Make the Most of Offline Marketing with Vanity URLs

We live in a multi-channel world, which means people can now satisfy their interest in learning more by simply picking up their phone to visit the website of a product or brand they just saw on TV or in a magazine. While some people may turn to Google search to learn more, you can easily link your online and offline marketing efforts by providing an easy-to-type vanity URL instead.

By using vanity URLs in your offline marketing campaigns, you can effectively control the consumer experience and measure the impact of your traditional marketing efforts (television, print ads, mailers, etc.). Read on for everything you need to know to effectively use and track vanity URLs as part of a broader marketing campaign.

Bridge the Gap Between Offline Marketing and Online Marketing

A vanity URL is an easy-to-remember URL that isn’t meant to be indexed, but rather serves to redirect traffic to URLs that would be impractical for consumers to type in. Vanity URLs are often used in offline marketing since they’re easy for web users to type into their browsers.

There are two primary advantages of a vanity URL over using your homepage URL in offline marketing:

  1. Vanity URLs allow you to send consumers to targeted landing pages
  2. Vanity URLs allow you to measure the impact of your offline marketing

Let’s take our own website as an example: If we were to send out mailers promoting our Google Analytics Consultations, simply listing our homepage, www.ambitny.us, won’t guarantee that consumers find the right page. There would also be a disconnect between the offline experience, which promises information about the Google Analytics Consultation, and the online experience, which wouldn’t take them directly to the information they were promised. Visitors may get disappointed or frustrated if they have to navigate around the homepage on their own.

On the other hand, if we were to provide the full URL, www.ambitny.us/google-analytics-consultation, most people would give up typing it in by the first slash. With a vanity URL, though, our hypothetical mailer could encourage consumers to visit AmbitnyConsult.us, which is much shorter than the full URL. It would also function as a 301 Redirect for that longer landing page URL (a 301 Redirect, per HubSpot, is simply the permanent command for when visitors are redirected from one URL to another).

Ideally, you would create a customized landing page for that vanity URL. A dedicated landing page makes it much simpler to track the campaign’s effectiveness. Vanity URLs coupled with customized landing pages that aren’t used for other campaigns effectively create a campaign sandbox.

That means all traffic you receive to that landing page must be the result of your offline marketing. This is, essentially, how you measure your offline campaigns online. Of course, landing page metrics won’t account for everyone influenced by your offline marketing (i.e., those who didn’t type in the vanity URL in the first place), but it will give you much more insight than not using a vanity URL and custom landing page.

Tips for Setting Up Analytics for Offline Marketing

Choose Short Vanity URLs

Short, memorable URLs will have an impact in offline marketing campaigns. You want people to remember the URL and type it in quickly. It should also be relevant to the offline campaign. If we were offering the Google Analytics Consultations with the URL AmbitnyForever.us, people would scratch their heads in confusion. AmbitnyConsult.us makes way more sense given the context of the campaign.

Vanity URLs can be created by purchasing the domain name through your DNS provider. Unlike normal domains, there won’t be any content behind them because you’ll be redirecting traffic to one of your normal domains or a subdomain.

Don’t Allow Google to Crawl Your Vanity URL

To make sure you don’t get traffic from other sources (like Google searches) to your offline marketing campaign landing page, use the noindex meta tag. The other bonus of this is that using duplicate content on noindex pages won’t hurt your SEO.

Set Up Unique Landing Pages

As we’ve discussed, use unique landing pages that match your offline marketing campaign. Not only will this create a cohesive online and offline experience, but it will also make tracking the effects of the campaign that much easier.

Take the Opportunity to Run A/B Tests

By using vanity URLs and unique landing pages, you’ve effectively created an online/offline campaign in an isolated, easy-to-track sandbox. Your campaign should have a very focused message, even if it has a broad audience.

Take advantage of this setup by using A/B testing to play around with different text/image options and placement. This will allow you to see what content works best to sell this message, while not affecting the overall performance on your normal domain.

Use Your UTM Parameters

Assigning UTM parameters to your landing page using a unique utm_campaign tag is a way to redirect users from vanity URLs with Google Analytics. Plus, UTM parameters can also help effectively measure on-page performance.

Whatever approach you take, keep in mind that you’re trying to create a simple, seamless online experience for your offline marketing leads.

Not sure you’re campaign tracking is as effective as it should be? Let us complete a simple Google Analytics Audit to ensure you’re getting the most out of your data.