A ‘vanity URL’ sounds like a vanity number plate, but it’s nothing to do with showing off. It can be a crucial element in successful web marketing. A vanity URL is a nice, short web address which is used in place of a horrible long one. For example, supposing as marketing manager of the Red Widget Company, you launch a new fastest-ever widget and that clunky old website content management system you’ve been saddled with decides the web page you’ve created about the product is going to be www.bluewidgetcompany.co.uk/products/database/40765/9432b.html
Doesn’t exactly trip off the tongue, does it? So how do you send people to that page from, say, a print advertisement? It would appear that most companies shrug their shoulders and just quote the home page instead. But “Find out more at www.redwidgetcompany.co.uk” is (as I’ve said before) the equivalent of inviting prospects to your company and putting a notice up in reception saying “Welcome! Find your way to our showroom yourself”. Quite simply, it’s not good enough.
Wouldn’t it be a lot better if you could send people to the right page with an address they’d be happy to type in? Something like www.redwidgetcompany.co.uk/fast? Or even a specially-created www.fastwidget.co.uk? Well guess what – there’s nothing stopping you. Whilst a specially-created URL will cost you the princely sum of about five pounds a year, the short URL at your existing site won’t cost you a penny – someone just needs to add one line of text to a special file on your website, which is a two-minute job. If (like me) you use cheap ten-pounds-a-month web space for your company’s website, you’re going to have to find out how to do this yourself. But if you’re one of those companies spending a lot more on your web hosting, this is the sort of thing which your web host should be offering to justify all that money they’re charging you.
There’s loads of information about the whole subject in the comprehensive article Vanity URLs and SEO: The Definitive Resource on the Marketing Jive blog, which not only provides an introduction to the subject, but links to loads of other good discussions about web page redirection.