Dynamic QR codes with custom domains

“Dynamic” the word the QR code industry decided to use to describe QR codes that include scan tracking and can be edited after creation. They work by encoding a redirect link into the pattern of the QR code rather than the scan destination directly.

The "custom domain" feature that Hovercode and other providers offer lets you connect your own domain to use as those redirects.

Confused? Let's try clarify how it all works with some examples.

Dynamic QR codes: How do they work?

Say you want to create a QR code that scans to https://www.linkedin.com/company/hovercode/. With a regular QR code, “https://www.linkedin.com/company/hovercode/“ is directly encoded into the pattern of the QR code.

When someone scans it, they are taken there directly. The scan destination of this QR code can’t be changed once it’s created and the scans aren’t tracked. This is often referred to as a static QR code.

On the left, a phone viewfinder scanning a QR code and on the right a phone screen with LinkedIn loaded. Showing a static QR code flow without tracking/editing

Dynamic QR codes work with a redirect link that the QR code software makes automatically when you generate a QR code. For example, when creating a dynamic QR code for https://www.linkedin.com/company/hovercode/, the redirect link https://scango.to/69291784 is created and encoded into the QR code pattern.

When people scan the code, they are taken to https://scango.to/69291784, which almost instantly redirects them to https://www.linkedin.com/company/hovercode/.

On the left, a phone scanning a QR code showing scango.to domain with an arrow leading to a screen on the right showing LinkedIn. In between, an arrow showing a redirect via scanqr.to

This redirect flow is what enables the editing and tracking features. With this code, you can change the scan destination at any time, but the redirect link that's encoded on the QR code remains the same. When someone scans it, they are still taken to https://scango.to/69291784, but instead of being instantly redirected to the LinkedIn page, they are now redirected to the new scan destination.

Dynamic QR codes are popular because tracking scans is super helpful, especially if you’re using QR codes on multiple marketing campaigns. Being able to edit the scan destination is also super helpful when plans change or something goes to print with a typo.

What's the custom domain feature?

One downside of dynamic QR codes is that when people scan them, they see the redirect link domain (e.g. scanqr.to) regardless of the scan destination. It’s not a massive issue as people are now used to scanning QR codes that have redirect links, but wouldn’t it be nice if the redirect link showed your brand instead of ours?

That’s what the custom redirect domains enable.

With this feature, you can connect your own domain to your Hovercode account. Now when you create dynamic QR codes, your own domain will be used to create the redirect links. Instead of scanqr.to or one of our other default domains, it will be something like qr.yoursite.com.

A screen on the left scanning a QR code showing the domain qr.hovercode.com, an arrow leading to a screen on the right showing LinkedIn, redirected via qr.yoursite.com

Regardless of whether the scan destination is a page on LinkedIn, Instagram, a PDF, your own site, or anything else, when people scan your code they will see your connected custom domain (e.g. qr.yoursite.com). This is better for your brand and makes your QR codes more trustworthy.

Frequently asked questions

A few questions related to custom domains are asked frequently, so I thought I'd try answer them here:

When I add a custom domain, will it work with QR codes I created before connecting it?

No. While the scan destination of dynamic QR codes can be changed, the actual link that's encoded onto the QR code can't be. Custom domains are only used with QR codes that are created after they are connected successfully.

Why do you use the “qr” part in the examples like “qr.yoursite.com”?

The custom domain you connect to Hovercode has to be one that isn't used for anything else. Yoursite.com is likely being used for your website, so it can't be used here. qr.yoursite.com is likely not being used for your site or any other services, so it is a good default option. In reality, any subdomain that isn't already being used is fine. E.g. go.yoursite.com, hi.yoursite.com etc.

What's the process like for adding a custom domain?

You need to have access to wherever your domain is hosted. It could be GoDaddy, Namecheap, Cloudflare, or one of the many other providers. Once logged your domain host, you need to add a CNAME (usually in a section called something like DNS settings).

After that's done, you can verify the settings in your Hovercode account and you're good to go. While it sounds fairly technical, it's usually straightforward as long as you know where your domain is hosted and you have access to the account.

If I'm creating a lot of QR codes for a lot of different websites, do I need a lot of custom domains connected?

No. You can use one custom domain to create infinite QR codes that all scan to different websites. The custom domain is just used for the redirect part, the scan destination isn't related.

What happens to my custom domain and my QR codes if I decide to stop using Hovercode?

If you unsubscribe from Hovercode after connecting a domain, the domain will be disconnected and the QR codes created with it will stop working unless you migrate them to your new solution.

As you control the domain that's used for the dynamic QR redirect, it is possible migrate them to another provider or your own custom solution, but it will likely require some development resources.

I hope that clarifies some questions you have about dynamic QR codes, custom domains, and anything related. If you have a question I didn't answer here or you want to learn more, please reach out!

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