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How to Use a Domain Redirect in your Marketing Campaigns

How to use a domain redirect featured
Domain redirects can be used in a number of creative ways in your marketing campaigns. Image credit: Nick Fewings

To increase traffic to their sites, and to achieve more page hits, companies online try numerous ways to drive more people to their site. One option is using what’s known as a domain redirect.

In any kind of marketing campaign, the number of people who click through to your site is vital. This can be a major bottleneck, which impacts the ROI of your PPC, email and social campaigns.

Some of the tools available to you to maximise clicks include copy, imagery and targeting. The URLs you use in your campaign can also be vital for your user acquisition.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a Domain Redirect?

A domain redirect is when you set up a URL on one website, so that when someone clicks on it, they are directed to a different site. For instance, if you change the domain of your website, you need to redirect every page to the new address.

When a user clicks on a link with a domain redirect, their browser receives an instruction to move on to another page.

In addition to changing the domain of your site, this has a number of uses. For instance, many companies buy a number of domains which are similar to their primary site.

This means that when someone misspells their actual address, they can be redirected to the correct site.

Additionally, it’s common to buy additional domains to use in marketing campaigns, either because they are more eye catching or succinct than your primary site’s domain. We’ll return to this a little later.

But first, let’s look a little closer at the theory behind domain redirects.

Types of Domain Redirect

Overall there are three types of domain redirection. Each of these should be used in specific situations. Even more importantly, there are situations when each should be avoided at all costs.

Elements of a domain name graphic
Elements of a domain name. Image credit: Safaridigital.au

Before we dive into each, it’s worth noting that all redirects can create issues. For instance, redirection can be problematic for your SEO. However, some redirects have a relatively minor impact here, whereas others can cause much bigger problems.

301 Redirect

The first type of redirect is the 301 redirect.

This method is considered as the most efficient and search engine friendly web page re-directory. This is because the 301 is a permanent redirect.

This means if you have a new domain name you can set the one you originally had to redirect to the new domain so you won’t lose traffic if people were to still search for your old domain.

In terms of SEO, it only ever creates very minor problems. Essentially, when you use internal linking via a 301 redirect, a small amount less page authority is passed on than when no redirect is used.

As such, it’s often better to change all internal links to the new URL, and only rely on 301 redirects for external links.

This is also used by companies for small Easter eggs within their websites or for random redirects such as banter.com to IBM.

302 Redirect

The 302 redirect is similar to the 301, except that it is temporary. This is used to redirect URLs to other web pages if an address has been changed temporarily.

This redirect is great for when you have pages under maintenance as the URL can take you to a page that is similar and is under maintenance. It might also be used for seasonal campaigns.

However, 302 redirects can make it difficult for search engines to index your site, and so they should not be widely used.

URL frame

This method isn’t as straightforward as the other redirection methods. In fact it is not really redirecting as the URL redirects to a web page displayed from the server.

It’s almost like a clone of the original web page. One problem with this method is SEO. URL frames can create duplicate content issues, as well as resulting in some pages becoming non-indexable.

As such, for the strategies we’ll look at below, using URL frames is not recommended.

How to Use Domain Redirects in Marketing Campaigns

Now that you understand how redirects work, let’s think about some of the times you might want to use them.

Of course, there is a lot of room for creativity here. In fact, like any marketing technique, your goal here is to stand out from the crowd. As such, it would be impossible to write a guide detailing every possible use for domain redirects.

Instead, your goal should be to come up with new and exciting ideas for making the most of them, while of course following the rules we set out above.

Here are some common domain redirect strategies, for inspiration.

Shortening URLs

The most common marketing application for domain redirects involves shortening your URLs. This technique emerged shortly after Twitter came out, through services like bit.ly. Basically, a short URL means you don’t waste your character limit on links.

These days, social networks offer their own proprietary URL shorteners.

However, an increasing number of brands are also choosing to create branded short URLs. This requires you to buy a shorter domain name, use 301 redirects to funnel users towards your primary site.

For example, on social media posts, the New York Times uses the shorter domain NYTI.ms, while TechCruch uses tcrn.ch.

Domain redirect using branded domains
Branded short-form URLs are used by some of the top brands. Image credit: Ampercent.com

Product Specific Domain Names

Another common use of domain redirects is when you want to run a campaign relating to a specific product, which doesn’t have it’s own dedicated site. This is particularly important for traditional media campaigns, like TV or radio ads.

For example, a few years ago Guiness released a lager called Hop House 13. To some extent, this has become a brand all on its own, but information relating to it is still hosted on the main Guiness site.

If they wished to use a traditional media campaign to drive traffic to relevant product pages, they could purchase a branded domain, along the lines of hophouse13.com, and then use permanent redirects to drive traffic to the relevant pages on the main Guiness site.

This technique saves the need to build viable sites for each of your products.

Emojis and Domain Redirects

An increasingly popular option for marketing campaigns is redirecting to your site via emoji domains.

As the name suggests, these are domains which include emojis. However, as emojis vary from device, it’s often hard to find the right one. As such, it’s pretty rare for a company to have an emoji in their primary domain.

Therefore a handful of websites and businesses are only using them to direct users to their original websites.

However, they add a bit of fun to some websites and almost act as an Easter egg for the company. This is an excellent way for your links to stand out as part of your social media campaigns

Understanding Domain Redirects

Let’s recap. A domain redirect is an instruction which tells web browsers to move automatically from one site to another when a link is clicked. There are a number of practical reasons why a eb manager might want to use this technique.

Domain redirects are also very useful when you run marketing campaigns, as they help to direct more traffic to your site.

However, it’s important that you choose the correct kind of domain redirect. In most cases, a 301 redirection is the safest option, as this minimises the impact of redirection on your SEO.

The final step is simply to use a little bit of creativity in order to come up with engaging ways to use domain redirects in your marketing campaigns.

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