I get this question a lot from prospects or clients who have heard that having multiple domains pointing to their website or multiple websites or landing pages for each of their services can increase their hits and rank their page(s) higher on search engines. Some clients have come to me in the past with several keyword based domain names, pointing to the same website or several websites that are similar versions of the same content. They think or have been told by unscrupulous SEO ‘experts’ this will give them an advantage on the playing field, on in this instance, on the SERP (search engine results page).
But more often than not, SEO marketing techniques are misunderstood, misused or now penalized by the Search Engines themselves. Two of these often misguided efforts is the practice of (1) creating multiple sites, or (2) hoarding related domain names which are then redirected to the main site. Does this help or hurt your web presence? Let’s start with the pros and cons of multiple domain names.
Does having multiple domains help in promoting your placement on the search engines?
First of all, there is no clear evidence that it hurts your page ranking but it also doesn’t help. There are few things to consider when using multiple domains and they all have to do with motive.
Here are the some of the reasons why using multiple domains may not be a good idea.
- When you attach multiple domain names to a site, search engines can become confused and your rankings may suffer. If they find the same page at two or more different domains (URLs), the search engines will sometimes filter out the extra listings, but there’s no guarantee of which ones they’ll filter, so you lose control on your internet marketing strategy.
- If you are just using multiple domains to increase traffic, that is not going to help you. In fact, you are actually causing brand confusion with your users, making more work for yourself by having to clarify the primary domain and trying to promote several domains at once.
- If you do succeed in getting users to use multiple domains to get to the same place, you are actually hurting your overall backlink strategy. How? You don’t want people linking to your site with non-standard domain names because that will tend to divide your inbound link strength.
Here are some of the reasons why using multiple domains may be a good idea.
- You’re merging two websites and want to make sure that links to outdated URLs are redirected to the correct pages.
- You’ve moved your site to a new domain, and you want to make the transition as seamless as possible. Your former URL has a positive link history that you don’t want to lose.
- You are using multiple pages as entry points on your website for marketing purposes. For example, you’re promoting a specific service you may use an additional domain to bypass the homepage and link with a 301 redirect to a page promoting that specific service page.
- It is an international business where it might makes sense to have both a .com version as well as a ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain such as .nl, .jp, .de, .ca, .uk) in order to better cater to each demographic. Although some SEO experts do not feel this is necessary, even if you operate in multiple countries, since there isn’t a clear answer on splitting up into local TLDs versus working under a single generic TLD (like .com, .net, and .org).
- If you are going to use multiple domains, Google recommends using 301 redirects* to standardize URLs. [Read More]
Does having multiple websites help in promoting your placement on the search engines?
Most agree, that multiple websites for the same company is never a good idea. Why?
1// Time & Maintenance. As I say over and again on this blog and my website, “having a professional website is just the beginning”. The real work begins when your site goes live by creating an effective backlink strategy, advertising your URL on social media and other online platforms, and most importantly regularly creating keyword rich and engaging content.
Adding new content, for example through a blog post, pings the search engines when your content is published. The more you do that the more attention you are attracting from search engines, and ultimately from users. And your internet marketing efforts should not just be done on a quarterly or even monthly basis, but daily and weekly SEO updates, social media management and new content submission is vital to a new website’s success.
Small Business Owners are usually extremely limited on time to begin with, so are you willing to put that much effort in not just one but several sites? That would not be a good use of anyone’s time.
2// Duplicate Content. Multiple sites for the same company or sister companies will usually result in duplicate or extremely similar content. Search engines will not display content with sites that have duplicate content, they will choose one of the links and discard the rest.
“To provide the best search experience, search engines will rarely show multiple duplicate pieces of content and thus, are forced to choose which version is most likely to be the original—or best.” – MOZ Online Marketing
So essentially, you’d be competing against yourself for page ranking, for backlinks and for placement on search result pages. When duplicate content is present, site owners suffer rankings and traffic losses, and search engines provide less relevant results.
3// Search Engine Ranking. When you have multiple websites targeting the same industry, geography, and keywords, you will essentially end up competing against yourself, especially if you have the same business name, address and contact info. Google and other search engines, are getting better and better at eradicating websites using Black Hat* SEO strategies. So when search engines see different websites with different names, but the same service, address and contact info, they do not approve and will likely negatively impact your rankings.
Again, what is the motive? Google, right now, is making 500 algorithm changes a year to ensure that the user gets the right result on the first few pages, but also ensure that the user will have a great experience at your website with original, quality and engaging content. If your strategy is primarily to attract (or worse to trick) search engines, than your motive is not at all geared toward user experience but more about selfish gain. Google’s constant changes is about promoting sites that care about informing, engaging and enhancing the user experience.
4// Brand Confusion. What is the number one reason that converts users to customers? Trust & Credibility. If you have several sites for the same company (or sister company or DBA’s), you are going to confuse the user, since they are not sure which of your sites is the “official” one. They may wonder the motive behind having multiple sites, which will result in a loss of … yes, trust & credibility. Many users will not take the time to determine your reasons but will look elsewhere, ergo your competitors. Hence your brand will become dilated and worse, damaged by using what is evidently a black hat strategy to fraudulently increase site traffic.
Instead of spinning your wheels by building multiple sites or registering multiple domains, focus your energy, time and resources into a single web presence. Build one main website and build it great.
White Hat Strategy: In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology, white hat SEO refers to the usage of optimization strategies, techniques and tactics that focus on a human audience opposed to search engines and completely follows search engine rules and policies.
Black Hat Strategy: In search engine optimization (SEO) terminology, black hat SEO refers to the use of aggressive SEO strategies, techniques and tactics that focus only on search engines and not a human audience, and usually does not obey search engines guidelines.
301 Redirect: “If you need to change the URL of a page as it is shown in search engine results, we recommend that you use a server-side 301 redirect. This is the best way to ensure that users and search engines are directed to the correct page. The 301 status code means that a page has permanently moved to a new location.” – Google.com