Why use multiple domain names?
Posted Friday, November 19, 2004
It's quite common for a site to be referenced by more than one domain name. In fact, most sites are referenced by at least two: a www version and a non-www version. These are usually set up to reference the index page on a site and produce the same results for a searcher.
It could, however, be argued that these are these same domain names. So the question remains: why would someone want to have more than one unique domain name for a single site?
Search engines - First, let's take a brief look at search engines. In the past, it was a very common spamming technique to purchase dozens, hundreds or in some really gross cases, thousands of domain names, all referencing exactly the same site. These were all submitted to the search engines, and many of them were indexed and blindly added to the results. This is how many questionable sites used to get top search results very quickly and inexpensively.
The search engines have apparently caught onto this technique. At the very least, it has become common knowledge that this kind of spamming is not tolerated (sometimes common knowledge can be just as effective a deterrent as actual enforcement). I know that in the past it was normal to find many sites of different domain names but identical content in search engine results; today it's far more rare.
In fact, the top search engine, Google, bases it's ranking scheme on quality of links. What this translates to is you must get popular (higher ranking) sites to link to your site to raise your ranking. Thus, it's a better strategy to get as many links to a SINGLE domain name than to many different domain names.
With this in mind, it's now considered best by most search engine optimization specialists (at least those that know what they are doing) to only list a single domain with the search engines, perhaps with the www and non-www version but nothing else.
Multiple entry points - One technique that I use on my own site with great success is to have multiple entry points, each it's own domain name. Let's consider a mythical site in order to illustrate how this works.
The site is about homemaking, and thus the main domain is "homemaking.com". Underneath this are sections about sewing, housecleaning and cooking. You might use "homemaking.com" for link exchanges and search engine submissions, then create three additional domains: "sewing.com", "housecleaning.com" and "cooking.com" (although if you actually managed to purchase those domain names you could resell them for quite a chunk of change).
Each of these domains would use a 301 redirect (this informs any search engine that the page has permanently moved to a new location) to a specific page on the site.
Those three domains would then be used in different themed marketing campaigns. You might submit an article to a cooking site, for instance, which referencing cooking.com. For a newsletter about cleaning, you would use housecleaning.com. Each domain name is merely a shortcut to the master domain, but it is much more targeted than "homemaking.com".
Protection - If you own a business, it's a great idea to think of some of the derivations of your site name and purchase those as well. Thus, if you had a company named "xyz", you might also purchase "xyzsucks" and "ihatexyz" as well. You may as well direct these to your site, but be sure to include 301 redirects, as you definitely do not want them in search engine indices.
Typos - Sometimes people misspell things, and domain names are no exception. Knowing this, you can get some respectable traffic by purchasing common misspellings for your domain name. Just remember to use the 301 redirect method so these misspellings are not listed in the search engines.
Other TLD's (Top Level Domains) - If possible, it's a good idea to get the .com, .net and .org version of your domain at a minimum. I tend to get the .us (or whatever country is appropriate), .info and .biz versions as well. This ensures that no matter what people type they will get to your domain. Of course, remember to 301 redirect these domains so they don't get listed.
For branding purposes, it's essential to get the other TLD's if you can. If you don't you may be embarrassed to find some pornographic or casino site has purchased your name with a different TLD. The white house site (whitehouse.gov) is a classic example: the .com version has nothing to do with the white house (if you type this URL, be sure your kids are not present).
Other TLD's with different content - In a slight alteration of the above method, I have purchased the additional TLD's, but made each one slightly different. To use the above housecleaning example, housecleaning.com might be a page about housecleaning in general, housecleaning.us might index articles specific to the United States, and housecleaning.biz may include information related to housecleaning businesses. Each of these is just a page or two, and links back to the main housecleaning.com domain.
If you use this method, be sure it's honest and sincere. Do NOT do this to spam search engines (in fact, to be perfectly safe, set your metatags to stop robots from indexing those pages). These are not intended for search engines - these pages are intended for focused marketing campaigns.
Regional content - If your site has regional content, you might purchase specific domain names to focus on that content. For example, if you had a stamp collection site, you could purchase "my-stamps.to" for Tonga related stamps, "my-stamps.us" for United States stamps and so on. You could also keep it simpler and purchase "my-tonga-stamps.com" for your general site, "my-english-stamps.com" for your English stamps and so on. These should also use 301 redirects to keep the specific domain names from being indexed.
Uses for the .NAME TLD - You might even consider purchase the .name TLD for your senior managers. Put up simple web sites about them, with links to your main site. These SHOULD be indexed in the search engines, as you want people to find them if they are looking for information about your personnel.
Don't forget email - Remember you can get email on each and every one of the domains that your purchase. In fact, this is a great reason to purchase additional domain names - people can send you email by different means. So be sure to set up the email for each and every domain to go to a general, "catch-all" account. It's a good idea, though, to heavily spam-filter this account as it can collect a huge amount of junk.
Subdomains - This is a great way to get much of the benefit of the above listed techniques without purchasing additional domain names. It does require a little more control of your DNS entries, however, as most ISPs and web hosts will not be willing to do these kinds of things for you.
In this case, you could define "housekeeping.com" as the primary domain, then "cleaning.housekeeping.com", "sewing.housekeeping.com" and "cooking.housekeeping.com" as the subdomains. You should continue to use 301 redirects to keep the search engines from indexing these pages.
Renewals - Don't forget to renew all of these domains each year. At least examine each one when renewal time comes and consciously decide whether or not you need the domain. Don't let them expire without your knowledge. Someone else may then benefit from your hard work.
Other people's mistakes - Sometimes you might find that the domain you want is not available. In this case, take a look at the WHOIS record and see when it expires. Set up a reminder for 30 days from this date and every week or so thereafter. On those days, try and purchase the domain. Quite often, (especially these days) you may be surprised to find the domain has become available.
Other TLD systems - Companies such as new.net are offering many more pseudo-TLDs such as .SHOP and .XXX to the general public. I would avoid these new systems like the plague. These are at best bad ideas and at worst scams. They are attempts to supercede the official internet standard TLD system by companies with questionable motivations. They all require browser plug-ins or other customizations to work, and some of them come piggy-backed with spyware and other malicious applications.
These alternate TLDs do not get indexed in search engines, and they may conflict with future TLDs added in the official domain name structure (and thus become useless). On top of that, they are extremely expensive.
In my opinion, it is critical that the internet domain name structure remain under the control of a central governing body. While this body (currently ICANN) is not operating as desired by the majority, it's still much better being under one umbrella than splintering this all over the place.
Straight TCP/IP address - I am always surprised to come across a site which is listed in search engines, ezines and other promotions as a straight TCP/IP address. This is not only tacky and a sign of a spammer, it's not very intelligent as well. If you do this and move your site (changing it's IP), you will lose all of the traffic that you have so painfully gained.
Conclusions - The point is that owning more than one domain has many uses, although it is no longer of much value from a search engine optimization viewpoint. Instead, you can use the other domain names to fulfill other types of marketing and to attract people from specific markets to your site.
About the Author
Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at (http://www.internet-tips.net) - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.