Today’s Ask An SEO comes from Elisa from Hyde Park, who asks:
I have a client who owns about 20 domains with keywords closely related to his product. They are currently all forwarding to his one website.
Should he keep these names? Is there any advantage to doing this or even owning them. Is there something we should be doing with them?
I know of no strategies for using more than one domain, yet many people own several just so no one else will own it. What should we be doing with all these extra domain names?
Recently, Google’s John Mueller stated that “keywords in domain names are overrated.”
Yet, we still have people whose entire business model is to buy keyword-rich domains, build a simple site that ranks, and then sell or rent the domain to an unsuspecting small business.
And the bigger problem?
According to some well-respected SEO experts – and me – the search engine results pages appear to contradict Mr. Mueller’s edict, particularly in specific, competitive verticals.
So, what’s a confused SEO pro to do?
Long-Term: Do What Google Says
My best advice – and this goes far beyond multiple domain names for a single brand – is to do what Google says.
One caveat: Do what Google says in public.
And we all know it’s difficult to do what Google says when seemingly incontrovertible evidence appears to warrant another action.
But unless you are Mueller, or someone of his ilk, you don’t know what Google has on the drawing board for the near future.
My experience is when Google tells webmasters something, it may not be true at the present moment, but it will be the best advice for what Google is putting out in the wild in the near future.
So, if you are worried about the resources it will take to get your site up-to-snuff based on the latest advice for Google’s webmasters, go ahead and start planning the project anyway.
More than likely, you will have to invest in the changes soon if you want to succeed.
Short-Term: Look For Opportunities
Our job as search engine marketers is to look for opportunities to help websites provide the information that our end customers want and need.
If you look at search from that perspective, you will find opportunities to promote your content, brand and website.
When an organization spends an inordinate amount of time and money researching what technology is going to work for their simple website, the lost opportunities can be enormous.
And of the hundreds of frameworks out there, there are only four or five that I would consider mainstream and mature.
Unless your site has a specific problem that is solved by a specific technology, and/or you have the internal resources to maintain a site with cutting-edge features that may not always work correctly, you are best using one of the mainstream and mature technologies.
Examples of these frameworks include WordPress and Drupal.
Of course, even these mature platforms have their own issues.
But, there are documented fixes for almost every issue you will run across in a mature platform.
If you aren’t prepared and choose a less mature platform, you will end up missing opportunities because you are too busy fighting with technology.
Other Reasons For Lots Of Domains
In most cases, it’s a bad idea to have multiple domains for one business.
In order for multiple domains to rank, you must put work into each site where a domain points.
You must build the site.
You must create compelling, rankable content for the site.
You must get other sites to link to every site you build.
In short: you have to run as many SEO campaigns as you have sites.
That can be time-consuming, expensive, and require unnecessary effort.
Having one, authoritative domain with a site architecture that services all of your audiences is the best option.
But, if you have specific promotions or programs, it’s common to build a small microsite to promote those items.
Just don’t expect that microsite to rank organically.
You don’t actually want those sites to rank organically, because the promotion is typically over before optimal rankings can kick in.
You might also have common typos that people enter looking for your site.
If that is the case, I do recommend buying those typos and redirecting them via a 301 permanent redirect to your main site.
If you are worried that people are going to buy domain names that you don’t own and steal traffic from you, then you might have bigger problems.
There is no way you can think of every permutation that might damage your brand.
Only buy domains that people in your organization are worried about.
If someone finds a domain is already purchased, that’s not going to stop them from working to damage your company’s reputation.
You need to be prepared to react to disgruntled customers.
Buying domain names is not reacting.
Featured Image: Tero Vesalainen/Shutterstock
Editor’s note: Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, who have been hand-picked by Search Engine Journal. Got a question about SEO? Fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!