It is not uncommon for people to ask whether having multiple domains point to one website would be considered dangerous or beneficial as it relates to search engine optimization (SEO) and Google. Certain businesses may prefer to have multiple different domains all pointing to one website.
The truth as it relates to this question is that the answer can depend on many factors. When we are talking about pointing multiple domains to one website, it is assumed that we will be talking about 301s or some other type of redirect from the extra domains to the website.
In general, having a single website answer, multiple domains usually creates multiple websites of duplicate content that will not be beneficial for SEO or Google.
Redirecting Domains to Your Main Domain
When talking about redirecting domains to a primary domain, the questions that must be answered relate to where did the domains come from in the first place? Has a person always had them? Have the domains ever had a website of their own?
When any domains have been standalone websites (meaning with their own content) or if they were run by people other than a client, it is important to examine the history of each domain. Pull a historical backlink profile going back as far as you can and get a fresh backlink profile for each domain.
When dealing with backlink profiles, you should be looking for things like links of questionable origin. Ask whether prior use of a domain involved buying links or now you are dealing with undesirable backlinks.
You will not want to 301 a domain with thousands of spam or porn links to a perfectly good domain. If a domain has any kind of footprint that indicates there were nefarious activities in the past, do not 301 redirect the domains to an active domain.
When domains have type-in values, it is possible to 302 redirect them to the client’s website. Also, be sure to check Google to see if there are any actively ranking pages on each of the domains. When there are, ask whether the content is directly analogous to current content. You do not want to be redirecting a domain that ranks for terms related to baseball players to a website that contains content about new cars.
Some people may be able to use a direct competitor’s domain and 301 redirects most of their pages to pages of theirs that contain basically the same content. In this situation, users still find exactly what they are looking for. There can be advantages to high-value links that had been pointing at a competitor’s site now 301 redirected to your own. When there are rankings on Google for any of the domains and clicking on any of those results triggers any kind of malware or malicious content warning, do not redirect a domain to your website.
When it seems that there is content on a domain, but it does not look like what you or a client believes should be there, an existing domain or website may have been hacked. When you are dealing with a hacked site, you can use it but you will need to obliterate the entire file system and any databases connected to the website.
Do Not Have the Client’s Website Simply Resolve for (Answer To) Multiple Domains
You can redirect the other domains to the client’s primary domain/website, but don’t create X number of identical content websites. Be sure to perform due diligence on the domains a client wants you to redirect to their website. Begin by looking at the backlink history and asking yourself if is it clean. Is there anything good there? Anything scary?
As it relates to prior content, ask yourself whether it is directly related to your current website. When it is not directly related, there probably is not much value.
When there is any evidence of domains being hacked or compromised in the past, do not redirect them. When an otherwise undesirable domain has amazing type-in potential, you can still do the redirect.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Having Multiple Domains
Some of the advantages of multiple domains can include:
- You can achieve greater flexibility with your products and services — Bigger companies that have multiple products and services can use multiple domain names to provide flexibility to silo a product or service suite while still maintaining the ability to cross-promote.
- More search engine result page (SERP) appearances — Bigger companies with multiple products and services appear in more SERPS. When a company has multiple websites, it can appear in more SERPS than competitors who only have one website.
- Better segmentation — Another case for multiple domains is that when a company is multifaceted and diverse enough in its product offerings that different websites are required to target different buyer personas.
- Global presence — Larger companies with a global presence will often choose to structure their website domain strategy using a country code top-level domain name (ccTLD). It is common for bigger companies to translate their website into different languages based on location, and Google does not penalize these websites for duplicate content as long as the website is translated correctly and the users of the site are from the correct country.
Some of the cons to multiple domains may include:
- Resource and time-intensive — Ask yourself whether your company will be committed to the resources required to make multiple websites worth the investment. While a company does not need to be huge, it does need to ensure that its operations are robust enough to maintain and cultivate an independent website and related ecosystem.
- More domains means more money on strategic work — Look at how your current website is ranking and see if you are being found for the right keywords. When people are failing to keep up with competitors, splitting focus may not be the best idea.
- Risk of duplicate content — While many companies simply copy and paste large portions of their website to another, more than one URL showing the same content means search engines do not know which website to rank higher. They will eventually penalize both pages by giving preference to other websites.
- Problems with multiple analytics — If a company has multiple domains, it must also have multiple analytics tools to manage and maintain. A system must be put in place to ensure that users can be tracked between various websites, as any user who comes to website A from website B will be tracked as a referral from website A. You want to think through ramifications of overseeing multiple websites.
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