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14 ways to use vanity URLs – as demonstrated by marketers

At Rebrandly, our goal is to get as many people as possible using vanity URLs to share their content. A vanity URL, aka custom short URL, aka branded link, makes for better branding and build trust with your audience. They also make social media, marketing emails and offline marketing materials that bit better for users, because they are visually pleasing, easy to remember and people know a brand wouldn’t associate its name with spam or phishing sites. If you’re using vanity URLs for your emails, your messages are less likely to end up in the spam folder of inboxes. While on your social media, they encourage click-throughs.

We’re not too hung up on which tool you’re using, we’re just happy to see more widespread adoption of vanity URLsst. Don’t believe us? Check out this article we posted on the best URLs shorteners to choose if Rebrandly isn’t right for you.

So if you haven’t already realized all the benefits of vanity URLs, don’t just take our word for it. We reached out to seasoned marketers from every industry, across various countries and specializing in different areas of digital marketing to see how and why they use vanity URLs. They shared some real-life use cases that will demonstrate exactly how vanity URLs can benefit you.

We asked them:

  • Why they decided to start using vanity URLs
  • If they like them and if they are having an impact
  • How they use them
  • And if they would recommend them to other marketers

Some of the marketers who responded use Rebrandly, some use our competitors’ tools. We got some interesting responses that even managed to inspire us here at Rebrandly.  Here’s what they had to say:

How marketers are using vanity URLs:

For your social media tracking and advertising

At the advertising agency, Brand Content, vanity URLs are used for all the company’s social posts and ads to create a consistent experience for users. They are also used to track users as they engage with ads on different platforms and channels.

“When advertising on social, it is critical to be able to track a user’s behavior from the moment he or she clicks on an ad, to when that user leaves the desired destination.

“Custom links come with the benefit of being able to track a user’s longevity on a page and the actions taken once they arrive. While social platforms provide an immense amount of data for their users, it is difficult to track their behavior after they have clicked on the ad. Custom links make this process seamless…

“Creating custom links is relatively simple. There are several programs that allow you to create a UTM and shortened link in one click. As ads on social platforms become more advanced, having a shortened link is less important… However, when creating an organic social post, it is still important to use a custom shortened link, so it doesn’t give off the appearance of being spam.”

-Lauren Mello, social media specialist at Brand Content

To boost conversions from social media

The team over at Strategic Growth Partner, The Golding Group, started using vanity URLs and link shortening services way back in 2012 to track a Twitter contest they were running for a client. They wanted to track every click and where they came from, but have been using them ever since.

“Having an impact? Yes, more clicks and better conversion on Twitter and Facebook, but a huge spike in conversions from Instagram. You cannot place inline links in an Instagram post, but easy to copy-and-paste links are much more successful. We see 10 to 20 times more response on Instagram with vanity URLs than a full-length URL.

“We use them almost always in social media posts, but also on platforms with less control of link displays like our podcast description text for iTunes and YouTube video post. The control of the appearance and text flow is a great reason to use, but the analytics (link tracking, sources, etc.) is the most valuable reason to use vanity URLs and shortened links.

“Without a doubt, every professional marketer should be taking advantage of a link vanity/shortening service for consistency in message presentation and the data collection capability.”

-Kyle Golding, CEO & Chief Strategic Idealist at The Golding Group

For Instagram

“I’ve been using Bitly for quite a while, with a branded URL for Twitter shares and such. I think having the brand there just really helps with a professional presentation of my site and brand, so its a worthwhile investment of time and resources.

“I think they help with the overall impression of my brand… I made the switch to Rebrandly because of the ability to customize the shortened URL itself without having to upgrade to Enterprise Bitly, which is waaaay outside of my budget. Now that I can build custom short links, I’m able to pull pieces from all across the web into a cohesive domain, with easy to remember URLs.

“It started out because I wanted to build a gorgeous landing page to link to in my Instagram profile. Because you only get one link, I wanted a landing page that featured several recent posts to help drive traffic. I was able to register the Lizz.blog domain and now use it with Rebrandly to build clean, identifiable links.

vanity-urls-instagram

“I’m just getting started, but already have links for my t-shirt shop, some of my most popular posts and anywhere I want to be able to drop a clean and memorable link.”

-Lizz Porter, blogger and marketers at More Than Thursdays

To build brand awareness

The team at Smarthouse Creative use vanity URLs to build brand recognition and awareness, while also saving a few characters in their social media posts.

“Custom short links are a great way to increase brand awareness, while also saving space in your social media posts. For instance, you can customize most (or all) of the shortened link by either editing it in the Bitly user interface, or creating a new, short domain that reflects your brand. In our case, we use smrths.com/xxxxx for the majority of our links.

Custom short links also make it easier to measure their impact, as Bitly (or Google or owl.ly, etc.) track clicks for each unique link which can be very useful when presenting results to clients. Based on our experience, we would recommend the use of short links to all digital marketers.”

-J. Brad Wilke, Co-founder at Smarthouse Creative

To make an impression

Digital content studio, Magnet Media, uses custom short links on both their own marketing and client campaigns with a focus on branding.

“The advantage is that you have another impression to express your brand or campaign message and, in my view, they are more professional than generic bit.ly links. I believe they are having an impact, though we haven’t run A/B tests against generic short links.

“We’ve used them for our own marketing – for the release of e-books or webinars, case studies, new service launches, partnerships, new hires – and for client work, like photo or video series premieres. They are incorporated into our social media posts, within any press announcements, and within our marketing and sales emails… In my view, it’s like submitting something on plain paper vs on letterhead – it’s just that one more level of polish that sets you apart.

-Megan Cunningham, CEO and Founder of Magnet Media

For promoting special campaigns

Over at G2 Crowd, the well-known B2B software review site, they use vanity URLs for both online and offline marketing.

“We use vanity URLs for special campaigns, like our best software list… It helps us promote on non-digital spaces such as billboards and print too.”

Vanity URL: g2crowd.com/best
Destination URL: https://www.g2crowd.com/best-software-companies

-Levi Olmstead, Community Manager at G2 Crowd

In Facebook comments and email

When reaching out to people on Facebook Boomer Benefits, a service helping people to understand Medicare, uses branded links to share their messages.

“I had been using bit.ly and read about Rebrandly in a blog post online. I love the idea of our brand name being reinforced in the links that we create. We signed up immediately and have found the links super easy to use…

“I love being able to see how many people click on these links. It helps us see what topics attract the most links so that we can create similar topics for future posts.

“We’ve been using them mostly for social media posts and also answers to comments on our Facebook pages. I often respond to readers with more information and a link back to a helpful post on our website that will help them with their question. Using a Rebrandly link for this is great.

vanity-urls-facebook-comments

“We have also begun to use them in our email marketing as well, where we often segment our audiences. Now when we segment we’ll have links with the actual word for the segment in the link. It’s genius.

“It may seem like a small thing but every time someone sees one of your links, that’s another touch with your brand name and it makes them more familiar with who you are as a company.”

-Danielle Kunkle Roberts, Vice President at Boomer Benefits

To be on-brand

Brent Turner has extensive experience using vanity URLs at brand experience agency, Cramer, as well as in a former role as chief digital officer at MIT.

“I’ve been big on vanity URLs since the early days of Twitter. The reasoning was simple: we wanted to be on brand and we wanted long links to be short.

“For my team at MIT, we set up a collection of vanities links – including mitsha.re and mitne.ws, both of which can still be seen in current use on MIT’s Twitter account.

“Here at Cramer… we use a sub-domain that keeps links short and showcases our primary domain name. On our Twitter account, you will see that we use go.cramer.com for all of our vanity links.”

-Brent Turner, SVP Marketing Strategy and Technology at Cramer.

For podcasts, radio, live events and handouts

Krishna De has been using branded short links for years now. When she saw big brands like Dell using them, she thought it was a great way to build brand visibility. She initially hosted her own short link tool. Then she started using Rebrandly because the app made it easy to create and share branded links. She also uses a WordPress plugin to create branded short links using her website’s main domain. She recommends vanity URLs to other marketing, media and communications professionals.

“I find the ability to create branded short links with understandable names using different domains helps keep projects defined. For example, I have a specific short link domain that I use for all topics relating to my weekly live streaming show. This makes it really easy to track. When using Rebrandly, I really like the fact I can easily set up UTM parameters and can even create multiple links for one destination should I need to do so.

“In addition, if you are presenting, speaking or teaching on radio, on a podcast, on a video or a live stream, it is really helpful for your audience if you customise your short link so that it is something they can easily understand – be that when you speak it out loud or add it to your handouts and workbooks… After an event, it is much easier for them to type it into their browser.

“For my weekly Facebook Live show, I create a curation of links and resources and use a branded short link to share that list in the live stream. I even add it to captions for the video when I share it to YouTube.

vanity-urls-video-example

“As video marketing is so important, you might want to encourage people to subscribe to your video channel… Creating a branded short link to direct people to subscribe makes it easy for me to remember the link and it is a much simpler link to share.”

-Krishna De, Digital marketing speaker and mentor at Krishna De’s Digital Marketing Insights

To promote a book on Amazon

Author Jeff Sass uses a vanity URL to drive traffic to his book’s Amazon page.

“The book’s URL on Amazon is: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1544219245/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8

“It’s not a URL I can easily share. Nor do I want you to have to go and search for the book on Amazon and risk having you distracted by other results. So, I registered www.ToxicAvenger.Marketing – an easy to remember URL that is relevant to the title and that links directly to the book’s page on Amazon. In all my marketing for the book, I use [this domain] and anyone who goes to that URL is literally one click away from buying the book.”

-Jeff Sass, CMO at .CLUB Domains and author of Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER

To rebrand affiliate links

The founder of personal finance website, MyMillennialGuide.com, uses vanity URLs to make his affiliate marketing links look more visually appealing.

“I always run my affiliate links on my blog, MyMillennialGuide.com, through cloaked URLs. I do this because affiliate links are usually ugly and almost impossible to remember… I can create short, memorable URLs for them and use them commonly in different posts with ease.

This is my affiliate link for Fiverr without changing it: http://www.mb103.com/lnk.asp?o=7701&c=89321&a=255261&l=10310

This is my affiliate link for Fiverr after changing it: https://www.mymillennialguide.com/fiverr

“It’s much easier on the eyes for the consumer. I use the free plugin Pretty Links on WordPress to do this. I would recommend this to other marketers and businesses as it’s really simple to set up and more efficient.”

-Brian Meiggs, Founder of MyMillennialGuide.com

In your offline marketing

The marketing manager at Ambrosia Treatment Centre in the US uses vanity URLs for tracking marketing campaigns, as well as SEO reasons.

“Our company name is hard to spell and we, sadly, don’t own the direct version, so vanity URLs are our best options to be memorable and accessible. Finding a good vanity URL is tough. There are a lot of domain squatters sitting on the best options. We didn’t want to mess with negotiating and transferring, so we kept trying combinations of words until we found something readily available on GoDaddy… It’s easier for consumers and it allows us to track, so it’s a win-win.

vanity-urls-tv-commercial-example

“Our TV commercial uses GetRehabNow.com to redirect with tracking code in the URL to our website… And HopeTracker.com is a whole toolset we’re developing that actually lives on AmbrosiaTC.com/HopeTracker

“Vanity URLs are the best option for any business with offline campaigns – TV, print, billboards, etc. It’s also ideal for SEO to have tools and microsites that will garner a lot of links or user-created content to live on your main domain instead of being separate.”

-Michelle Kubot, Marketing Manager for Ambrosia Treatment Center

Tracking in Google Analytics

The focus of custom short links at digital growth agency, National Positions, is the tracking and analytics it can provide.

“Custom short links are great not only for vanity purposes, but also for tracking. While Bitly links can be beautified and customized, Google URL builder is our go-to for short links. You can still shorten these links and use them in campaigns and then track your campaign in Google Analytics.

“For social media campaigns, they can help save space within a post and don’t look as daunting or overwhelming as a full URL.

“Customization-wise, with certain programs, you can tailor your link to match your campaign – social media, blogs, emails, etc. Beyond all of these points, using these shorter links can be great for social profiles where you need to reference “link is in my profile.” These shorter links can look far more appealing and are great for profiles where a limited number of characters can be used.”

-Matt Erickson, Marketing Director, National Positions

For your emails

At digital marketing agency, Sparq Designs, they use vanity URLs to send neat, on-brand short links via email to customers. This is particularly useful when non-html versions of emails are being viewed.

“We use vanity URLs to tie together a client’s direct mail campaigns with website conversions on store location pages. The store location URLs are usually too long for people to remember, so the pretty URL makes them much more accessible to average users.

“You can use services like bit.ly only to create shortened links, but we suggest using .htaccess files for these vanity URLs as you can use your own domain and add a permalink.

“Additional capabilities provided from building vanity URLs in .htaccess files is that you can create dynamic content on the page that is interchangeable from the original link. For example, the vanity URLs for our clients locations display the exact same location page as their longer URL, however, since they are tracking all of their marketing efforts, the phone number from the direct mail campaign is slightly different to the office number on the real location page.

vanity-urls-change-webpage
https://www.gorefreshdental.com/locations/refresh-dental-romulus/
vanity-urls-example-landing-pages
https://www.gorefreshdental.com/romulus/

“In my experience this is the best way to record all information. I do believe vanity URLs work and I would recommend them to other marketers – whether I think direct mail still works is a totally different story!”

-Adele Stewart, Senior Project Manager and Digital Marketing Professional at Sparq Designs

 

It’s clear that vanity URLs are more than just a pretty face. To recap briefly, they can be used for everything from social media and branding, to email marketing and link tracking. If you’re a marketer, but you haven’t started using them yet – now’s the time to get on board.

If you’re interested in trying out Rebrandly as a solution to your vanity URL needs, get in touch through the comments below to ask questions, request a coupon or try out our service.

Further Reading:

This Article is About:

  • How to use vanity URLs
  • Where to use vanity URLs
  • Branded link use cases
  • How marketers use custom short links
  • Examples of how to use vanity URLs

Photo in main image by Mike Wilson via Unsplash

Louisa McGrath
Louisa works on putting together creative and useful content for Rebrandly customers to read. Though she spends a lot of time reading and writing online, she still loves to buy the Sunday papers.