When millions of people watched the Star Trek: Into Darkness advertisement during a Super Bowl commercial break, they also saw something different about the URL. Rather than link to their own website, the makers of the commercial chose to link to a new URL:
This is an example of a “vanity URL,” which is essentially a shortlink to the app in the iTunes store. Apple rolled out vanity URLs in February 2013, and essentially it’s formatted as follows:
http://appstore.com/appname (e.g., http://appstore.com/facebook)
According to the iOS Developer Library, developers can adjust the link (either company name or app name, or app by company) to feature the company’s name:
Or if the developer or company wanted to highlight their entire repertoire of apps, they can use this URL:
Essentially, the appstore.com domain triggers iTunes to open up, and go to the specified app’s page. (This method works for both desktop and iOS mobile devices.) While you can share the link anywhere that people may look, it can be more powerful if it’s accessed directly through a mobile device (e.g., a mobile website or through mobile advertisements). This is because the URL automatically opens up the App Store on the iOS device, which takes the user to the download page in one click.
In June 2013, Apple announced they had 900,000 apps in the App Store. The URLs that previously led to iTunes apps were convoluted (e.g., it would look something like this: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/star-trek-app/id588255788?mt=8); however, vanity URLs are a matter of 20-30 characters (appstore.com/startrek). Vanity URLs are a method of cutting through the noise and making it possible for developers to promote apps and users to discover them more easily. More and more, it’s no longer enough to rely on iTunes as a distributor; rather, it’s now the developer’s responsibility to promote their mobile solution themselves.
Most people choose the default domain of http://appstore.com/appname, simply because most people go to it and it’s the shortest to remember. There’s no downside to this option.
Competitors can attempt to come up with a name that’s similar or a misspelling, which leads users who mistyped to a completely different page (much like domain names). Similarly, if you want to maximize the opportunity to share your vanity URL on a billboard or a television screen, keep it as short as possible — typing on a mobile device could hinder its effectiveness.
Fortunately, even if there’s a typo (and a competitor didn’t use that name), the vanity URL will lead to a search query of that word, and bring up apps with similar titles.
Similarly, much like what we saw with domain names, there could be a secondary market that manifests simply because developers may want to take the stab at taking the best vanity URLs. Eventually, the Android platform will do something similar for Google Play, and these events will unfold in that ecosystem as well.
There’s no downside to getting a vanity URL. It’s a shorter, simpler, and more memorable way to bring consumers to your page on the App Store, especially if they access it using a mobile device. Capitalize on yours and start spreading it so that you can get more downloads today.
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