Vanity URLS or backslashed directories?
May 16, 2008 9:28 AM   Subscribe

Which is better? A vanity url or a backslashed url. For instance, or Mind you, this is an advertising question. With a product/property it seems smarter to use a vanity url for name recognition, but I understand diluting the brand is a bad idea. What's the best practices you've seen or opinions?
posted by Davidissimo to Computers & Internet (22 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
there's also:

pro: you don't need to register a new domain and can probably use the same webserver.

as for marketing: you'll probably need to say what you're marketing and who you're marketing to in order to get any helpful responses.
posted by kamelhoecker at 9:40 AM on May 16, 2008

If the backslashed URL isn't too long (and it doesn't have to be with redirects), you should try to stick to that.

In the case of recent viral advertising, the vanity URL seems popular, but I've always thought that, for brand purposes, it's best to stick within the company domain. That's the war I'm currently waging within my own "company" (a university).
posted by sjuhawk31 at 9:43 AM on May 16, 2008

Diluting the brand isn't necessarily a bad idea. Companies often have good reasons for establishing distinct brands for certain product lines. It's a question of your overall brand strategy, and how this particular property fits into it -- how strongly aligned the product positioning is with your overall company positioning.

Note that there's yet another way:

Also note: that's not a backslash.
posted by jjg at 9:46 AM on May 16, 2008

Generally, I've seen specific promotions linked with a slash.

I think it makes more semantic sense if it's closely tied to the core company/brand.
posted by cowbellemoo at 9:47 AM on May 16, 2008

If you're going to display or announce the url somewhere in a non-networked environment and rely on the customer to recognize and remember it until they get somewhere with Internet access and then input it... well, the safest answer is However, if, using your example terms "mycompany" is much shorter and more memorable than "awesometown," and assuming that once users get to you'll be promoting the hell out of your links to awesometown content, that's ok then. Don't expect them to remember the whole path, though.

The absolute best option will vary brand by brand, product by product, segment by segment. I wouldn't worry too much about brand dilution just based on the url, though it's conceivable that the vagary of your question obscures that risk. I mean, is better than, hands down.

Also, dammit, man, it's a forward slash in URLs. This is a backslash... note how it's pointing the opposite direction from the slashes in your location bar?
posted by mumkin at 9:48 AM on May 16, 2008

Personal opinion:

1) never do combined domains such as

2) I prefer because it seems like the company has a complete vision of its products rather than smart ideas by management which dies after a year when they have proceeded to some other smart idea.
posted by flif at 9:56 AM on May 16, 2008

About the vagueness of the question, it's NDA crapola.

That being said, it's the equivalent of

which, they incidentally used

re: backslash - happens to the best of us. sorry.
posted by Davidissimo at 10:27 AM on May 16, 2008

From my (consumer) point of view, I'd say go with the vanity address. It's shorter, has higher "rememberability", and there's far less chance of me giving up because I type it in wrong a couple of times. Remember, you don't want to give me enough time to think about why I want to go to some advertiser's site in the first place.
posted by joelhunt at 10:33 AM on May 16, 2008

Register and redirect or point it to or That way you get all the people who type in without making them think or do anything else (this is a good thing.)
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 10:48 AM on May 16, 2008

It depends on how core and relatable the idea is to your main business. Personally, I always type "" and "" - So I think of Gmail as a side thing for Google, but Yahoo Mail as a core offering from Yahoo. It is certainly easier to market the independent idea with a vanity URL, but easier to include the idea as part of your main business as a subdomain or /idea.
posted by lubujackson at 10:56 AM on May 16, 2008

I agree with chesty_a_arthur. Do both URLs and redirect. As far as which URL to promote in marketing materials, I can't say without more information about the company and product.
posted by desjardins at 10:59 AM on May 16, 2008

It depends on the media -- print/tv/radio. When I did TV ads I tried to keep the URL short and memorable. But a lot of people --especially in the industry I was in -- just did the line w/o the slash and vanity line. A few people will go to the effort to type in the whole darn URL even it is long. Also it is a good idea to also have common mispellings. I hear radio ads with somewhat complex URLs where they don't take the time to spell it out (in your example have happynessfactory ready to redirect to the landing page to catch people that can't spell for shit). Without being the art director, make sure the URL (whichever way you chose) is large enough to read. I drive by billboards daily where you had to be one of the people putting up the sign to read it. Tiny URLs are common on TV too.

I played with several /blahblahblahs since web team wouldn't let me do and the corporate brand team was too hung up on I also learned that the messaging should have some reason to go to the vanity url (to learn more about the summer of happiness, go to ...) versus just the vanity URL and hope people take the time to go to the site.

When I was doing this, I didn't find any "scientific" studies from the marketing or advertising world that had any real metrics which works best.
posted by birdherder at 11:01 AM on May 16, 2008

I would also think you should consider search engine optimization. I'm no expert on this, but it seems to me that if you use a vanity URL and don't create a permanent redirect to your site, your two sites will be in competition with each other for search engine ranking.
posted by thejanna at 11:20 AM on May 16, 2008

Personal opinion as a pseudo/former/sometimes web monkey: subdomains confuse the hell out of average joes. Stick with a top-level domain ( or something short after the slash: But, in that case, I'd just foot the billf for The key is to keep the total number of characters low. The worst I've seen in this regard, for a serious entity, was, which now, I notice, forwards to the much shorter

It's perfectly fine to abbreviate things (e.g., but I find it confusion when only part of the URL is abbreviated (e.g. vs [same site]).
posted by wheat at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2008

Correction: (.org, not .com)
posted by wheat at 12:07 PM on May 16, 2008

Generally, I'd advise using a subfolder if you want the promotion/product closely associated with the parent brand, and a separate domain if you want some separation (e.g. due to having such a different target audience or purpose).

Some companies are domain-happy, using a different one for each promotion, each product range, etc. It can dilute the brand (the domain itself is part of a brand nowadays) and result in consumers becoming confused about whether a site is 'official' or not (a serious issue for ecommerce with phishing so prevalent). It's also bad for SEO if not handled properly.

The most obvious example here in the UK is ITV, which uses a confusing array of domains, subdomains and subfolders:,,,, and so on. In a subtle way I think it undermines their online branding and looks untidy.
posted by malevolent at 12:29 PM on May 16, 2008

Davidissimo: About the vagueness of the question, it's NDA crapola.

Hi, what is "NDA crapola"? I mean, I understand the "crapola" part. Google found many meanings for "NDA" but nothing apparently relevant. Thanks.
posted by JimN2TAW at 12:48 PM on May 16, 2008

NDA = Non-Disclusure Agreement
posted by joelhunt at 12:59 PM on May 16, 2008

"Disclosure", rather.
posted by joelhunt at 1:00 PM on May 16, 2008

People can give you opinions, but only you have a definitive answer. Why? Because this is a brand architecture question and varies radically from company to company.

"Diluting the brand is bad" - that's not a 100% case. Does your master brand speak to the target audience well? Is it a space/brand/etc. that the company is known for, or is it a stretch? Are their a ton of subbrands, or just a few? What has brand equity? Is the subbrand descriptive or strong? How much attachment do they have together in other venues (print, packaging, etc.)

In brand architecture, there's a spectrum. On one end is proctor and gamble - Their master brand is a "stable of brands". Each of those brands has its own URL and subURLS for promotions and to get to a P&G page, you've got to look hard in the footer. Lots of beer brands are like this as well.

At the other end of the spectrum (like FedEx) is a master brand so strong that subbrands are treated like descriptors.

What you need, likely, is something in between. is farther away from the master brand than which is farther away from just a prominent button/callout on to whatever you're talking about.

(But do be aware that less savvy people will still type in if that's what you print/list on materials.)
posted by Gucky at 1:26 PM on May 16, 2008

I understand your argument against brand dilution but in this day and age, I think you always need to go for convenience and simplicity. The vanity URL is easier to type, less prone to spelling mistakes, easier to fit onto collateral, easier to pronounce, and better for display in search results. On top of that, if you don't take it and use it, you're leaving an opening for someone else to appropriate it for alternative or even competitive reasons.
posted by junesix at 4:31 PM on May 16, 2008

Slighly off-topic, but I can guarantee that if you use a large proportion of people will look at it and think "Hmm, they left off the www part. I'd better add it".

Then they'll try to go to and if it doesn't work they'll think you messed up, not them.

And you don't even get to hear about it because it's a DNS error which never reaches your server.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:38 PM on May 17, 2008

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