December 12th, 2008.
One common misconception many site owners make is the assumption that:
more websites = more traffic = more sales.
Logically, this may seem like a good idea- after all, two hands are better than one, five are better than two, right?
When it comes to domain names and search engine optimisation- this couldn’t be further from the truth!
Sadly, many site owners with limited SEO knowledge make this assumption- either, pointing many other domains to their existing site or copying their existing site and hosting it separately with other domain names. Both methods don’t work, and are likely to get your existing site penalised, causing less traffic and less sales. Why?
Search engines use links to crawl pages within and outside of a site. If links point to a page on a domain name, search engine robots will crawl that page. However, having multiple domains pointing to a site allows search engines multiple entrances to the same content, effectively presenting the same page multiple times.
E.g. if www.mysite1.com points to the same server directory as www.mysite2.com, search engines can see the same single page through more than one source- and if not correctly managed (using 301 redirects) duplicate content problems will occur which will result in the sites receiving a decrease in rankings and potentially a ban from search engines altogether.
In the second instance, by hosting the same content on multiple sites the duplicate content issue is also present, resulting in a drop and a possible ban for all duplicate sites (including the original site) in extreme circumstances and probable indexing issues.
How Can Multiple Domains Provide Any Value?
Having multiple domains can provide your site with additional value if managed correctly. For branding purposes, companies may purchase premium domain names which can potentially provide additional direct traffic from searchers typing in the URL directly.
For example, searchers for â€œcablesâ€ may directly type into their address bar â€œcables.comâ€, providing this site with additional direct traffic.
Other large corporations buy the localised versions of their domain name, partly to protect their brand and largely to help with usability.
For example, hp.co.uk provides the UK index page for HP, while HP also own hp.com, and hp.com.au, to name a few.
How is it then that large companies are able to use multiple domains and not get penalised in search engines? The answer is, these domains are managed correctly and redirect these domains to the appropriate pages on the server. By using a ‘301 Permanently moved’ redirect, these domains point to a single page on the server, therefore minimising duplicate content issues.
i.e. when someone types in hp.co.uk, a request is made to the HP server, where the server then identifies this request and directs the visitor to the UK main page on the universal site, therefore not duplicating the content on the page as search engines see the same file on the same server, be it through hp.co.uk or through http://welcome.hp.com/country/uk/en/welcome.html
Should You Consider Using Multiple Domains?
If you are a large corporation and if this will help the usability of your site then consideration of multiple domains should be made. However, if your brand is not internationally known and if there is no main benefit and no potential direct traffic, we strongly advise against it. Remember- very few people are going to directly type in ‘this-is-my-nice-branded-domain.com’ or ‘thisismynicebrandeddomain.com’- domains such as this example will bring little (if any) direct traffic from the domain name, and whilst they may look good for additional branding, they provide no real support to your current sites domain.