Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
I recently spoke with a business owner who had purchased every possible version of his company’s domain name (including the “typos”) to protect his brand.
In fact, he bought the .com, .net, .org, .info, and .biz version of the company name and all of the names for each of the products he sold — more than 350 domain names in total!
Which begs the question: For search engine optimization or brand protection purposes, how many domain names is enough? Do you need more than one?
Multiple Domain Names: Asset and Liability
If yours is a local business, owning domain names that include your primary search keywords can be an asset, both from an SEO standpoint and the fact that you’ll be keeping them out of competitors’ hands.
But multiple domain names can also be a liability, for three reasons:
High cost. Owning multiple domain names could become rather expensive. On the cheap, domain names sell for about $10 a year, although some registrars charge as much at $35. Add in the cost of the new gTLD domain names and you may end up spending thousands per year in annually-renewable fees.
Low-quality links. Another reason owning multiple domains can be a liability is if they have low quality, unnatural spam links pointing to them from other websites. (Low-quality links happen to all websites, and you’ll get them just for registering the domain name.)
Redirecting one domain name to another passes any links associated with it over to the domain name to which it’s redirected.
As a result, redirecting such domains could hurt your primary domain name’s search engine rankings. The reason: Redirecting one domain name to another passes any links associated with it over to the domain name to which it’s redirected.
To be safe, before redirecting, use tools such as Google Search Console or Majestic to manually review all links to any domain name you own, to ensure it’s “clean” of link spam. Generally speaking, if a domain name has no links from low-quality sites pointing to it, then it should be okay to redirect.
If you redirect a domain name that has a mix of high- and low-quality links, identify the culprits and “disavow” them using tools contained in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
Disavowing links require that you make a text file with the list of links or domain names and upload it to the search engines. This list tells search engines which ones to ignore when calculating your rankings.
(Read my article “2 Ways to Clean Up Low-quality Website Links” to learn more about how to deal with low-quality links.)
Redirecting multiple domains. If you own many domain names — let’s say 50, for the sake of example — redirecting all of them could be considered an attempt to spam the search engines, which could result in a ranking penalty.
Consolidate All Domains into One, for SEO
For search engine purposes, you don’t need more than one domain. It’s better to consolidate multiple domain names and associated websites and focus on building one strong domain name with a single site. Consolidation will make your primary domain name and website more powerful, allowing it to rank better in the search results.
It’s better to consolidate multiple domain names and associated websites and focus on building one strong domain name with a single site.
To consolidate domains, you will need to set up 301 Permanent Redirects from the other domain names and point them to the principal domain. If you have a website associated with another domain name, you’ll want to redirect the old pages to the appropriate, corresponding page on the main site.
Most likely, your domain registrar has a way to redirect domain names. If not, then your webmaster or an SEO specialist will need to take care of this for you.
Suffice it to say, consolidating multiple websites and multiple domain names isn’t an easy task and should be done very strategically so that it doesn’t hurt your search engine rankings.
Multiple Domains and Brand Protection
It isn’t necessary to purchase multiple domain names just to protect your brand either. While it can be frustrating to find that someone else owns a similar domain name or one related to your company, the rules of domain ownership are fairly strict.
If you own the trademark for a particular word, for example, and, later on, someone registers a domain name that includes it, you can recover the domain — although you may have to use the UDRP Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy to dispute ownership. Consult a branding or domain name expert, or a good domain name attorney for advice on your particular situation.
The bottom line is that the liabilities of owning multiple domains can outweigh the advantages. And, for SEO and branding purposes, you only need one.