Keeping the same URL
If your current site has a short and descriptive URL that’s working well, you’ll likely want to retain that URL for your new site as well. For example, your current and new URLs might look something like this:
- Current site’s URL: currentsite.wustl.edu
- New site’s URL: sites.wustl.edu/newsite
To effectively retain the site’s original URL, you can request a vanity URL or domain mapping.
- A vanity URL is a user-friendly URL that redirects visitors to a site’s actual web address. To use the example above, a site’s previous URL — currentsite.wustl.edu — could be used as a vanity URL to forward users to the new URL: sites.wustl.edu/newsite. When a visitor reaches the new site, the address they see in the browser’s address bar would be sites.wustl.edu/newsite. If they clicked on the Features page, the URL they’d see would be sites.wustl.edu/newsite/features. Vanity URLs are an easy way to ensure you have a branded, memorable URL to use for communications.
- Domain mapping is more complex. It works by masking the site’s actual URL (sites.wustl.edu/newsite) with the preferred URL (currentsite.wustl.edu) and remapping every page throughout the site with the preferred URL. As a visitor navigates through the website, they continue to see the mapped URL, rather than the actual URL, in the browser’s address bar. For example, if they clicked on the Features page, the visible URL would be currentsite.wustl.edu/features.
Domain mapping can make editing your site more complex and result in delayed updates. If you make an update to your site and don’t immediately see it on the front end, check back in about an hour.
In many cases, a vanity URL suits the needs of a website. However, larger sites, such as departments or divisions, might require domain mapping.
When and how to request a vanity URL or domain mapping
Before submitting your request:
- You must have a website.
- Your site must be complete and ready to launch. Applying a vanity URL or domain mapping effectively makes the site live!
School of Medicine websites
Complete the Subdomain or Shared Email Address form on the Office of Medical Public Affairs website.
All other WashU websites
Complete the Domain & Email Address Requests form on the University Marketing and Communications website.
- For the Type of Request, choose Domain.
- Check the box for My domain is for a WashU Sites website and fill in the URL of the WashU Site to which this custom domain should be applied, e.g. sites.wustl.edu/yournewsite.
- Check the box for I’m replacing an existing domain and fill in the URL of your existing website, e.g. sites.wust.edu/youroldsite.
The first step is for your requested domain name to be approved. Your request will be completed within 1-2 weeks after approval.
Preventing links from breaking
Even if you’re keeping the same URL for your new site, you’ve likely restructured or renamed pages in a way that changes the URL for individual pages on your site. If that’s the case, you’ll need to set redirects so links don’t break when the new site launches.
Maintaining Google Analytics tracking
If you have Google Analytics set up on your current site, you’ll want to transfer the tracking code to your new site so there is no gap in your data.