A vanity url is a memorable url that will redirect to the page where you actually want to send people.
They are easy (and inexpensive) to set-up, and can help your user easily find your brand’s important content and sub-campaigns.
In this episode of Step Up Your Social, we delve into what they are, how to set them up, when you should use them and more.
We also cover Bit.ly links and talk about when those can and should be used in lieu of vanity urls.
If you aren’t using both of these tools in your digital toolkit, you’re making things harder than they need to be for your audience.
Tune in today and learn more.
Listen to the full episode here or wherever you stream podcasts. And scroll down for a full episode transcript.
FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT
The other day I was watching Hulu and I saw an ad pushing treatment for men suffering from a quote Bent Carrot.
If that sounds a bit phallic… well, yeah, that’s the idea.
I tend to tune out most — if not all — medical ads, but this one got my attention. I mean, they took a sensitive issue and made it, if not funny, at least memorable.
But what really got my attention was their url: bent carrot dot com.
I mean, that is just an epic url for a company in the business of mending, ummm, bent carrots.
Here’s the thing though – there’s no website at that link. Bent carrot dot com is not a website – it’s a vanity url.
What’s a vanity url? Think vanity license plates, but for landing pages.
It’s a memorable url that will redirect to the page where you actually want to send people. It can serve a similar purpose as a QR code, but with one memorable exception from this past Super Bowl, most people aren’t gonna capture a QR code from a commercial. Just like having a great 1-800 number used to be the industry standard for anyone who wanted you to remember their phone number, vanity urls are a great way to help ensure people remember your website.
If you go to bent carrot dot com, it simply redirects you to peyronies dash disease dot xiaflex dot com slash patient. Think anyone’s gonna remember that url? Of course not. But bent carrot dot com – yeah that one will stick with you.
Even though you probably wish it wouldn’t.
I was once working with a client on her digital program. Throughout the course of the engagement, it came out that she had a second website. There are certainly times where that can make sense. But I asked a few questions and I got a bit queasy on her behalf. This client had paid for an entire website, developed copy, worked up graphics… all the work that went into a website — when all she really wanted was a landing page for a vanity url she had bought.
She wasn’t a musician – but to keep it simple let’s pretend she was. She already had her band’s website. She had a new album out and she — smartly! — bought the url matching her album’s name. But to use it, she thought she needed to build a whole new website.
Why is this bad? For so many reasons! The first is that she invested a ton of time and money into a new site. But she also made her users’ journey more complicated. If I like a band, I want all info about the band, INCLUDING THEIR ALBUMS, on a single site. Not spread out over a bunch of sites. AND by doing what she did, she actually hurt her SEO (or search engine optimization). Because her two websites are now competing with each other on Google for the same keywords.
What should she have done instead? She should have simply built a landing page on her primary site and redirected her vanity url to it.
Want an example of that? Head to stepupyoursocial.com. I mention that url in every episode of this podcast. But here’s the thing – that website doesn’t actually exist! It’s just a landing page on my primary website.
It was easy to build (well, easier), it helps with my SEO, instead of hurting it, and it keeps my users’ journey clean and simple. After all, you can easily jump from my podcast page right to my blog. Or to my services or about page. You can learn all about who I am and what I do without ever leaving my site.
So was this hard to do? Was it expensive? Good news: it doesn’t cost anything (beyond the cost of the url) and it takes about 60 seconds to set up.
Go to wherever you buy your urls – I personally use NameCheap. But there are loads of alternatives, including Google Domains, domain.com, buydomains.com, GoDaddy. Lots of options. Once you own the url, simply go into the backend and redirect it to wherever you want it to go. I can’t give you step by step instructions because every platform is going to be a little bit different. But Google “redirect url [insert name of where you bought your domain]” and you’ll find step by step instructions just waiting for you. Follow those instructions and you should have this done in less time that it took watch that hilarious TikTok video you were just checking out.
The hosting companies say it can take up to 30 minutes or so to take effect. I find it typically works within minutes. But just wanted to flag it might not work immediately.
So that’s what vanity urls are. When should you use them? Anytime you want to have a memorable url for a sub-component of your brand that’s easy to remember.
That might be bent carrot dot com. Or stepupyoursocial.com. Or the name of your band’s album. Or a program or campaign your organization is running. Or a video series you have created. Anything you want to be abl e to easily send people to without all those slashes and dashes after your primary url.
The cost of a non-premium url is going to be about $10 a year give or take. (A premium url – like social media master dot com for example – could run tens of thousands of dollars.)
While I’m personally partial to vanity urls, I also want to share a totally free workaround for you.
Bitly is a free link shortening tool.
You can take any url and drop it into bitly and it will give you a short url that will redirect to your landing page of choice. This could be a page on your site. Or an article you think is important. Or a YouTube video you love.
I use a bunch of vanity urls for my brand. But I also regularly use bitly links.
Want my free Facebook live checklist? Head to bit.ly/facebooklivechecklist and download it today. Want to find a blog post I wrote, rounding up stock photo sites that focus on diversity? Head to bit.ly/diverse-photos
And I’m not the only one.
Want to watch Madonna’s Frozen Remix video on YouTube? Head to bit.ly/frozenremixvideo.
Want to do a paid internship, spending your time diving off the West coast of Vancouver Island? Head to bit.ly/DiveIntern.
I think you get the idea.
Not every product needs a vanity url. For everything else, bitly links can be great substitutes.
But big important caveat: don’t just create a bitly link. Customize it. Meaning switch it from the random letters and numbers they’ll assign you with something easy to remember, like FacebookLiveChecklist or FrozenRemixVideo.
Doing so is free, quick and easy. If you’re not customizing your bitly links, you might as well be sending them to peyronies dash disease dot xiaflex dot com slash patient.
And no one wants that.
So get out there and set up your redirects.
And if this episode was helpful to you, do me a favor and send a few folks to stepupyoursocial.com. They’ll be redirected to a landing page on my site – it’ll be exactly what they were looking for!