When creating a site an often overlooked essential step is planning your site structure. Your site structure is all about how the pages on your site are connected but it can be difficult to know if you should use sub-domains, sub-directories or even use multiple domains.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about how your site should be structured and it’s a big factor in your SEO ranking so you need to get it right. Kissmetrics do a great job of explaining just why your site structure is so important and how you can go about creating a site structure that will help improve your SEO.
The challenge is that you want to choose a domain name and website structure that helps your SEO ranking but you also want a simple, easy to share domain name that fits your brand. This is where Vanity URLs can help. Today I want to show you how you can optimize your website structure for both search engines and human beings.
Website structure basics
Before we get into how Vanity URLs come into the SEO equation let’s cover some of the basics of website structure. There are lots of different ways a website can be structured but a straightforward structure looks something like this:
There’s the main homepage that branches into subpages and these can branch into even further pages.
One of the challenges you’ll face when structuring your site is that it’s likely many of your pages will mention the same keyword or phrase. This means these pages are in competition with each other to rank in Google and your website is in competition with itself. As intelligent as Google is it can’t read minds (yet!) so it can be unsure which page you want to rank for a keyword or phrase.
Let’s take the example of a marketing agency that has a main homepage and subpages for each service that they offer. Their main service offering that brings in the most income is web design. But they also offer other services like market research, event management and social media management.
Following SEO best practices for their website structure, they create a homepage on www.FireAgency.com and use sub-pages for their different service offerings. Ideally, they would like their homepage to appear whenever someone searches for any of “web design”, “event management” or “SEO optimization” management but this isn’t so easy in practice.
Instead, they focus their homepage on the keyword “web design” since this is their main revenue stream and they create subpages for their event management and social media management services.
It’s important that they don’t have pages competing with each other to rank for keywords so they don’t create a subpage for web design services.
They now have a website structure that looks loosely like the image below:
This site is now structured in a way that will help them to rank organically using different sub-pages targeting different keywords. While these pages look good for search engines they’re not so great for sharing with humans whether it’s online with an awkward UTM added to the end or offline where people have no hope of remembering and typing them in.
Enter the hero of our story, Vanity URLs.
How vanity URLs can help with your SEO
Vanity URLs are appealing looking links that redirect that use your brand name and redirect to a less appealing link using a 301 redirect. For example, if our fictitious agency, Fire, wanted to share a link to their event management page that included UTM parameters so they could track the traffic from this like it would look something like:
But instead we can create a short clean vanity URL with the UTM parameters hidden that looks like:
The top-level-domain (TLD) from the original link which is most commonly .com or .net is replaced in our vanity URL by .agency which is one of the new gTLDs. This TLD is relevant to their industry and looks neat and tidy. You can choose this as well as a ton of other TLDs starting from $2.00 on Rebrandly.
It also gives us the ability to associate our link with different keywords and we can even create a number of links that lead to the same destination which can be used for different purposes.
There’s a common misconception that redirecting a link in this way can hurt your SEO. Vanity URLs are simply used for sharing a clean, tidy and branded link that brings visitors to a less appealing URL. They’re not cataloged by Google in the first place and are not intended to rank organically so there is no issue with using a vanity URL.
The main difference between these two links is that our vanity URL can be easily shared because it is pronounceable and memorable. This is how vanity URLs help with your websites SEO. You don’t have to compromise on having a good site structure vs having an easy to share link, you can have both.
Fire marketing agency has a homepage on www.fireagency.com and now has two long subpages to deal with, www.fireagency.com/event-management and www.fireagency.com/SEO-Optimization.
They can use the domain Fire.Agency to create vanity URLs that link to their site. So they create a vanity URL ‘Fire.Agency/Events’ that directs people to their event management subpage and ‘Fire.Agency/SEO’ directs people to their SEO optimization subpage. They could even redirect Fire.Agency to their homepage if they wanted to.
This way they’re not compromising any SEO juice by keeping their links short and snappy but they can also easily share these links with people both online and offline in a way that looks good. (Sidenote, The Fire.Agency domain is currently available!)
Where to use your vanity URL
Now that Fire Agency has a clean vanity URL there are a number of places it can be used to make it easier for visitors to get to their site. Below are just some examples of how they could use their vanity URL.
Social Media: Some social media platforms automatically shorten your link using their own domain. Twitter, for example, shortens links to http://t.co. By using your vanity URL on these social media platforms you can keep your brand name prominent which helps provide clarity as to where this link is leading and increase trust. We’ve found that these factors help to increase click-through-rate by up to 39%.
Promotional Materials: It can be difficult to report the return of offline marketing materials like flyers, posters or even product packaging. By using a vanity URL on these marketing materials you can easily track how many visits on your site were a direct result of these materials.
You can also add UTM parameters to your links so you can track this performance in Google Analytics to consolidate all of your reporting.
SMS Messages: Text message marketing campaigns have increased in popularity recently.
By using a vanity URL in these campaigns you not only increase your brand exposure and create a generally tidier text message but can easily track the success of your campaign in driving traffic to your site.
Vanity URL and Website Structure Go Hand in Hand
So there you have it. How you can use Vanity URLs as part of your website structure to help boost your SEO. This will help you to keep your site appealing to both search engines and to human beings.
If you want to try this out for yourself there are tons of domains available starting from just $2.00 with Rebrandly.
- What Is A Vanity URL
- Branded Links Vs Short Links
- How to Deliver A Great Message Using Just Your Link
This Article Is About:
- Vanity URL SEO
- How Vanity URLs Can Help Your SEO
- Best SEO practices For Structuring Your Website
Originally posted: Oct 29, 2017
Reposted: Apr 3, 2020