The term “vanity URL” might sound a little negative (no-one wants to be thought of as vain, after all) – but in fact, vanity URLs are useful for both you and your reader.
A vanity URL is a URL that’s been crafted to be easy to read and type. Here are a couple of “before and after” examples:
Regular webpage URL: wordpressforsmallbusinesses.com/blog/new-product-announcement-five-great-wordpress-themes-released-today
Vanity webpage URL: wpsmall.biz/NewWPThemes
Regular social media URL: facebook.com/groups/1768484879228320
Vanity social media URL:facebook.com/groups/wordpresstips
What About Vanity Domains?
You might have come across the term “vanity domain”… and perhaps you’re wondering if this is the same thing as a “vanity URL.”
There are a couple of different definitions of a “vanity domain” out there.
- Some people say that a domain name that’s a person’s name (rather than a company name or brand) is a vanity domain. A domain name like www.alexandersimmons.com or www.naomigracewilliams.com would be a vanity domain under this definition.
- Others use “vanity domain” in a similar way to “vanity URL,” referring to short domain names that are used in vanity or shortened URLs. As in the example above, if your regular domain name is wordpressforsmallbusinesses.com, you might use wpsmall.biz as a vanity domain.
Why Bother With Vanity URLs?
As you can see, vanity URLs are quicker and easier to take in. You might think this doesn’t matter too much: after all, someone can find a page on your website – or your social media profile or group – by clicking a link or by searching for it.
But, however focused you are on internal linking and SEO, there will be times when you’ll want to type out the link itself (plus people will see it in their browser window). This means that vanity URLs have a bunch of advantages over regular ones, including:
They’re Much Easier to Type In
While most of your visitors will probably come to your site through clicking (or at the very least, copy-and-pasting) a link, some won’t.
Think about all the places you might have links that can’t be easily clicked or selected:
- On videos or slides (particularly “thank you” or “contact” slides) in presentations or webinars
- In printed materials, such as on business cards, bookmarks, handouts, or brochures
- In newspaper reports or footnotes in books – you want to make the most of these mentions
They Look More Professional and Trustworthy
One potential (and long-standing) alternative to using a vanity URL is to use a service like bit.ly to create a short URL that looks something like this:
While that might fit nicely in a tweet or a footnote, it hardly inspires confidence. That link could point anywhere – and people may well be suspicious of links with a lot of numbers and characters like this.
A vanity URL, however, gives a professional, branded feel – and looks more trustworthy. People know what to expect based on the URL itself, which is particularly important if they’re not already familiar with you (and hence don’t have any reason to trust you).
They Can Be Read Aloud Easily
Vanity URLs look good on the page or screen – but they also have the huge advantage of being able to be read aloud easily.
If you want to mention your social media profiles on a podcast, for instance, a vanity URL will make it much easier for you to read them out (and for listeners to remember them or jot them down).
How and When to Create a Vanity URL
There are two key types of vanity URLs you’re likely to create:
- Vanity URLs for your social media profiles, pages, and groups
- Vanity URLs for pages on your website or other sites you’re linking to
#1: Vanity URLs for Your Social Media Profiles, Pages, or Groups
Every time you create a new social media profile or group, you should give it a vanity URL if possible. (It almost always is possible!)
If you have existing profiles or groups that don’t have a vanity URL yet, change these – any old links with the non-vanity URL should continue to work, too.
These instructions should help with the most common social media vanity URLs you’re likely to want to set up:
Facebook page instructions: How Do I Claim My Vanity URL on Facebook… and Why?, Scott Ayres, Post Planner
Facebook group instructions: How do I create a custom web address for a Facebook group I admin?, Facebook
LinkedIn page instructions: Updating the URL of Your LinkedIn Page, LinkedIn
Google+ profile instructions: How to Get a Custom URL / Username for your Google Plus Profile, Tuan Do, TechWalls
#2: Vanity URLs for Pages on Your Website or Other Sites You’re Linking To
There are plenty of times when it might make sense to create a vanity URL for a page on your site – even if the existing URL is fairly easy to understand. You might want a shorter URL, for instance, for a blog post that you regularly share in presentations or in physical handouts.
The best way to create these is normally to (a) buy a vanity domain that’s a short form of your regular domain and (b) use bit.ly (or another similar service) to create custom short URLs.
Traffic Generation Cafe has a great guide to this process here, plus lots of examples of vanity URLs in action.
If you’re not using vanity URLs yet, start putting them into place today. It takes just a couple of minutes to switch each of your social media profiles, pages, or groups to a vanity URL – so give it a go and see how much better your URLs look.
Another way to make it easy for your visitors and readers to follow you on their favorite social media platforms: install our easy-to-use social media follow buttons. They’re free and easy to install, and best of all, there’s no link to remember at all – your fans can follow you with a single click!