Building Effective Marketing URLs

As a marketing professional, I enjoy watching my industry continue to adapt to the need to mix traditional media with a more interactive format. Getting people to act on a call to action they see in traditional offline media often involves some type of Web, mobile or social interaction—frequently in the form of a URL, or Web address.

Not to age myself, but I remember when advertisements promoted “AOL keywords” as a short way to get to a Web destination. Nowadays, we have “conversations” usually involving a hashtag. Recently, advertisements for the Amazon Fire phone showed how it could take pictures of Web address printed on a poster and take you to the address with a simple press of a button. We continue to adapt with technology, but technology has not yet replaced the need for strong marketing URLs in traditional media.

At Johns Hopkins Medicine, we frequently see the need for these marketing URLs. With a mix of display, print, radio and television/network-based promotions, there is a real need for URLs that are short and memorable so they can easily be typed into a desktop or mobile device.

Often, a marketing URL should have the ability to apply campaign tracking to it. While many redirect services like do provide some level of tracking, our preference is to use Google’s campaign tracking, which integrates with our current analytics process and allows a greater number of dimensions—or even full lifecycle tracking of users—through an intended path, including the point of conversion.

Marketing URLs have to fit the size and scope of the site. A small or midsize organization with a few campaigns may be able to simply produce root-level redirects, such as At a larger organization like Johns Hopkins Medicine, a more thorough scheme must be developed and should likely include a planned mix of URLs similar to the examples discussed below.

Five Tips to Create Memorable URLs

Whatever the scheme, here are some tips and tricks for creating effective marketing URLs:

  1. Keep the spelling simple. Using “…/CleanHands” will result in more success than using “…/HandHygiene,” which is longer and more difficult to spell.
  2. Print or display marketing URLs in mixed case or by using dashes. For example, “…/diabetes-screening” printed with a dash is a way to overcome the double s issue. Printing “…/DolphinStudy” as one word in mixed case makes it easy to recognize as two words for the reader.
  3. Promote a publication instead of an article. If your marketing URL promotes a publication or specific microsite, it can be used for multiple stories. Language such as, “View this story and others at” may work well for multiple stories within the same publication.
  4. Be mindful of your readers’ time. When building traditional media pieces, consider the location, size and length of time the promotion will be displayed. A longer marketing URL might be fine for a magazine, but it may work poorly on overhead displays or screens that are far more limited in display time.
  5. Give good directions. Consider other possible ways to get traffic to the site. For example, simple instructions, such as “Visit and search for ‘Dolphin Study,’” as text treatment at the end of an article very well could achieve the same goal and be a memorable action for the user.

How We Manage 4,000 Custom URLs on

At Johns Hopkins Medicine, the need for a large number of marketing URLs is significant. To meet the increasing need, we have constructed the following strategy to allow for the most effective use of marketing URLs in traditional media. We employ three types of URLs: root-level, topic- or publication-based, and domain name-based marketing URLs.

Root-Level Marketing URLs


The above type of marketing URL is most commonly issued as a redirect to another section of the site. This format is simple and is the most effective representation of the brand for a given promotion.

These marketing URLs are generally used for institutional priorities, large national or international campaigns, or times when the most efficient URL is critical. This type of URL should be the standard of use for display advertising, including billboard, television (or other screens), posters and other types. This is also the most effective for use in radio promotion or other audio formats.

Unfortunately, this type of URL has limited availability, as they compete with the current or planned physical directory structure of the website and other root-level marketing URLs already in use.

Topic- and Publication-Based Marketing URLs


The Internet Strategy team has created topic-level directories for high-profile publications and departments—two scenarios that frequently require new URLs. A full list of URLs for print publications is available here. In addition, subsites, such as “…/surgery” can be used to produce a marketing URL. These subsites exist as part of the physical directory structure of the site, so use of this type of URL requires the end destination to be within that subsite.

Topic-based URLs can be used for a variety of purposes, but they tend to work best in printed materials and online video, where time and memory recall is not as great a factor.

The following are promotional examples of these printed URLs:

  • Promotion example in the publication Dome: “To learn more about hand hygiene, visit”
  • Promotion example in the publication Insight: “Take the survey at”
  • Promotion example in a printed annual report for a subsite (in this case, international): “Read more details about this collaboration at”

Domain Name Marketing URLs


Lastly, an additional type of marketing redirect supported is domain based. These URLs redirect to and are generally reserved for previously established domain names. Most often, these are associated with Johns Hopkins Medicine member hospitals. These domains redirect to a specific location on the website, and they allow entities the most efficient marketing URL possible. These URLs are used on a more limited basis, as they are more difficult and costly to set up and maintain.

Getting Started

Are you in need of a URL for a new marketing piece? Just submit a web service request and a member of our team will contact you to discuss your needs.