Multiple domain names as an SEO strategy has always gotten mixed reviews. At one time, it was a decent plan of attack. Buy up several domain names that match up to the services of your business. A typical domain portfolio for Vandelay House Painting in Pittsburgh might have been: vandelaypainting.com, pittsburghhousepainers.com, pittsburghpainting.com, pghpaitningcontractor.com. Seems to make sense, right? These guys are targeting some of their keywords in their domain names, which would theoretically allow them to pick up lots of traffic. And for a time, tactic could yield good results.
This strategy is still relatively prevalent, especially among local companies like our Vandelay Painting. But is it wise?
Mo’ Domains Mo’ Problems
Since the inception of the SEO industry, professionals have gone back and forth about whether or not multiple domain names were a good strategy. For every guru who says they don’t work there are just as many with data indicating they do. But managing multiple domains means managing multiple potential problems including:
– Duplicate Content – Even if you try your hardest to create unique content on every website, chances are you’re repeating your company mission statement and other boiler-plate sections. Having the exact same wording on two (or more) separate websites leads to duplicate content penalties.
– Cannibalizing Your Quality – Google has made it abundantly clear that they are rewarding quality over quantity. It’s nearly impossible to manage three or more domains for your business and have three high-quality sites. Not only do subpar websites not rank well, but visitors will pick up on the low quality and associate that low-level of quality with your brand.
– Ineffective Link Juice – Your backlink profile is still an important part of how Google views your website. A lot of solid referrals from high-authority websites can help you improve and maintain your rankings. These referrals are “link juice.” When you’ve got five domains for your company, nobody knows where to point their referral links. So rather than reaping the full benefits of inbound links, the “juice” is divided up among all of your domains, making those links far less effective.
– EMD’s are Washed Up – All of the other potential problems aside, exact match domains (EMD) aren’t ranking as well as they used to. In fact, Matt Cutts called this tactic spammy way back in 2011, before the actual EMD update to the Google algorithm.
Multiple Domain Names Sometimes Make Sense
There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Sometimes it can make sense to have two unique websites for the same company. For example, a liability insurance broker who uses outside agencies and companies to sell its policies, but who also provides direct-to-consumer insurance. In those cases, the audience for each service is unique and it might be ok to separate them out. Just make sure that both websites are of superior quality and don’t include duplicate content.
On the other hand, it’s quite alright to own multiple domain names and set up 301 redirects to your main website. Don’t go overboard, but if you own a few location or keyword-based EMDs, redirect those to your main site and with them will come the authority and link juice they’ve built up over the years.
Focus On Making One Amazing Website
Dividing your attention among unique websites on multiple domains can eat up a lot of your time and energy, and can cause the quality of all to suffer. Instead of trying to game the system by scooping up multiple location and keyword-based domain names, focus on building one authoritative website for your company. If you’re building a quality blog with useful information and establishing yourself as a thought leader in your field, you’ll have a lot more success.