First, let's define what a vanity URL is. A vanity URL is a custom URL that directs users to a specific location on a site. It forwards traffic to the original URL and can be completely different from the main domain. Usually, this tool is used to lay a more memorable URL over a page to make it easier for users to reach, mostly in print ads or on social media as part of a branding strategy. For example, you might want to include a link to a special event you have coming up by posting it on Facebook or including it on a flyer. The actual link will look something like this:
That’s a lot for a user to see, especially for them to type into an address bar. A cleaner URL can look something like this:
Much cleaner and easier to remember. The beauty of a vanity URL is that it doesn’t get indexed by Google, so all of the link equity from the vanity URL gets applied to the main URL.
For our AEM sites specifically, Vanity URLs can also be used to redirect users for pages that may have moved or been deactivated. Vanity URLs operate very similarly to 301 redirects (which is recommended for SEO) but should be used when absolutely necessary. 301s are for permanent redirects, so there should be heavy consideration about whether the page should be moved.
Vanity URL Example: Mueseum for Natural History
Recently, the Museum for Natural History required redirects for a number of their information pages due to the Museum's construction. Since the Mueseum will be under construction until 2019, they deactivated a few pages including their Map and Hours & Admissions page. By looking at the page report in Google Analytics, it was clear that these pages account for good portion of the site's traffic (top two pages for traffic over a 4 month month period). In this instance, a Vanity URL was used to avoid a significant drop in overall traffic.
Considering using a Vanity URL as a redirect? Here’s some questions to think about:
- Should this page be moved/deactivated? Why?
- Will moving/deactivating the page or changing the URL affect links in many other places?
- Will this be a permanent change?
- How much traffic does the page receive in Google Analytics? Is it at least 10% of overall traffic?
If a vanity URL is needed, submit a ticket to Web Services and we'll explore the best approach for your issue.