August 12, 2018 By Cecile Amalfi, Agency Marketing Intern

Nowadays, digital marketing experts use links in all their promotional content, whether it’s on social media to share a blog post, in a newsletter or even on their website, links are powerful tools. If you want a customer to click on your content, instead of your competitor’s a custom vanity URL might give you the edge you need!

So, what are vanity urls?

A vanity url is a unique web address that has been shorted, branded and made easy to pronounce and remember. In other words, a vanity URL is a custom URL that is explicit (it allows the person to know where the link will lead them) and convenient due to their shorter length, making them very useful on platforms like Twitter where the number of character is limited to 140 characters.

It’s likely you have seen shortened links on social media before but they are not to be confused with custom vanity URL that will include the name of the company, brand, or product name. Here’s an example of a shortened URL we posted on Facebook using the shortener Bitly:



Bitly Example

In comparison here’s an example of a vanity URL used by The New York Times in one of their tweets. You can see that the link is branded with their name acronym “nyti”, this is how you differentiate a normal shorten URL to a custom vanity URL.



New York Times Vanity URLImage via @nytimes twitter

How URL Shorteners and Vanity URLs Work

Once again, a URL shortener is a service that takes your long URL and turns it into something shorter. This helps to make the link look clearer to users and takes up less space (more on the benefits later). There are three different ways to look at and use shorteners:

  • Social network shorteners

    Some social networks will shorten a link automatically. No work needed for the website or user. This will only happen if someone posts a link directly to Twitter or another social sharing network (not through a sharing button), so it isn’t seen too often. Nonetheless, it’s still a possibility. For Twitter, this shortener is t.co. You can read more on it directly on Twitter Help Center.

  • Create a URL shortener

    There are a few free URL shorteners out there that you can use, some of the most popular you might have seen used on social media are Buffer (buff.ly), bit.ly, Google (goo.gl), and Hootsuite (ow.ly). The advantage of using those URL generators, other than shortening links, are the analytics that go with it. Both Buffer and Google offer great insights into how many people clicked on your links and when.

  • Create a vanity URL shortener As mentioned in The New York Times example above, vanity URLs are very specific to the company that uses it. Anytime one of their links is shared on Twitter or elsewhere, it will automatically shorten and be branded to their name “nyti”. This often happens when someone clicks a social sharing button. Below is another example to illustrate how vanity URL work. In this tweet, we linked to Kickstarter’s website and the link automatically shortened to their branded title “kck”.



Vanity URL example

Are vanity URL’s only used for Twitter?
Twitter’s 140-character limit makes it a network where you’re going to see shorteners the most. However, other social networks will also use URL shorteners or allow you to manually use a shortened URL. Aside from sharing links on social networks, you don’t have too many more opportunities to use shorteners. You can manually use them in an article through one of the tools like Hootsuite or Buffer, but this isn’t nearly as common.

What are the benefits of creating your own vanity URL

  • Custom URLs look professional.
  • You have consistent branding no matter where your content is shared.
  • It creates what many call “link trust,” which means readers will feel more confident sharing your content.
  • They help you stand out on and make you more memorable social networks.
  • Vanity URL shorteners also give you data and analytics (more on this later).
  • If you’re hosting your own shortener, you’re not passing link juice to any third party.

A step-by-step guide to creating your own vanity URL

  1. Choose a hosting service. It is possible to host your own custom shortened URL, but this is by far the more complicated and less popular option. Most choose a service to host the custom URL for them. Bit.ly is the most popular, which you can sign up for here.
  2. Choose the actual vanity URL. Of course, your first step is actually choosing a vanity URL. The rule of thumb is to keep it fewer than 8-10 characters and keep it looking similar to your regular domain name. Domai.nr is a good place to go for ideas.
  3. Buy the vanity URL. There is no free option here; you have to buy it using any domain registration site such as iPage or GoDaddy. I recommend buying it from the same place your website is hosted.
  4. Setup the shortener. If you’re using Bit.ly, you can visit your “account settings” tab and then go to “advanced.” You’ll see an option for “custom short domain” where you can type in the vanity URL you just bought. Other services are similar.
  5. Find your DNS settings page. This is a crucial step in order to verify your new shortener. You need to find your Domain Name System (DSN) page and look for the domain’s “A record.” This point is a few steps long, so visit this article to follow along or simply ask your domain registrar for help.
  6. Choose your domain. Visit Bit.ly or whichever service you chose to use and select this new shortened domain to let the service know that is what you want to use.
Free URL shorteners you might want to consider to save the big bucks
If you don’t want to commit to creating your own vanity URL yet you might want to consider some of the free URL shorteners that also offer the feature of personalizing your links.

The next part of the journey will be to collect and interpret the information you will gather thanks to your vanity links analytics. This final step is very important as it will allow you to keep revising and optimizing your strategy until you reach your conversion goals. If you are ready to build or optimize your strategy to boost your conversion rate get in touch. Digital Operative is a full-service digital marketing agency with offices in San Diego, Denver, New York, London, and Tokyo.

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