Multiple Domain Names: Good or Bad for SEO?

Recently, I’ve had a few clients approach me with a question which still appears to be a common SEO myth…

Is there any benefit to pointing multiple domain names to my site? I heard this can help improve my site’s search rankings.

The short answer to this question is: No.

Registering multiple domain names and pointing them to your website will not directly improve your site’s search engine rankings.

In one case, the client had already acted on what they believed to be a strategic move for their site’s search visibility and rankings. They went ahead and grabbed up a bunch of exact match keyword domain names, thinking that if they were then pointed to their website, search engines would automagically start ranking their site for those keywords. They then excitedly approached me with their latest SEO revelation, having believed they’d just hit internet marketing pay dirt.

I’m not sure what caused this client to go rogue on this SEO decision, but my guess is they stumbled on some outdated or ill-informed advice which they spotted online. It’s also possible that a friend or associate may have shared with them this ‘tip’ – ignoring the fact that this strategy was something they heard about 12 years ago.

Back in the stone ages of search – when the Yahoo, Webcrawler, Alta Vista, HotBot, Google and the Lycos were still figuring out the internets and interpreting a site’s content – using exact-match-keyword domain names was a shortcut to the top.

But that was long, long ago.

Search engines have evolved tremendously since then, which is great, because nowadays you’re much more likely to actually find what you’re looking for when you Google something. Back in the old days, search engines had to rely on easy-to-manipulate signals like domain names and meta keywords to determine a site’s relevance – making it very easy for shady SEOs to ‘game’ search by using spammy domains and keyword stuffing a site’s pages.

Google addressed this questionable practice by introducing an algorithm update in September of 2012 which actually punished sites using spammy keyword-rich domain names. Unfortunately, many site owners and even so-called SEOs never got that memo, allowing the exact match keyword domain name “SEO benefit” myth to perpetuate to this day.

Will having multiple domain names pointing to my site harm my SEO?

The answer to this question is also: No, mostly.

Having multiple domains point to your website will not affect your SEO in any way, but with a few minor exceptions:

  • If you use a spammy forwarded url to promote your site, instead of its primary url, then that will devalue and dilute your SEO efforts.
  • If the keyword-rich URL you are forwarding to your primary URL was ever attached to a thin and crappy site, then yes, that could also adversely impact your SEO.

Is there any benefit to pointing multiple domains to my site?

The answer: Under the right circumstances, Yes.

There are a few reasons in particular why it would be a good idea to use more than one URL for your website:

Your primary URL is tough to remember or get straight

If your URL is especially long or has a tricky spelling, then having a few extra derivatives of your name can be helpful for internet searchers. For example, you may want something that’s really easy to say over the phone, or maybe you want to cover both singular and plural versions of your site’s name. In this case, having the additional domains pointing to your site will make it easier for visitors to reach your site when typing the url into the address bar of their browser.

You might find that people commonly misspell your domain a certain way, so registering the misspelling for $15 per year might be worth it to you.

You want to own the brand

If your new site or business is something you intend to be serious about, then it may be wise to grab up a few related names and additional TLD versions (.net, .org, .co, .info) of it. This will ensure that you can control your brand’s name. It’s not always necessary, but given how cheap domain names are these days, it may be worth it to purchase the additional names so that some asshat doesn’t build out a crummy spam site on a URL that sounds like yours.

If you can register the proper .com for your name, then I don’t feel that having the additional TLDs are hugely advantageous; however, I do believe that having similar spellings and versions of your name is a plus. It can also be seen as a pre-emptive move to thwart competitors who might look to capitalize on your idea – using a similar name. For example: if you run a local business with plans of expansion in the coming years, maybe you want to reserve domain names that represent your business on the county or state level. Pointing the domains to your site won’t hurt you, but if a competitor comes along and builds a bang-up site on a domain you could have purchased for $15, then you’ll kick yourself years down the road.

You want to change your site’s URL

Maybe you’ve decided to change your site’s URL. In that case, you’re going to want to redirect the old URL to the new one so that you can pass that site authority on to the new domain. Perhaps you’ve merged a few different sites into one. In that case, you’re going to want to redirect all of the retired domains to the new URL.

If better rankings are what you’re after (and…duh…who isn’t?!), then focus on your content

Search engines rank and index websites; they don’t rank and index domain names.

Search engines are in the business of serving up the most relevant and highest quality content they can find based on the keywords you enter. For this very reason, it is the content of your site that matters most; not the domain name(s) attached to it. Rather than look to perceived shortcuts – like domain mapping – instead focus on what really matters… providing your visitors and customers with a magnificent experience when they go to your website.

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