The do’s and don’ts of URL promotion

by

iMedia Connection

Choosing a good domain name is only half a marketer’s battle. Learn how your URL display can impact your brand for better, or worse.

I was excited to read Jeremiah Johnston’s recent column on integrating domains into overall marketing strategy. URL selection and deployment is an oft-overlooked weapon in the marketing arsenal.

In his piece, Johnston focused on securing generic URLs to bolster a brand’s position in the marketplace — e.g., Russian Standard Vodka buying Vodka.com for a cool $3 million.

Supplementing YourBrandName.com with YourProduct.com, YourCategory.com or YourSlogan.com is definitely a sound approach.

However, choosing a good URL to support your brand is only the beginning. Effectively integrating a domain into your program requires careful promotional guidelines.

Too often I see marketers shell out top dollar for a premium domain name — or worse, cop out with an obscure URL that no one will remember — and bury it in all lower case at the bottom of an ad. It’s quite rare to find a marketer giving his URL the attention it deserves by presenting it in an impactful way.

To illustrate my point, here are screen captures of the last frame of two different TV commercials. See the difference?


Which URL are you most likely to remember?

Here’s a more extreme example:


Unfortunately, good URLs like the latter here are the exception, not the rule, in today’s TV, print and out-of-home ads — and don’t get me started on URLs being spelled out on the radio. I’ve seen similar URL-abuse on direct mail pieces, bumper stickers, even on the marquees at retail locations.

And online ads are not immune to poor URL promotion. Here’s an ad that ran on Facebook recently:

And here’s one that ran on Yahoo:

Now, you might be saying, “Why does it matter how I present my URL in a banner? After all, people just need to click my ad, not remember my URL.” Well folks, I don’t know about you, but the click rate I see on most banners these days is atrocious — especially on Facebook. People don’t want to leave the content they’re consuming to visit an advertiser’s site — at least, not until they’re done with that content.

More and more, we’re seeing data showing that people exposed to graphical ads online are visiting marketers’ sites at a later time. For those motivated individuals, there are two ways to seek out that advertiser. The first is to type in the URL — if you can remember it. The second is to search for it. What do you think the person who saw that ad on Yahoo is going to do? So now, the marketer has to double-pay to capture that visitor — once for the impression and once for the search click. And that’s assuming the person actually finds the correct brand in the search results.

I’ve become so frustrated by all the awful URLs (awfURLS?) I come across in my day job in marketing and my night job as a consumer — oh yeah, I shop like it’s my job — that I created a blog to display good and bad URLs like the ones shown above.

At GoodURLBadURL.com, I share the following best practices for URL selection and promotion:

Do’s.

1. Whenever possible, use YourBrandName.com.
2. If .com is not available, use YourBrandName.net.
3. If .com and .net are taken, find a new brand name. Seriously.
4. Use YourSlogan.com when running an integrated media campaign.
5. Use subdomains when driving people deeper than your homepage — e.g. Product.YourBrandName.com. The eye is trained to look for a domain and ignore everything that comes afterwards so slashes don’t work.
6. CapitalizeTheFirstLetterOfEachWord and/or UseDifferentColorsOrBoldToHelpEachWordStandOut

Don’ts

1. Don’t use acronyms, abbreviations, or numbers unless your brand is widely known as such.
2. Don’t use YourProduct.com or YourCategory.com as a replacement for YourBrandName.com. They should only be used as a supplement.
3. No-hyphens/or slashes.
4. Don’t include www when displaying your URL. We know to go to the World Wide Web to find you.
5. Don’t include http://. If your audience isn’t web savvy enough to know where to type the URL, you shouldn’t have a website.
6. don’tusealllowercase (canyoureallytellwhereonewordendsandthenextbegins?)
7. DITTOFORALLUPPERCASE
8. Don’t
Stagger
Words
On
Separate
Lines
9. Don’t bury your URL at the bottom of an ad. I’m the only nerd running around with a 4x zoom lens to find URLs.

Marketers take heed! Before shelling out big bucks to procure your next domain or running an ad campaign to promote one(s) you already own, make sure you’ve outlined a robust URL strategy and informed all key constituents of the guidelines for use. You’d be surprised what a difference a good URL can make.

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