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BLOG - How vain are you?

18 Aug 2015

Vanity URLs are a marketing blind spot and it's time marketers woke up to their importance, argues Katherine Slavin, senior client services manager, RadiumOne.

You wouldn't share a TV commercial, online video, press ad, email notification or external press release without your brand name being all over it. So why on earth, in the digital age of mass sharing, would you leave your brand name out of the URL when you allow content to be shared from your social media channels?

The vanity URL is an online ‘blind spot’ that goes unharnessed millions of times every day. It’s unforgiveable, particularly considering it’s really easy to do and reinforces your online brand identity on any owned and earned content.

What are Vanity URLs?

Vanity URLs are a unique short form of custom URL, branded for marketing purposes, which help users associate shortened sharing links to a brand. The most effective vanity URLs are easy to remember and to share.

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For example, two of the brands we work with have embraced this. Paddy Power uses URLs that start pdy.pr, while Universal Music Group artists Emily Sande and Ellie Goulding use emelisan.de and ell.li.

Why are they useful?
Below are five key reasons why every marketer should be using vanity URLs for content distribution.


1. Builds trust and awareness


Adding a vanity URL allows your brand to build both trust and awareness. It seems obvious, but consumers are more likely to click on a brand name link they see online than an amorphous mass of gobbledygook found in almost all URL shorteners. For example, which of these two links are you more likely to click on: pdy.pr/SpainTrainT or bit.ly/1JqzYwM?

Normal shortened URLs create confusion in the mind of the user. Can you really trust a garbled mess of letters to lead you where you say it will go? Establishing trust on the internet is hard enough so it pays to get it right the first time, every time.

2. Improves social activity tracking


Brands use URL shorteners – such as bit.ly, tiny.url or Po.st – to track the content they post across their social channels to gain insights on the demographics and sharing habits of users.

The more these are clicked on, the more insights one gleans, obviously. This is where vanity URLs really come into their own. They’re 40% more likely to be clicked on than a normal shortened URL so that’s 40% more audience and 40% more insight.

3. Makes it easier to share


Using a shortened version of a brand name rather than random letters and numbers means it’s easier to remember and, consequently, share – particularly verbally.

Just a small cosmetic change like this can have a huge impact on your marketing efforts.

RadiumOne’s own Vanity URL sees 50% more shared traffic on average than a normal shortened URL.

4. Enhances Offline Sharing


We all know there are lots of offline ways people find websites and online social channels online. As they look better and are easier to remember, vanity URLs are much better at encouraging activity online as a result of offline media and promotional materials.

For example, Paddy Power added vanity URLs to TV and outdoor ads offering discounted bets, which encouraged more people to visit a specific online landing page.

5. Harnessing dark social

When brands post links to their own Facebook timeline or Twitter feed, all links are associated clearly with the brand, regardless of how the link looks. However, if people copy and paste those links to share through Dark Social – such as email or IM – the connection to the brand is lost.

As vanity URLs contain the brand and associated trust, it gives people more confidence to click on links in dark social – which now accounts for 77% of shared content.

So don’t be afraid to be vain. You probably think this article is about you – and you’d be right.

Katherine Slavin