It wasn’t that long ago that many companies bought and used several domains for the exact same business. We’re not talking about buying every possible domain extension for the name (.org, .co, .biz, etc., which can be a very important and necessary move). We’re talking about using multiple domains in an attempt to increase traffic and dominate more of the search engine results page.
We’ve just talked about how politicians are using multiple domain names, so obviously there are some valid ways for a single organization to use a variety of domains, but, unfortunately, too many companies still believe that they will receive some sort of SEO benefit by purchasing slightly relevant names and pointing them to their main site.
This really is some old-timey SEO, and doesn’t really provide any particular value anymore (if it ever did). It was an attempt to dominate more search engine real estate on the front page, but this is not the kind of behavior that search engines support – which is to say they’ll probably get pretty mad at those who use it.
Here are the Problems
If multiple domains are hosting sites that target the same products, keywords, and customers, and are owned by the same business, chances are they are filled with duplicate content. That alone can lead to a huge penalty, if it hasn’t happened already.
More importantly, it can create customer confusion. The same products, same discounts, same terms of service, and maybe even the same company showing up under different domains, can cause serious concerns. Customers may not know which site is the “right” one to use and make a purchase.
Possibly one of the bigger problems is just pointing the domains at a single website without putting any effort behind the other websites. A company will just buy them and point them in the general direction of the main website. If you must point domains at a different website and don’t have the time to build out a real marketing campaign, it’s probably better to just 301 redirect them to your primary URL.
Also keep in mind that the more you spread your efforts between multiple domains the less you’ll be able to give your main site the attention it needs. You could start to lose control over the indexing of the site and even dividing your rank equity.
Is This Ever a Valid Option?
Defensive domain buying is still common, as we’ve seen with politicians. But most often, we see multiple domain purchases when a company is trying to claim potentially embarrassing names or common misspellings that could be properly redirected.
This kind of strategy has to come with a caveat, though. What happens if one of those domains has a questionable history and tons of bad links already pointing at it? If you redirect that domain to your main site, all that bad history is going to go right with it, so be sure you know where it’s been before you picked it up.
And, as we mentioned earlier, buying similar domains, misspellings, and even acronyms of your company’s name may be an effective option because that will allow you help people who are actually looking for your website, but made an honest mistake in their attempts. These can simply be redirected to your main domain and these visitors will see exactly what they expected.
Finally, if you have a website that targets users in different countries, you may need more than one domain. You’ll note how major websites have region specific top level domains, such as Amazon.co.jp or Google.co.uk. Still, even though you will technically have multiple domains and technically have to create content and maintain each one, it’s still different from buying multiple domains to dominate search engine rankings for a single search in a single location.
Avoiding Old-Timey SEO Domain Buying
So while there are some valid reasons to use multiple domains, many companies still buy several names simply hoping to dominate the first page of the search engine results.
The main problem with this kind of strategy is that you will be spreading your time and resources too thin, and not receiving the benefits you hoped for. You’ll note that buying slight misspellings may be useful because all you have to do is redirect it to your website. Trying to create and coordinate unique content for more than a single site – that are all saying the same thing – is very difficult, time consuming, and costly. And if you get hit with a duplicate content penalty, all your work will be for nothing.
Multiple sites will also create potential branding issues. What happens when the secondary site starts to outrank the branded URL? How do you tie it together without causing more confusion?
In general, you should only have a single domain that receives your focus. While there are other domains that you can buy to complement your online strategy (through microsites or redirecting misspellers), it’s best to focus on a single name and make it your true brand.
So if your only reason to buy domains is to get any link equity that might be attached to it, you’ll find little to no value in the practice. The best domain name is just the start. If you want to convince a search engine to rank your site, you will need to support and build out the website, constantly using the best SEO tactics and establishing your authority through content marketing.