I had to do some quick research for my marketing class (hooray Drexel Online MBA) about Starbucks and its brand image. I wanted to write a message to my cohort about the interesting dynamic at Starbucks where people identify with the brand because of their individual creation of the brand; it can be a very personal brand. For me, it's a Grande Non-Fat Extra Hot Caffe Latte. Rachael likes her Tall Non-Fat Caffe Mocha. In my class message, I wanted to point out that about a year and a half ago, Starbucks ran a promotion with Project Runway finalist Mychael Knight where they were giving out limited numbers of free, personalized t-shirts based on your favorite drink. Leslie and I used to try every day to get these shirts (with no luck). We thought they were cute:
I was going to try to send a link to the actual site where you could design your shirt to the rest of my classmates (it was fun to do, after all). After some quick searches, I found the URL from the contest: http://www.mystarbuckstshirt.com/. But guess what? The page doesn't load!!!
So, here's where coffee meets SEO (although it already does every morning in our office) MyStarbucksTShirt is a valuable site for Starbucks. It has links pointing to it:
If I was consulting for Starbucks, this is what I would recommend and the same holds for anyone in a similar situation. If you're going to run a contest, promotion, etc. with a vanity URL, keep track of that URL. Monitor it to see what kind of buzz it is getting and how many links it attracts. When your promotion is over, think about what you are going to do with that URL. If you no longer need to keep content on that URL, consider 301 redirecting it to your primary domain (or at least a page on your main domain that says something like “Sorry but this promotion is no longer available” with additional navigation to pages on your site). With the 301 redirect, then you'll be passing all that great link juice that you worked so hard to get with your great promotion. It's also better from a usability perspective. Don't just leave it out there as a dead end!
PS Funny thing happened while writing this post. I wanted to make sure I was using the term “vanity URL” correctly, so I looked it up on Wikipedia. Oh, the irony when the second example on that page is ANOTHER Starbucks vanity URL. The good news? This URL is redirecting to a page on www.starbucks.com. The question I would ask Starbucks is “Why are you using a 302 redirect? Do you plan on reusing this URL?” If yes (particularly if it's an annual promo), then we're cool; if not, I would change the 302 to a 301.