ETIP #62

How to do Vanity URLs Right

How to do Vanity URLs Right

In the good old days of print direct response, marketers would print different phone numbers on different pieces of collateral and then track the responses to each phone number to know which piece was working better. A vanity URL is applying that same exact principle to the web.

When should you use vanity URLs?
Well, first and foremost vanity URLs are intended for direct response tactics in the offline world to drive users online. This could be direct mail, traditional advertising, out of home, radio and TV. You want to track which offline tactics are driving the most traffic, and different URLs can do that.

When should you not?
If you are doing a brand awareness campaign (without a call to action) then vanity URLs are not necessary. In fact, you probably should use your primary URL to help with the awareness of your domain name in your brand awareness campaign.

When is it not necessary?
If your advertising and marketing campaign is entirely online (banners, sponsorships, emails, etc) then vanity URLs are also not necessary, the user will simply click, and most online campaigns include tracking metrics as part of the buy.

How do I do it right?
I am often asked if the format should be or if you should use when creating your vanity URLs. Unless your offer is super compelling, and the user cannot get to the offer from the home page of your site, the second method is the only foolproof way to do it. For the most part, users are not going to type anything after the slash, and therefore your response metrics will be lower. Most users prefer to only go to your home page, then click the link.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Make it easy
  • Make it compelling
  • Make it foolproof

To make it easy, make it memorable (easy to remember) and short (easy to type). For radio and TV this is critical. For print media and direct mail, the user will have the URL printed and can read it as they type it in, so this is less critical.

Make it compelling. If it’s super compelling (eg “Win a $100,000 home makeover) then users will type anything you want them to ;). But you still need to have the URL in your call to action (you can only enter to win at this special URL, etc).

Make it foolproof. If you want to make sure your stats are accurate, then you have to use method #2, a custom URL. “” is short, easy to remember, and compelling. When you have many tactics, come up with many urls, like and, etc. These do not have to be “branded”, in fact it’s better if they tie to the theme of the campaign call to action like

It may sound complicated, but one of the best things about online marketing is the metrics and tracking the effectiveness of your advertising and marketing spend. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to refine your offline just as effectively as your online campaigns.