How many domains should a website have? Perhaps you think that your website will be more likely to rank well on Google if you have a lot of domains. You might think there’s some intrinsic value in having an exact-match domain – perhaps you think that you will appear for searches like ‘bounce house rental in New York’ if the domain bounce-house-rental-in-New-York.com points to your website, or maybe you think, “People might misspell my domain name – I should buy a few variations to account for this.”
However, despite the fact that domain name companies might encourage you to buy multiple domains and infer that these will provide some value to your business, there are very few instances when multiple domains are useful. There’s no value to a domain nobody will ever visit and it’s easy to rack up a huge bill for worthless domains if you don’t know what you’re doing. Your money will likely be better spent elsewhere!
Exact Match keywords
As the above example suggests, people might think bounce-house-hire-in-New-York.com is a valuable domain because it’s an ‘exact match’. It used to be the case in the old Wild West days of internet marketing that exact-match domains had some utility – this is no longer true, and hasn’t been for years.
If you think about the most successful websites on the internet, such as Amazon, Google or Yahoo!, you’ll notice that they do not have exact match keyword domains – and if you Google your targeted search terms, you’ll notice that the top results almost certainly do not have exact match keyword domains either. Google got wise to exact match keyword domains and now ignores this as a ranking factor. This has been the case since at least 2012.
There are some instances when it is worthwhile to buy a domain.
- When a competitor who ranks well or gets lots of online business sells it to you
If a local company decides to close its business, valuable traffic may continue to flow to its non-existent website, and its domain might already rank well for your targeted search terms. You can get some of this SEO value and all of this traffic by purchasing the domain and pointing it to your website. If you and your competition both rank well, you may want to continue promoting both businesses in order to take up two valuable spaces for your targeted search terms.
However, if you choose to run two different websites alongside each other targeting the exact same market, you will also be competing against yourself. Very few companies manage to do so successfully. Most successful companies have just one website for each product / service / audience.
Nonetheless, only successful domains are worthwhile. If your competition had no idea about online marketing, their domain will probably be worth less than they think.
A domain for a company in an unrelated sector will not provide you with much value. Google might even struggle to understand what business you are in if you suddenly get a large number of links from an unrelated industry.
Are you wanting to run a completely new brand? Do you have the time and resources to devote the necessary effort into promoting two brands – or would you be unable to do so effectively? If you’re targeting two different markets or industries, then perhaps you could benefit from two separate domains to reflect these different brands. If you’re targeting the same audience through the same website, then you might want to consider exactly what advantages you want to gain from separate domains.
- Targeting different countries
If you’ve built a successful business with a .co.uk or .com.au domain, or any other country-level domain, and you want to expand to another country, then you will want to consider buying another domain – probably an international .com domain. You can move your business over to the new website and set up a redirect from your old domain to your international domain.
Checking the value of a domain
If someone approaches you with an offer to sell you a domain, you can quickly search for it in Google to see if it was ever promoted, i.e if there are any decent websites that mention the domain. Just Google the domain itself! You will want to see evidence that a business used to use the domain regularly and put some effort into promoting it. If nobody ever promoted the domain then you should likely ignore the unsolicited offer – even if the domain is an ‘exact match keyword’ domain.
You will almost certainly want to use 301 redirects to forward visitors from one domain to the other domain. 301 redirects tell search engines that a website has ‘permanently moved’ to the new domain, and therefore should transfer all the SEO benefit from one domain to the other domain.
Masked forwarding may be tempting too – as the domain the user visits will stay in the address bar when you use this method. However, search engines may see these two domains as two separate websites, with this leading to potential duplicate content issues.
You might consider buying domains based on common spelling mistakes of your brand name. Don't just guess what spelling mistakes people might make, however - you can use Google Analytics to see what search terms people are making and see if you can spot any common spelling mistakes.
There's no point spending £10 a year on a domain nobody will ever visit and that has no hope of ever recouping its investment. A domain is still not necessarily worth it if it might lead to one sale every couple of years because it's not a common misspelling - unless that one sale will reimburse you for the cost of the domain. However, it is illegal for businesses to pretend to be you by 'cyber-squatting' on a domain your customers might confuse with yours and selling similar products to yours, and if anyone ever decides to visit your website by typing it into their address bar only to make a typo or spelling mistake, it's unlikely they'll give up after one attempt anyway!