Master of which domain? Is it better to use a dedicated campaign URL or the client's brand URL?
What's the best way to manage campaign URLs in broad-based communications? Lacking real-world research, I asked in my last column for your collective wisdom on the issue. Is it better to use a campaign URL, such as www.newcampaign.com, or an extension of the brand URL, such as www.client.com/newcampaign?
You sent a wealth of input and advice. As promised, I'll share the booty. Advertiser and agency staffers sent a total of 78 responses. Overall, they reflect a preference for campaign URLs (61 out of 78).
In summary, the reasons were:
If the primary objective is to promote a brand message, use a specific URL that reflects the core idea of the brand message. People will more readily remember it and type it into the browser.
You can leverage a theme line or message in a URL to drive higher message awareness.
Names and specifics were removed, as promised. Here's what you had to say.
Extend the Brand URL
"We manage many vacation brands and have found large numbers of users type URLs into search engine versus the address line. So the campaign URLs [www.company.com/contest] fail to be found."
"I work primarily in higher education, where our users are youths, [aged] 15-17. They are very impatient and often [wild] guessers on domain names. We try to use easy-to-remember URLs with the school's name, e.g., [exploreschool.edu]. For a landing page site for [school name], we chose the campaign name: [moreatschool.edu]."
Use Campaign-Specific URLs
"As the campaign site is temporary, I would personally go for the specific URL instead of the brand site URL with a suffix, but with one caveat. Campaigns and promotions change, but brands should be consistent. However, that is not necessarily the same as using the slogan as the URL."
"I favor separate campaign URLs to extensions of the brand in almost all cases. If the company is a household brand, then it need not worry about dilution when sending people to newcampaign.com.
"If the company is not a household name, they have to decide whether the campaign or brand-building is their first priority. It's hard to imagine a situation where brand-building is more important that selling goods or services. Unless driving traffic to the company's main site is the purpose of the campaign, then the marketing manager ought to focus on campaign results, not company home page traffic numbers."
"We attempt a lot of brand recognition by putting a brand [in the main URL] (e.g., www.xxxx/brand) with little result in terms of driving awareness and/or traffic to a site."
"Our research with numerous clients shows as much as 50 percent or more of consumers do not type suffixes (they know they can get to client.com without typing "client.com/offer/signup").Using campaign URLs drives better traffic if you desire to seat a brand message."
"We recently did some work for one of our clients here [in] Australia. They had a new convertible, and the marketing guys wanted a phrase to be adopted as a tag line. The MD was concerned people may not recognize [the brand] and [phrase].
"What we did to solve the conflicting issue of branding and [an easily recalled domain] was register [www.newcampaign.com.au]. We got the message across, and we made sure it was landing at [the brand] so no one could miss the connection. Seemed to work. Traffic lifted significantly, and [the brand] sold a heap of cars."
"The best solution depends on the focus of the online campaign and the way you're planning to get it in front of people. If you're doing direct or offline marketing, trying to promote corporate awareness, then using directories or page names after the company/product URL works well.
"If you want to get visitors via search, you need to create new URLs based on the search terms people will use in the search engines. Not only does a match between search term and site name increase click-throughs, search engines tend to give higher ranks to URLs containing the search terms....
"If you're promoting via radio, then people will search under the key terms the radio ad pushes. Here, too, you need to ensure those terms are the URL. TV is a bit of a mix. Some [viewers], but not all, write down full URLs seen on the ad. Many search as well."
"I use unique URLs only in the case of a DR campaign. That way, I can track performance effectively outside of the 800 number."
"As a provider of information via email on events throughout the U.S., I run into this question frequently. I believe both cases are valid. The difference lies in the marketing method and the developmental stage of the company.
"If the majority of marketing is done via the Internet, then www.client.com/newcampaign is fine. Most users are going to click on the link instead of typing it in the browser.
"However, [when] the majority of marketing is offline and the company is mature and branding isn't key, then www.newcampaign.com is acceptable. Regardless, if the company is in its early stages of development, I would encourage brand building by driving all traffic to client.com."
This is some interesting feedback. Though I see some directional promise in campaign URL use, we really need some hard research to determine the most effective path.
Thanks to all everyone who responded. This should help those of us who must tackle the problem.
As SVP and director of interactive marketing at t:m interactive, JamesHering's teamdevelops a full range of interactive solutions for a variety of clients.Since 1994, he's been involved in development and evolution of AmericanAirlines' AA.com. With over 10 million registered users, it's one of theworld's most successful e-commerce sites. James' experience includes contentpublishing and development; online CRM; sponsorship/partnerships; searchengine marketing; and execution and implementation of AA's award-winninginteractive campaigns. Other client experience includes Adams Golf, BellHelicopter, eiStream, Nationwide Insurance, Nortel Networks, Match.com,SABRE Travel Information Network, Subaru of America, Reno Air, Nestle Foods,Texas Instruments, Texas Tourism and Pizza Hut. His group's honors includethe Internet Marketing Association's Excellence in Interactive Marketing,WebAwards for Site Design, Communication Arts, NY Festival, iNOVA awards,CASIE Interactive awards and @d:Tech awards.