A lot of people ask me about having multiple domain names, and can that help them in their search engine rankings? A corollary to this is having keyword-rich domain names and pointing them to their current Web site. There is a belief that having keywords in your domain name is the “magic bullet” that will make you pop to the top.
Unfortunately, this practice can actually backfire on you and cause bigger issues that you didn’t intend to create.
Domain Name SEO
It’s absolutely true that your domain is a factor in the “score” that Google assigns to your Web site. There’s a reason I picked the domain name I did for my business – it has “search engine” in it. Google reportedly has between 200 and 500 factors that it uses every time someone does a search to figure out whether you show up in position #1 or position #1000 on the search engine results page (SERP). It does this in just a fraction of a second for the approximately 1 trillion Web pages that are in its index. (That to me is an amazing feat all by itself!)
Your domain name is one of these 200-500 factors that counts towards your position.
Is it a big factor? Nope. Is it highly influential? Nope. It might notch you above the next guy, but that’s about it. You really want to concentrate on the bigger hitters that will give you better position:
Multiple Keyword-Rich Domain Names
So what if you do go out and buy 10 domain names that have your keywords in them, and point them to your single Web site? Won’t that help? Won’t that associate your site with those keywords? The truth of the matter is that it will hurt you more than it will help you.
As an example, lets say that you sell pet food for reptiles. You buy “nutritious-iguana-food.com” and “delicious-garter-snake-food.com” and point them to your Web site, “healthy-reptile-food.com”. Assuming that Google is at some point going to index the now three domains and register them in its index, will that help you?
Many people believe that it will, but it will actually hurt your position on the SERPs because now you have a duplicate content issue. Google will see different “Web sites” all pointing to identical content. Google doesn’t like duplicate content, and therefore, you will be penalized because everything from the content, META tags, and everything else, will be identical.
Fix Multiple Domain Name Duplicate Content Issues
If you have bought multiple domain names either with keywords or you want to own all the .com, .org, and .net variations so someone else doesn’t grab them, that’s perfectly OK. But you have to manage them in a special way. You have to let Google know that only one of the domain names is the “real” domain, and to ignore all others. This is called a 301-redirect. There are many excellent articles describing how to set up a 301-redirect, so I won’t cover the minutiae here (just “Google” it).
What a 301-redirect does is gives instructions to Google and the other search engines that if someone landed on a URL through them, that you’re going to redirect them to the correct URL, and give Google back a message to remove the old URL from their index.
So in the example before, you can own “nutritious-iguana-food.com” and point it to your Web site. But you need to set up a 301-redirect to pop it over to “healthy-reptile-food.com”. So if someone either types it in directly to their browser, or come to that page through the search engines, it will resolve to the correct domain:
"nutritious-iguana-food.com" -> "healthy-reptile-food.com"
Same thing if you own the .com and .net versions of your domain name, you want want to resolve safely to the other:
"xyz.net" -> "xyz.com"
In this manner, you’ve still got your proverbial cake (many domain names), but only one of them counts. So don’t worry about trying to “optimize” your domain name with keywords. Use the other techniques described before, and you’ll have far better results. If you want keywords in the URL, use them in the page name instead:
As a final note, be sure to read the blog and watch the video about domain name canonicalization, which is very much related to this topic and has a similar impact.