URL. For example, YARDYlightingOregon.com. Here, you can launch an SEO strategy for local promotion- using the appropriate keys and internal links. At the same time, you use the positions in SERP, the accumulated link weight, and other advantages of the base site. Read more in the article: Local SEO Checklist 2020.

Increase Your Social Media Presence

One of the pioneers of converting short links was Google+. Back in 2012, this option was available to owners of large businesses and users with verified accounts. Hugo Boss, Toyota, Delta Airlines, and public figures, such as David Beckham, Hugh Jackman, and Britney Spears were the first to appreciate the advantages of short links. 

Today, unique account names are available on almost all social platforms. They can be used not only by business representatives and celebrities but also by ordinary users. A custom username makes your account more personalized and allows you to conveniently share it with colleagues and friends. For example, the LinkedIn vanity URL looks equally appropriate online and in the printed version of a resume. 

Today, many social networks automatically bring links to a single format. Thanks to the built-in converter, you do not need to put in extra effort to share a short URL in a post. Twitter brings links to a single format http://t.co and also responds well to author-branded links. Platforms often use integrated abbreviations to make users more willing to share content. For example, a Twitter ID can be used as an IMDb vanity URL.

The difference between the links https://www.facebook.com/pages/Yardy/547823567571286 and https://www.facebook.com/yardydesign is obvious. Facebook vanity URLs allow users to identify a brand faster. A personal link looks more authoritative, is perceived by the audience more loyally, and is conducive to content sharing. The Facebook page vanity URL should match the title of your business account, it will be easier for users to find you. Short informative links also look good on your Instagram profile.

Instagram

It is also convenient to use short author URLs in messengers. For example, the Discord video conferencing platform provides this option when enabling an affiliate program. The Discord vanity URL can consist of any combination of words, phrases, or numbers, which allows you to configure the server per the general style of the community. Anyone who has a corresponding link can connect to it. 

Each platform has its custom URL policy. If Facebook requires only 25 subscribers for a business page, then YouTube vanity URL requires at least 100 subscribers, a 30 day age of channel, and a full set of identifying elements, such as a channel icon and art. 

A great way to increase business visibility is to install your link converter on your site. Every time users click on the “Share in social networks” button, it generates a vanity link with a mention of your brand.

The SEO-benefits of Google Custom URL

Avoid SEO Self-Cannibalization for Multiple Keywords Site

The larger the site, the more difficult it is to make sure that keywords are not repeated on pages with different levels of nesting. We are not talking about duplicates- each page can have high-quality unique content, but the repetition of keywords in titles, subheading, and anchor texts. The more similar words or phrases are used on different pages, the more competition there is between them. Your site will have to fight for the SERP rating not only with other niche projects but also with itself.

It is better to devote the main page to a description of the main service sector. To learn more about other business areas, you should create a sub-page for each of them. This will allow you to focus on theme keys and avoid competing with your site when ranking. 

The pages http://www.yardy.com/gardenlighting/ and http://www.yardy.com/pondsandpools/  look transparent to crawlers. Their URLs are logically structured, contain key queries, and convey the context well. But they are still not good enough for users to type them into the address bar from memory or want to share them in social media. You need to come up with a unique URL that will appeal more to potential customers. 

Let’s try to get rid of the first-level domains. Classic TLD “.com” or “.net” seem monotonous and do not carry useful information for customers. They can be safely discarded. The Yardy.Lighting address looks more solid, and Yardy.Ponds/WaterGardens looks more representative.

Harnessing the Potential of TLDs

Companies with offices in different countries often use several kinds of first-level domains— .co.uk for the UK, .ca for Canada, oz.au for Australia. In addition to the obvious advantages of geo-targeting and some regional formalities, there is no special need to serve multiple TLDs simultaneously. This requires a lot of money to buy domain names, maintain multiple URLs, promote and create unique content for each version, Vanity URLs also solve this problem.

Reducing the Number of Broken Links

Long links with many parameters are not convenient to copy — some of the URL values might get lost, and then the link simply will not work. If there are technical errors on the site, you will not be able to solve them with short links. But they significantly reduce the influence of the human factor.

How to Create a Vanity URL

Automatic Short Link Generators

March 30, 2019, ended the history of one of the most popular services for shortening links, Google URL Shortener  (goo.gl). However, there are plenty of alternatives, from free shorteners that generate a link in one click, to multi-functional services with fine-tuning and a smart analytics system.

Free services for creating short links are convenient if you plan to make a post on social networks or send a funny article to a friend. For more serious purposes, advertising on TV or magazines, printing banners, business cards, or an expanded online campaign, their functionality will not be enough. According to research, branded links increase CTR by 39% compared to short noname-links (bit.ly, goo.gl, ow.ly). Read the article on this topic Why Is Click-Through-Rate Important? To  create a vanity URL with your brand name at the beginning of the link, use one of the paid services:

  • TinyURL

It is one of the first services for shortening links. It was in collaboration with TinyURL that Twitter began to reduce links to a compact format (over time, the company switched to Bitly and then developed its system t.co). The basic service provides links of the following type https://tinyurl.com/y8kdu84t, and also provides the ability to modify the address in the “Custom alias” field. The TinyURL button can be embedded in a browser or JavaScript platform to create short links in one click.

Tiny URL

  • is.gd

Depending on the selected settings, it converts the same link to formats of different readability, for example, https://is.gd/bQBB4B https://is.gd/sudawo. If you want, you can also generate a QR code for the link and track traffic statistics for the day, week, or since it was created.

Is Gd

  • bit.do

The free version leads links to the form http://bit.do/YARDYlandscaping. In the paid version ($85-$250/month), you can set a unique branded TLD address of your choice (.to / .me / .us / .do / .in). There are also options for editing links, grouping them, notifications about clicks, tracking statistics by date, the number of clicks, country, IP, and so on.

Bit Do

  • Bitly

It is a free automatic link shortening service with convenient functionality, short links are created in just one click. They can be cataloged by tags, date, and performance. The paid version ($29-$199/month) allows you to create branded links, maintain a custom domain, and manage large-scale campaigns.

App Bitly

  • Lnnkin

You will need to register before using the service. It is available in both free and paid versions ($10-$300/month) with available domains lnnk.in and lnnkin.co. The number of tracked links, time to save click statics, and the number of custom domains depend on the selected package. For convenience, you can install an extension for Google Chrome.

Lnnkin

  • Rebrandly

After registering via a Google account or Facebook, you can generate a short link based on a template rebrand.ly/z82svxu, SEO-friendly URL with words or a custom address. To do this, you need to register a unique domain:

Rebrandly

The service provides the ability to work with companies in a team, the option to export links, and detailed analytics with the number of clicks, geography, device types, and languages.

  • MedEd Manager

You need to create a MedEd Manager account, go to the Marketing Settings menu, and select Vanity URLs. The form itself is intuitive: just come up with a shortened branded URL and add the original address to which the redirect will be made. You can track the effectiveness of the new address in Google Analytics.

MedEd Manager

How‌ ‌Do‌ ‌I ‌Create‌ ‌a‌ ‌Vanity‌ ‌URL ‌in‌ ‌WordPress‌

The WordPress General Settings provides a basic set for working with URLs. Here you can set the site’s title, description, and change its address. The main task when creating vanity URLs is to implement 301 redirects. You can do this manually via the .htacces hosting management or use special plugins. The choice here is quite wide, so it is worth focusing on specific tasks. One of the simplest options is provided by the plugin Redirection, just fill in the two fields Source URL and Target URL. The plugin Custom Permalinks allows you to change the address of posts, pages, tags, and categories. The WP Custom Author URL was created specifically for exporting posts to Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social networks.

WP Custom Author URL

Getting URLs Using Google’s Webmaster Tool

The new version of the Google Sites allows users to register a branded address at their discretion. To do this, you must confirm ownership of the URL on the verification page, create a CNAME record on the domain registrar’s website (Google Domains, Go Daddy, InMotion), and specify the subdomain name. The final step is to enter an address ghs.googlehosted.com for redirects on the Google platform. 

From Google’s point of view, a subdomain has less authority than the domains they belong to. Subfolders inherit domain permissions, so using them is often a more practical solution.

Vanity URLs Best Practices: The Dos and Don’ts

Branded URLs should fit into the overall SEO strategy. You do not need to invent them just because short addresses look more attractive or something similar is used by competitors. Any action must be meaningful and bring benefits to the site. 

  1. The URL should be easy to pronounce and remember. Users often forget small details; avoid numbers, dashes, and hyphens.
  2. Place semantic accents. Use capital letters or CAPS to highlight words. The branded URL must be readable even at a glance.
  3. The URL must be transparent. The user must understand where they will be redirected, the short link must be relevant to the content of the page.

When It is Best not to Shorten Links

  1. If initially, you have a cool URL. A short, memorable address with a registered trademark does not need improvement. The main goal of Vanity URL is to increase brand awareness and memorability. If your original address completely solves these problems, it is better to leave everything as it is. 
  2. On a mailing list. Most email services find it difficult to track the destination of abbreviated links. They need to protect users and preserve their reputation; no one will like it if there is a file with a virus or irrelevant information on the other end. To be safe, emails with redirects are often sent to spam. If you plan to attach a link to your email, fill it in its original form, without redirects or abbreviations. 
  3. For important sections of the site and navigation objects. Third-party link shortening services have their pitfalls; if the platform ceases to exist, the links generated through it will stop working. Even if you created the vanity URL redirect manually, you should not rely on it in the long run. At some point, you could abandon this venture, and the site functionality will have problems.

It is important to note that the custom URL always works on the 301 redirect principle. All “link juice” is passed to the target URL. Since the created domain does not contain any content, it is not a priority for Google for ranking, there will be no conflict with the promotion of the main domain or the reduction of PageRank. Vanity URLs are SEO- and user-friendly.

If you focus on offline business promotion, ranking the short version of the URL in Google becomes important. When potential customers want to know more about you, they are often searching for URLs rather than using the address bar. Share links on social media more often and use them for internal linking; they will end up in the index one way or another. To simultaneously add a large number of links for a marketing campaign, you can index them in Google’s webmaster tool, or create a separate page with a full list and index it specifically.

Author

Anna Henderson Anna Henderson

Anna has been working in Digital Marketing for 9 years and has extensive experience in SEO, content marketing, customer-oriented product branding. Previously, a commissioning editor in Nighparty Project and a creative member of the Marketing Unilever team in Europe.

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