• Is it worth having more than one domain name for a website?

    Posted By KJL Support on June 09, 2017

    It's amazing how often we will take over website management for a business, only to find that they have previously gone out and purchased every domain name under the sun which could relate to their business.

    Often they have not only purchased a raft of different extensions (such as .info .biz .net and .org), but they have also included their location in the domain or what product/service they sell too (eg. www.mybusinessessex.com or www.mybusinesspostcards.com) because they think their Google ranking will be higher with these terms in the URL. This comes from a fundamental misinterpretation of how Google works and what using these domain names will do.

    Before we get into that though - there are two and only sets of valid reasons for purchasing more than one domain name for a single site.

    1. Your company name has changed and you want to redirect people towards your new website. 
    Using separate URLs is not advised (for reasons we will cover later) but in the majority of cases is a perfectly valid reason for having more than one URL pointing to a single website.

    2. You are concerned that competitors may try to copy your domain (or a similar name). Alternatively, you want to reduce the chance of users' mis-spelling. Google, for instance, also owns www.gooogle.com, google.net, google.org, etc. In SOME circumstances this is a wise move that can be used to protect your business.

    There is one more potentially valid reason which we cover here, but for 99.9% of cases, these two are the only valid reasons for wanting to own more than one domain name for a single site.

    Invalid reasons include: 'It will help my SEO', 'It will give me more than one listing on Google', 'It will make me easier to find'. In many cases owning more than one domain name will not help these factors - this will be covered in the next section.

    A quick lesson on Google and Domain names

    Google is a big database of websites - that's all. When you run a search, you are asking the Google database to provide a list of results that match what you are asking for. The results it provides are then sorted by Google's own filter (otherwise known as an algorithm) and this is what gives the user the response.

    Improving the position of your website (based on this sorting method) is better known as 'SEO' or Search Engine Optimisation. Google works this way independently as a business - it does not recognise different active domain names under single sites, but rather registers each domain name as a completely different website in normal circumstances.

    Let's keep it simple - what does Google actually do when it looks at a website? Each name (website) in Google's database has an indexing score or quality score based on set criteria such as mobile responsiveness, data security, and the domain name's age (creation date). It also has a record of any minus or exclusion factors such as bounce rate (if people don't stay on your website), complaints about advertising spam, malpractice blacklisting, or content duplication (copying and pasting text or stealing images from other websites).

    Google also has a dynamic value known as a robots.txt indexing score or SERP (Search Engine Results Page) score. This is the element many people know about. It is calculated by a matrix of items such as website traffic, referrals from other websites, the number of keywords on that page, whether a keyword is in the URL, and whether the word is in the page's description. This is the bit that SEO companies focus on. A SERP changes daily, based on regular Google updates - for instance, they may introduce a penalty for using a keyword more than 5 times in one paragraph. This makes it very difficult and time-consuming to manage.

    An example of a change to the algorithm would be Google adding a penalty (reduction in SERP score) for companies that try to manipulate Google search by using specific keywords within the URL. To make it clear, having the name of a product or service in a URL will no longer improve the ranking for that product or service. Google has been moving in this direction for some time. It should also be noted, however, that while it no longer boosts the score, Google ranking is not actively reduced by containing the keyword - it just no longer offers the advantages that it used to previously.

    So what will having more than one domain name do for me?

    If you have more than one domain name, you will primarily be achieving the following:

    1. Splitting up your website traffic between however many different domain names you have. This will hurt your SERP scores - making your sites less likely to appear at the top of Google because they will appear less popular.

    2. Creating dummy websites that do not rank on Google because they have duplicate data. This factor will kill your quality score - users will simply not be able to find any websites that use duplicate data unless they type in the URL manually.

    3. Paying for hosting of domain names and hosting (typically without using them).

    4. Possibly being inconsistent with your marketing materials - sending people to different locations. While this may not directly affect sales, it may appear confusing or unprofessional for customers.

    What is the best practice for domain names?

    The best idea is to have only one true domain name for your business. This will make sure your website ranks as highly as possible on Google and that there is no confusion on the part of customers. It will also reduce your ongoing domain host costs, remove the administrative need for managing multiple domains and ensure best practice for Google - who may penalise multiple domain forwarding in the future.

    If you are based in different countries, then we recommend having different websites for each country. This is because Google tries to offer websites that are in the same language and are local to the user. If you have different locations or parts of the business, then you may want to consider a Child site (eg. Companyname.com/business1 and Companyname.com/business2) to overcome any difficulties you may face.

    For many, the best plan is to simply host all of the sites on one domain, with sensible use of second-level domains and sub-directories.

     Sources: Shout Me Loud - Keyword Exact Match PenaltyGoogle Books - Choosing the Right Domain Name