Search Engine Marketing: Importance of Vanity URLs for Brand Identity and Visibility

Written by in Strategy on

What’s in a Name?

  Like the word implies a ‘Vanity’ URL is all about you. Your brand. Your name. Your product. Owning a website with your name in it has long been known to be important for brand recognition and search engine placement.

  With the rapid rise of the social network, it’s become equally as important to claim your name on every major social media site. You better do it before your competitors do—or some other party with a halfway legit claim on the name. Negotiations for vanity names can become a challenge, sometimes expensive, and downright crafty at times.

  Vanity URLs break down into two basic categories. Both flaunt your company or products.

  Vanity URL Examples

         
Website names Social media names
www.digitalsurgeons.com www.twitter.com/digitalsurgeons
www.nintendo.com/wii www.facebook.com/Wii
www.coca-cola.com www.youtube.com/cocacola
www.target.com www.facebook.com/target

 

  Cross Channel Branding

  Owning your brand name website and several social site vanity URLs gives your name cross-channel face time with your potential customers. Companies have the opportunity to interact with people wherever they hang out, not just for promotion, but to gather valuable feedback about what they like and to head off complaints. Using a consistent name across channels allows for multilayer branding reinforcement that creates strong name recognition.

  Owning Real Estate

  It’s all about location. Owning the best property. One of the most important reasons for claiming social vanity URLs has to do with search engine results. Top social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube rank high because of their authority with the search engines.

  Take the example of Mashable, the popular digital news site. The Google SERPs below show first the company website home page, a few more pages from their site, immediately followed by their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google Plus pages. They own that first page. Wow.

  Mashable Google Search Results

  Reclaiming your Name

  What to do if someone else owns the vanity name you really want? If you haven’t acted quickly, your brand name may have been claimed by a fan, someone looking to make a buck, or even your competitor. Often the name is owned by someone with a legitimate reason to use it.

  If you have a decent claim, the major social media sites (Facebook most notably) have an appeals process for reclaiming a vanity URL. This is most effective if you have a trademarked name and the person holding the vanity URL has little valid reason to have it. Twitter also works hard to be helpful with this process. If you have a valid claim, provide them with your trademarked word, symbol, or logo; trademark registration number; and trademark registration office (e.g. USPTO) and Twitter will return your vanity URL to you.

  If a person with a legitimate claim owns the URL you want, it’s in your best interest to be professional and make a reasonable offer to buy it. Being sneaky and cheap can backfire on you. And it’s just not nice.

  Play Nice

  Take the case of Harman Bajwa. He owns the Facebook profile Facebook.com/Harman. Seems pretty legitimate, but Harman logged in and received a message that his URL had been “removed for violating Facebook’s polices”, which implied his vanity name was being used under false pretenses.

  On the same day Harman received a letter from the agency Carat, representing Harman International, stating they were ‘working with Facebook to reclaim’ their vanity name and offering ‘promotional items’ in exchange for the vanity name.

  Speculation was that Facebook yanked the name to sell it to Harman International for a nice sum. After unflattering exposure on Tech Crunch, Facebook fessed up and returned /Harman to Harman Bajwa.

  Harman International would have done better to send a reasonable financial offer that would have appealed to the owner, rather than insulting his intelligence and pushing to yank his claim.

  Be Smart. Plan Ahead

  Protect your brand name by being proactive with vanity URLs. Services have sprung up that specialize in securing your brand name across numerous social networks and web domains. An example is Knowem.com who offers plans from $100 to $600, ranging from simple signups to complete profiles with photos, bios, and details. The service covers hundreds of popular social sites like Digg, Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, Squidoo, and Reddit. A very reasonable investment to protect your valuable name across channels, assuring someone else doesn’t get ahold of it.

  The Low Down on the Best Real Estate

  In addition to the big three (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), watch for up and coming social networks and interest niches. Google+, the big G’s answer to Facebook, is already causing a clamor for invites though still in beta status. For those in the music business, the recent start up Turntable.fm, a DJ social game, is exploding right now with music loving geeks. Artists and records labels are already creating their own rooms and followings.

  Let’s finish this off with a solid list of some of the most valuable places to own your vanity URL. Now go claim your name.

  Social media

  Twitter
Facebook (With 25 friends you can get your vanity URL here)
LinkedIn
YouTube
Google+
MySpace (still)

  Social sharing

  Digg
Delicious
StumbleUpon
Reddit
Scribd

  Publishing platforms - auto-publish your Twitter and/or Facebook posts.

  Tumblr
Blogger
WordPress

  Other profiles

  Google Places
Slideshare
Flickr
Vimeo
Plurk
Turntable.fm

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