We all know how important branding is when it comes to your business. It’s your business’s face, and it can make you memorable to customers, potential customers, and set you apart from your competition.
As such, you brand everything to do with your business, your domain name, your merch, your podcast, your blog, your swag. But you might be missing out on one critical branding opportunity, a vanity URL.
Vanity URLs are sometimes called branded links or custom short URLs. You can use your vanity URL in several locations, both online and off-line.
Using one in your off-line materials is especially beneficial because it helps you track your site’s visitors.
Using a vanity URL for your emails to your mailing list makes them less likely to be sent to a recipient’s spam file, and when used across social media platforms, these kinds of links encourage click-throughs.
You can even use them in the comments section on a social media post or online article, a great way to boost engagement and answer questions posed in the material.
It all sounds a bit like SEO sorcery, so surely, it must be challenging to create yours. Nope! You can easily do it yourself in a few minutes.
We’ve only scratched the surface of this intro.
Here are nine fantastic reasons to use a vanity URL. Let’s take a more in-depth look at how you can use one.
What Is a Vanity URL?
A vanity URL is a custom web address that helps users find (and remember) a specific page on a website. Each time you share a link on your social media pages, your LinkedIn page, a press release, or anywhere else, you can get your brand out there.
Vanity URLs should be easy for people to remember and share.
Using a vanity URL is the natural next step to a short one. A URL shortener turns long hieroglyphic-looking links into ones that are easily shareable.
Here is an example of an unshortened, non-vanity link:
And here it is after being spruced up to suit our needs.
Lasso lets you add a custom shortcode to your content in the WordPress editor.
Shortened URLs vs. Vanity URLs vs. Cloaked URLs
Are these terms just different ways of saying the same thing?
- A shortened URL is just a URL that has been made shorter than the original, but it will still direct to the requested page. A shortened URL can be a vanity URL, but not every shortened URL is a vanity URL.
- A cloaked URL is a URL that hides the actual domain name of a site from the URL field in a web browser in favor of a different name.
Lasso can cloak links to make them look like a URL from your site. Or not. Some affiliate programs, Amazon’s included, forbid cloaked links.
Lasso gives you the option of not linking to the cloaked version of a URL so you don’t violate the TOS of any program that doesn’t allow them.
Vanity URL Examples
Even though you’ve probably never noticed them before, once you know what to look for, you’ll never fail to spot a vanity URL again. Here are some examples:
The current Guardian vanity URL on Instagram takes you to its Linktr.ee page. Linktr.ee is a tool to optimize Instagram traffic. A single bio link can house all the content the company wants to send its followers.
The current Uniqlo vanity URL on Instagram takes you to the webpage for the clothing store’s collaboration between singer Billie Eilish and Japanese contemporary artist Takashi Murakami.
Whatever your blog or podcast is about, you’re likely facing a ton of competition. As a little experiment, I thought up an obscure blog topic; “blogs about spider plants.” Pretty vague, right?
Well, I guess not because my search came back with 31,600,000 results! A vanity URL can help set you apart from your competitors.
Let’s see what it can do for you.
1. Better SEO Results
Like it or not, we live and die by SEO. Getting it right is a crucial factor in the success of your online endeavor.
When you include a keyword in the URL slug of your links, it boosts your SEO, and your brand will be linked to the keyword because a search engine like Google searches through URLs looking for keywords.
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2. More Memorable
As we saw in the example above, unshortened links are clunky and ugly to look at, that’s why using a URL shortener is essential.
A short URL is cleaner but still difficult to remember. That’s when vanity plays a role.
Vanity URL+short URL=clean and memorable.
3. Looks Less Suspicious
We all know one of the dangers of the internet is clicking the wrong link.
Randomly clicking links or going to unknown websites on your computer, phone, or even Smart TV can put you at risk of covertly downloaded software intended to damage or disable your devices.
Which one looks more dangerous to you? Using a shortened, vanity URL makes your branded links look more trustworthy, which means people will be more willing to click on them.
4. Easier To Share
You can be a genius at digital marketing, but the cheapest (free) and the best marketing is word of mouth, let your readers, listeners, and customers do the work for you.
People are 90% more likely to trust and buy from a brand recommended by a friend.
Because vanity URLs contain words rather than a random string of numbers, people can share them through literal word of mouth.
5. Better Fit for Print
I love swag. When I go to a conference, I bring a tote bag to haul away everything I can.
And it’s not just me; people love free shit! Keychains, water bottles, coffee mugs, pens, earbuds, you name it. No matter how small your swag, your web address, and any vanity URLs you want to include will fit.
6. Shows You’re a Serious Professional
Not everyone uses vanity URLs or know what they are, including the general public. But enough companies are using them that people recognize them (even if they don’t know what they’re called).
If you aren’t using one, it makes your brand look sloppy and unprofessional.
7. Get It While You Can
Anyone can buy a vanity URL just as anyone can buy a domain name. Remember when you came up with your super cool vanity domain and found out someone else already owned it?
The same thing can happen with your dream vanity URLs. Even if you don’t have immediate plans to use a specific URL, if it’s an obvious future choice, act now before someone else does.
8. Monitor Traffic
If you’re spending money to run ads, you want to get the most bang for your buck. If you’re running ads on more than one site, you want to know which one is driving the most traffic to your webpage.
Lasso creates trackable vanity URLs, so you know precisely where to spend your marketing dollars. You can use one link on one platform and a different one on another to measure performance.
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9. Stay on Brand
Consistency is essential for growing your brand. Using a vanity URL helps maintain it across various platforms.
How to Choose a Vanity URL
Great, we convinced you! You want to start using vanity URLs right away. He’s what you need to know.
The shorter, the better. The longer you make it, the harder it is to remember and type into a search query. Now isn’t the time to flaunt your knowledge of obscure words.
Avoid using slashes and dashes if possible. Domains that contain them are harder to remember.
Capitalize each to distinguish one from the other. Which is easier to read, candicemelliott.com or CandiceMElliott.com?
How to Create a Vanity URL
The process of creating your vanity URL is simple.
- Choose your hosting service. You can DIY this whole thing, but it’s faster to use a service like Bitly.
- Create a vanity URL. Keep it short and sweet, no more than ten characters, and it should look similar to your domain name.
- Buy it. And hope no one got there first. Ideally, you’ll buy from the same host you use for your website.
- Shorten the URL. If you use Bitly for short links, you can go to the advanced option under your account and choose the “custom short domain” option. It’s where you enter the vanity URL. Most other sites work the same.
- Find your DNS settings. This page explains how, if you’re still having trouble, you can contact the domain registrar.
- Choose the domain. Go to Bit.ly or whatever service you use and select the newly shortened version.
How to Use Vanity URLs
You’ve gotten this far, so let’s not screw this up. Partner wisely. Pair your vanity URL with your SEO strategy. The two together can be very powerful.
Don’t overdo it. Yes, vanity URLs can help your site grow, but don’t toss them around like Mardi Gras beads. Use them where they’ll have an impact.
If you have a link already performing well, you don’t need to replace it with a vanity URL.
Be clear. Let people know where your link is taking them by making it obvious. If it has the name of your site followed by “free money,” and it takes them to your merch page, people will be pissed (and not trust you).
Vanity, Thy Name is URLs
There are a million things you could be doing right now to improve the traffic to your site, and some might work. But many are very time consuming, and you’re already busy running your website and possibly still working your regular job. You have to focus on what you can efficiently do that gets real results.
One way to achieve this is to use a vanity URL.
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