Multiple Domains – Do You Need Them?
“I’ve been having some discussion with fellow ceilidh band members about the usefulness or uselessness of buying multi domain names for the same site … i’d love to know the truth!”
We recently got sent this question and thought it would be a great topic for a blog post. Just so you know, all the domain names in this article are examples only, any resemblance to websites living or dead is purely coincidental.
Lots of people seem to think that having multiple domain names for the same site will help them get a wider exposure. E.g. for the ceilidh band example they might be considering something like ceilidh-band.com, scottish-dancing.com, london-ceilidh.com, etc.
However, although it might sound like a good idea in practice it doesn’t make any positive difference to your search engine results and can even be a detriment.
One domain to rule them all…
Google, Bing DuckDuckGo, etc. index content at the domain level. This means that their ‘default’ setting is to see ceilidh-band.com, scottish-dancing.com and london-ceilidh.com as separate websites that are not linked in any way. So, if you have multiple domains then you have two choices about how you set them up:
- Set the domains up so that they all redirect to your primary (canonical) domain using a set of ‘permanent’ (301) redirects. E.g. if you visit scottish-dancing.com you are redirected to ceilidh-band.com. If you do this then the only domain that ever gets indexed by the search engines is the canonical domain, so your extra domains do not give you any benefit in terms of search engine results.
- Set the domains up so that your content can be seen on any of the domains. E.g. if you visit scottish-dancing.com you see the same content as if you went to ceilidh-band.com, but you aren’t redirected. This is A Bad Thing that You Should Not (normally) Do. Search engines are very good at spotting content that is the same on more than one site. When they see this, they (broadly) assume that wherever they spotted it first is the primary source and anywhere else where it is found is a copy. They then ignore the copied content, or may even choose to penalise the site they think is copying. So, if you do this then there is a very good chance that some of your content will be indexed on one domain, and some content on the other, meaning neither of them end up scoring well in the search results as their message has been diluted.
The exceptions to the rule…
So, is there any reason why you might want to purchase more than one domain? Well, there are a couple of good reasons:
- Brand protection. If you own a site at ceilidh-band.com then you might want to stop anyone opening a rival site at e.g. ceilidh-band.co.uk which could be mistaken for yours. So you might want to register multiple names as a method of protecting your brand, and then redirect them all to the same place.
- Advertising. Say your ceilidh band wants to make and sell cajons. You might want to take out some adverts that point people directly at this new product via a snappy new domain such as cajon.com. In this case you can register the new domain and redirect it to the cajon page on your main website, giving people a relevant, easy to remember shortcut while keeping all your content under one domain.
The one sentence summary:
Register domains to advertise and protect your brand, but not to spam – simple!
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net