Using multiple domain names

Are you tearing your hair out trying to decide on the perfect domain name for your website? If so, you might be tempted to register two or maybe even several domain names. Good idea or bad idea?

Is it the best of both worlds?

Perhaps a hypothetical scenario will help us out. Imagine you’re about to launch a website for your chain of bed stores called Sweet Dreams, based in multiple countries, and you want to ensure the best possible ranking in search results when a potential customer goes bed shopping online. Some experts recommend that you choose a brand-oriented domain name, like sweetdreams.co.nz. Others, however, swear by keyword-oriented domains, something like bestbeds.co.uk i.e., a relevant phrase a potential customer might type into a search engine. There are pros and cons to brand and keyword oriented domains when it comes to search engine rankings (you can read more on this and choosing a domain name here), so it’s only natural to ask yourself:

Can I have two domain names—one of each type—and redirect them to the same website?

You buy sweetdreams.co.nz and bestbeds.co.nz, and have the secondary one redirect to the primary one. Sounds like good idea, doesn’t it? At least some experts think it is, but others are much more skeptical about the idea. The complicating factor is the way search engines view, assess and ultimately rank your website. Search engines, like Google, are suspicious of duplicate content, the wrong sorts of redirects etc., meaning that having multiple domains could be detrimental to your search rankings if you’re not careful. If you do use multiple domains, then you should use the “301 redirect” method only. There are other ways to skin this proverbial cat, but using a 301 redirect is the only safe way to do it.

So the jury’s out on this issue, with no clear answer. But that fact alone tells us something crucial: it’s probably safe to assume that having multiple domains usually won’t hurt your search rankings a whole lot but nor will it help it much. If it did, the research would bear this out more clearly. But…Achtung! If you mismanage multiple domain names, this can definitely hurt you (see above regarding “301 redirects”).

Are there other reasons for having multiple domains?

Ranking well in search results is just one consideration—there are other reasons you might like to get multiple domain names:

·Keywords typed in. Having a keyword-oriented domain name as a secondary domain could have significant value if you think people are likely to type in a search phrase directly into their browser’s address field, like bestbeds.co.uk.

·Alternative names. You might like to cover your bases by registering other commonly-used names for your business, like sweetdreams.co.nz, sweetdreamsbeds.co.nz and even, say, sweeties.co.nz (if that’s your business’s nickname).

·Typos. You might register a misspelled variant, like sweetdream.co.uk, if you think searchers are likely to consistently get the spelling wrong.

·Other TLDs. A TLD is the part of your domain name at the end, like .com. You might like to purchase the .net.nz or .org.uk TLDs in case the address is typed in incorrectly.

Plenty of websites use multiple domain names for those reasons above, and it works for them just fine. Even if there’s not a significant advantage in the search results, having well-chosen multiple domains could potentially net you a few extra customers who type into the address field something other than your primary domain.

What if my business is in several countries?

One situation where it can make good sense to consider multiple domains is if your business operates in several countries and you want to have several country-specific sites that feel local. In such cases, it’s smart to have each country-specific site link to an international site, which can then link to another country’s site, rather than have every other country listed on every other country’s site. For instance, a link from sweetdreams.co.uk would link to sweetdreams.com (international), which has a link to sweetdreams.co.nz (rather having a direct link from sweetdreams.co.uk to sweetdreams.co.nz). This is a perfectly legitimate way to use multiple domains and managing it that way will ensure that Google doesn’t deem your various cross-links as being spammy.

Multiple domain names aren’t quite the perfect solution that they might first appear to be. Having said that, there are good reasons to have them and a lot of websites employ multiple domains to good effect. But no matter how many you have, you’re usually best served by promoting just one domain name across all your materials. Even with multiple domains, one brand!

A Rocketspark website plan allows you to purchase your own domain name so if you are unsure what domain or domains you should be using please get in touch.