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Monday, May 2, 2011

Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO

Posted by @ 7:53 pm

While working on SEO campaigns, one of the most common things we see is customers owning a number of different domains for the same business. These additional domains actually provide very little benefit and in some cases can even harm your SEO campaign.

There are a number of reasons why people purchase multiple domains, but from my experience here are a couple of the most common.

1. Buying Multiple Domain Extensions
Some businesses are looking to protect their business name by purchasing all available top level domain extensions for their business name. For example, the owner of may also purchase, etc.

The thought that other businesses may try and claim these domains can often lead to a panic buying of 10 or so different top level domains.

2. Buying Keyword Targeted Domains
In an attempt to dominate search results, some business owners will purchase a number of keyword targeted domains names in addition to their core website. For example a plumber may purchase, and to achieve top rankings for each respective keyword.

Why It’s Generally a Bad Idea

The main goal from both strategies mentioned above is that more domains will equal more visitors, either from type-in traffic or improved rankings. However the reality is that these additional domains are unlikely to provide any real benefit and actually have a few drawbacks (which I’ve listed below).

  • Duplicate Content Issues – When originally setting up each new domain, many business owners will simply copy content across from their existing website. This can cause duplicate content issues for search engines which can make your new domains almost invisible in search results.
  • Managing Multiple Content – To avoid duplicate content issues and get any additional domains ranking, the solution is to create unique content for each different site. This means you’ll have to multiply the amount of time spent managing your websites and also and multiply your SEO investment for each site.
  • Additional Costs – The additional cost of purchasing and hosting each new website could be better spent on marketing for your main website. Advertising is more likely to give you a better return than maintaining multiple domains.
  • Customer Confusion – If customers are finding your business across a number of different domains this can create confusion about the true identity of your business.
  • Link Juice – If you have multiple domains appearing in search results, each domain may start to build their own incoming links from various different sources. This dilutes the overall benefit of these links as they are spread across many different domains instead of pointing to your main website.

Exceptions to the Rule
Keeping in mind everything I have mentioned above, there is one main exception to the rule which applies to country specific domain names. If your business is looking to rank in a local Google search engine (eg: having a domain will give your site a big advantage in achieving top rankings. Remember to create unique content for the site and include local content and contact details.

Keeping Focus
The best way to build traffic to your business is to focus on managing and marketing one website. This will help you to avoid the pitfalls I’ve mentioned above and gives your business the best chance of achieving top search engine rankings.

Matthew Elshaw Matt is a marketing professional at, an international search marketing firm. Matt's passion for online marketing began at university and has proved invaluable in steering product development and marketing initiatives at the company. Matt is a regular contributor to the ineedhits search marketing blog.

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Discussion (22 - comments)

[...] full post on ineedhits « The Importance of Owning Your Brand in AdWords – A Case [...]

By Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO | 2010 World Top Template Forum - May 2, 2011


Not always the case… I have a domain/website ranked #1 in all the search engines…

With more than 20 other related domains, just ‘redirect’ to it…

Made it through the “panda disaster”… and has very few “back links” to it.

It has ranked in the #1 or #2 spot for over 4 years now…

Generic dot com domain keyword domain assets.. will always be king…IMHO

I suggest you do a little research on how: J%J and P&G uses their generic keyword domains…they “Get It”.

Nice article…


By Dan - May 2, 2011

[...] Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEOSearch Engine Marketing (blog)Some businesses are looking to protect their business name by purchasing all available top level domain extensions for their business name. For example, the owner of may also purchase, etc. … [...]

By Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO – Search Engine Marketing (blog) « Cheap Life Insurance Costs - May 2, 2011

Hi Dan,

I agree that a generic keyword based domain is a valuable asset and building a website around such a domain can have some great SEO benefits. The article was simply stating that focusing on one domain (this can be a keyword based .com) was a more effective strategy than purchasing a whole bunch of other generic TLDs pointing to the same website.

Do your 20 or so other related domains rank well in search results with a redirect only (no unique content)?


By Matthew Elshaw - May 2, 2011

[...] Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEOSearch Engine Marketing (blog)Keeping in mind everything I have mentioned above, there is one main exception to the rule which applies to country specific domain names. If your business is looking to rank in a local Google search engine (eg: having a domain … [...]

By Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO – Search Engine Marketing (blog) | - May 2, 2011


I believe that’s a fairly basic view of how you can make use of domains to drive traffic from multiple channels. Another point is that if you register multiple domains you can test which of those domains Google has a preference to rank and then focus on these.

I have clients who have specific keyword match domains and websites and manage to easily rank for terms they had no luck ranking their primary site for. Now they have another property in the SERPs they control and expands their possible reach.

Obviously I don’t mean clone all your content and post it across every possible variation… there are smarter ways to deal with multiple domains duplicate content and the extra cost is negligible.


By David (TheLostAgency) - May 2, 2011

Multiple domains actually “add” to my traffic. Of course I only use .Coms. I believe what your saying for most people who do not have the money or time that they should stick to One domain at a time. :)

By Karl Jackson - May 2, 2011

[...] The rest is here: Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO | ineedhits [...]

By Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO | ineedhits | Domain Names - May 2, 2011

For more advanced SEOs – I do agree that a multiple domain strategy can be very effective. However for the majority of small business owners, focusing on multiple domains is not going to be worth it.

By Matthew Elshaw - May 2, 2011

[...] post: Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO | ineedhits Comments [...]

By Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO | ineedhits « Domain Names Lab - May 3, 2011

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By Why Owning Multiple Domain Names is Bad for SEO | ineedhits - May 3, 2011

For strong keyword domains you can create unique pages linking to the specific part of your site, which is relevant for the user. Anyway the issue about SEO or not, brand related domains should be seen as intellectual property and be registered before a 3rd party does so, and this is the real challenge for companies

By Christopher Hofman - May 3, 2011

I think you did a great job explaining to someone with basic knowledge of SEO why having multiple domains is a bad idea. I have seen many businesses do this for the reasons you stated above of…and they fail to really put their focus on just one of their domains. So, rather than having one really really great website, they have lots of “meh” websites that aren’t really doing anything.

I think with the right guidance and the right time commitment, several domains will work wonders for traffic and business. All depends on the industry, product, and competitiveness. Great job laying it out for noobs or business owners with no SEO knowledge.

By Sally Mellinger - May 3, 2011

Interesting ideas, but I can’t help but say, “here we go again, someone taking the conventional wisdom and turning it on its head just for the sake of doing it.”

Our company has a core website which we promote heavily across the web (a domain with keywords that are also marketed as the name of the service). We bought a large number of other domains that are related to our business. The reason we did this is because our sector became extraordinarily competitive and we found that people were copying our original website’s text and posting to domains with very similar keyword combinations.

The wisdom at the time led us to feel that we should stake out some territory, especially since one of these copycats got venture funded, and for a while had stolen our thunder, using our sales pitch – even putting out a VNR with our company’s service name as the title (they ultimately flopped, but we are still going strong, BTW). Sadly, that dumb VNR is still out there.

To hear the TDL sellers out there talk, you’d think you need every possible variation of your domain in order to “protect” your brand. I don’t disagree. I’m also not sure why a secondary doorway page is such a terrible thing, since customers may look for you in a number of ways. Heck, there are more of those junk pages out there just scatting on your search query (you type “Mary Jones” and you get these generated junk sites: “Shop for Mary Jones today – best prices!” And these sites pop up right next to legitimate sites, on page 1. That’s just noise.

So, how do you compete with the noise if you don’t make a little, yourself…?

By Vera Tuber - May 4, 2011

Great article! I agree that many people tend to buy up all the extensions to protect their brand. I know one business ownersm who buys too many domains using this strategy. IMO, I believe he’s wasting money. Owning keyword .com domains work. Why?

I monitor many of my top sites. People click on links to visit my other sites. I noticed that singular .com are far better than plural. My plural .com are a bust. I understand what you’re suggesting about owners using the same content on several sites. One resume company purchased several keyword sites. These domains provide the same service. I wouldn’t waste that much money, especially when this company’s domains are not ranked for the keywords.

Another strategy is to monitor your domains for actual keyword traffic. Statcounter works for me. I write articles on the search content. I use SEO friendly titles and article tags. One site went from 34 unique to 1600 monthly unique in 2 months.

There are many strategies that work. I wouldn’t buy any domains beyond .com. I learned my lesson. Nonetheless, .us job domains are easy for owners to get ranked. I prefer .com. Awesome article! Thanks.

By Jason - May 6, 2011

We are doing your plumber example. We got around the customer confusion by branding each sub website with the company Logo/Name and linking back to the main website.

Still in development but we are setting up each sub site partialy with its own unique content, yet there are common contact and company information pages duplicated within each sites.

I have recently found some one to help me with the content so hopefuly we can get each sites main and some pages of special content related to products we prodcue and supply at the TradUR Company.

The network is only in at best a half developed stage. But most of the websites already come up first page for their keywords term address.

This is a link to the latest version of our website network which links to all the rest in the left lower menu bar.

Our traffic has came up signifcantly since we started this, sales are doing very good, we are surviving the bad economy.

By Glenn Madden - May 18, 2011

Dear Matt –

All you say is correct but you left out the biggest problem that can occur from common domain ownership:

If you use one co-owned domain to link to anther co-owned domain, you may stand a chance to get penalized by Google.

It truly takes a very structured person or company not to try to build page rank by using one or more co-owned domains to point links to the main [most important] domain. However, if you can have multiple domains and each is handled “SEO correctly”, there can be a benefit in multiple search results on the first page. But, like I say, it takes a “special breed of cat” to remain compliant.

Take care,


By Steve Gordon - May 18, 2011

Im Really interested in this subject, as i Have multiple key word domains.
and have heard a rumour about running the same keyword domains on the one hosting company is bad?
Is their any truth in that statement?
Also ive noticed.
I have mainly websites as i am australian. But in analytics all my clicks seem to be coming from 90% and 10%
I am starting to think australians are not using and just using the tool bar in safari or firefox, which uses

Anyone got any input and those to points?

By Andrew - May 24, 2011

Not so!

Keyword specific domains do their job. Going with the trend of focusing on one or two keywords per page, it is even more beneficial to have those target keywords for the page, actually be within the name of the domain. Enter the domain keywords in the index.html title, with little if anything else. Use the same template as your main site, with every menu item but home pointing to your main site. Enter unique content on each home page, focused on the limited keyword(s) for that page. All of your links can point to your home page content. You can reciprocal link your Home page. To eliminate branding issues, represent your pages truthfully, always identifying your true company (a logo, company name, and phone number). I like to make my pages location specific, and even include the city name in the domain. Some page content can focus on the location, it’s not hard to melt that into a good user experience. City facts, significant city addresses, and perhaps mention of associations your company has within the community.

I am done with directory submittals. It gets you annoying sales calls. You do not control how they spam your links or descriptions, and they eventually fade away without later inviting more annoying sales calls. After awhile, your own network will become trusted sites, and maintain inbound links to each other. Include dates on your articles when you update content on the pages.

There are free html5 templates available now, enough browsers support it to switch over. Mobile devices will grab phone numbers straight from the text. It is not a big leap to step up to html5 from what you have been used to. Encourage yourself to work with CSS. Avoid spry menus, and .swf or flash files, as they create compatibility issues, and mask any displayed content that comes from it.

All this being said, it certainly helps to have a good ftp program like Dreamweaver. You can work with html5 in earlier versions than 5.5 as well.

Do I think this should be necessary? Not so. Do I feel that it is? Yes. .com domain names are becoming like real estate. You can always sell these salted down domains later. The search engines are content driven, and that narrow view has poor guys blogging about ‘who the f&* cares’, just to make their phone ring. If you are into twitter, or all that jazz, those little bubble icons don’t hurt on the bottom either. I’ve yet to delve into that scene, but I’m sure it’s unavoidable eventually. Maybe I’ll find the right balance with It’s just a Joomla template at the moment. I lost the original database after my host upgraded servers for me. So now it just sits as a template until I get some hobby time, or have some revelation.

I would like to see websites become more like apps. Some html5 sites out there, such as google’s iphone calling app, is very impressive. Anyways, those are my thoughts, thanks for reading.

By Funkyonion - June 3, 2011

I’m developing a line of nailcare that’s safe for pregnant women. In addition to “”, I’ve bought “” and “” – reading all the back and forths about this concept makes my head spin!!! Is there really NO way for me to benefit from this decision? I’m not trying to be shady in ANY WAY – only want to do right by my customers, but I figured if that’s what they were going to google – it’d be great to direct them to me some how. What if the key word domains were one page sites with some interesting info about safety/pregnancy/etc – but totally different content – and then just a link back to our “” home page? Would this work? Do I have to host the sites through different companies? Thanks for help!!!

By Ashley - July 7, 2011

Which domain should I choose: or My brand name is teetick and the main keywork is personalized tee shirts. Now I have both domains but I don’t know which one should I choose. If anyone can give me some advices that would be very helpful. Thanks

By Lynn Tran - June 20, 2012

I don’t understand the problem with owning multiple extensions of the same name. Yes, the problems mentioned can exist, but only if you let them. First, you could just park one on the other. You only add content to one site, and there is no duplicate content. One is just redirected to the other.

You could also have one function as a blog, and one as a static site. You could have one externally focused (marketing you company or products), and the other internally focused (for existing customers, sales partners, or employees).

I admit that spending time, money, and effort on both for the same purpose would be silly, but there are other ways to use it. And if your only interest is to protect your branding, then you can just park it, for the yearly domain renewal fee.

By James - August 2, 2012

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