vanity URL (vanity uniform resource locator)

What is a vanity URL (vanity uniform resource locator)?

A vanity URL (vanity uniform resource locator) is a simplified version of a URL that users enter into their browsers in place of the original URL. The vanity URL serves as a pointer that automatically redirects users back to the site specified in the original URL, a process that is invisible to the users. Today's organizations often use vanity URLs because they're more memorable, easier to promote, and can help an organization extend its brand.

Many URLs are long and complex, making them difficult for users to remember, let alone be able to type into their browsers. Even shorter URLs can seem relatively long and difficult to remember, especially with the number of URLs out there. Consider the following URL, which points to a fictitious site on

The website,, is reserved by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for documentation purposes. The URL points to the landing page for what is presumably the company's big 2023 Super Sale event. Although this URL is not nearly as long as many URLs, it can still be difficult to remember and is not well-suited for print campaigns.

For example, the company would likely have little luck getting people to remember the URL if it were posted on a billboard. Large URLs also face space constraints in print media and can quickly grow unwieldy. For this reason, the company might instead use the following vanity URL, which redirects users to the original URL:

This URL is much simpler than the original, making it easier for users to remember, share and type into their browsers, without having to rely on embedded links or random searches. Even people driving down the highway might be able to remember such a URL, especially if they're already familiar with the company name. It's also generally accepted that users are more likely to trust URLs that are simpler and clearer, which can help drive webpage click rates.

Vanity URLs can be easily incorporated into marketing campaigns, including those that use print media. For example, magazine and newspaper ads might include vanity URLs because they're so much easier to remember. Vanity URLs can also be used effectively in flyers, brochures and other printed material. In addition, organizations might include their vanity URLs in radio and television spots. Although the URLs are spoken, their simpler structures still make them easier to retain.

Vanity URLs can also play a role in search engine optimization (SEO) strategies. For example, a vanity URL might incorporate a critical keyword that helps to boost the site's ratings with search engines. This can facilitate greater brand exposure and higher click rates.

graphic showing how search engine optimization works
Here is a brief description of how search engine optimization works.

Vanity URLs also work as substitutes for URLs that include Urchin Tracking Module (UTM) parameters, which provide a tagging system for analytics tools that track online marketing efforts. For instance, the following URL includes several UTM parameters that track the impact of the fictitious Super Sale 2023 email marketing campaign:

The URL contains four UTM tags, which are appended onto the core URL after the question mark. Although the URL is now longer and more complex, it can still be translated to the same simple vanity URL, as in the previous example:

Despite the benefits of vanity URLs, organizations should use them only where they make the most sense, such as to enhance marketing campaigns or make it easier for users to remember. There is no reason to use vanity URLs in all circumstances, especially if the original URLs already serve their purpose.

When organizations do use vanity URLs, they should keep them simple, concise and meaningful. They should also incorporate useful keywords, where appropriate while recalling the importance of extending the brand.

A vanity URL should not be confused with a vanity domain, which works much like a vanity URL, but is used instead to redirect a domain name. An organization might use a vanity domain to simplify its actual domain name, extend its brand, or promote a specific product, service or event. For many companies, vanity URLs are enough, especially if their domain names are part of their brands.

Check out four digital marketing best practices for businesses.

This was last updated in December 2023

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