In our previous series of articles on domain portfolio management, we discussed the process of gathering up domain names, researching other types of domains that should be included and registered and acquired these domains. Now the question is: what do we do or do not do with these domain names?
To properly leverage your domain portfolio correctly, we have to move into a slightly different discipline, search engine optimization (SEO)
. When a search engine indexes content on your website, the pages on which that content resides is given a weight. This weight is oftentimes referred to as authority. Essentially, as the content on a web page gets more popular (a result of other websites linking to that page of content) the page receives “votes of confidence” or, perhaps, simply “votes of interest.” These votes are attributed to a specific page of your site and are utilized as part of the algorithms that are used to place your pages within organic search results. Every vote helps you, in a minute way, to get better placement within these results, thus, the importance of authority.
While many individuals own multiple domain names and use many or all of them to point to their website, most people don’t consider the above concept of authority when doing so. By pointing multiple domain names as the same content you may be, inadvertently, splitting the authority you are gaining between these domain names. Additionally, you could be splitting the value of your votes between websites. Likewise, you could be creating brand confusion as the same content may be getting indexed under multiple domain names. SEO advisors often share the importance of avoiding duplicate content and, in many ways this is what they are actually talking about.
Here is a concrete example using an example from an earlier Digital Clarity article
. If Gus’ Pretzels was to registered guspretzels.net and set this domain up incorrectly, both http://www.guspretzels.com
/menu.php and http://www.guspretzels.net
/menu.php would be indexed by the search engines as two different pages and potentially creating confusion in the search results. More importantly, after the time that both of these domains are pointing at the same page with different addresses, four hundred people may use the .com link on their website to link back to Gus’ and four hundred different people may use the .net link on their website to link back to Gus’. This creates an authority split between the two locations. In this situation, making sure all authority is passed to a single URL would have provided Gus’ Pretzels two times the benefit as using the two distinct domains.
While modern search engines take many other factors into consideration in determining the “main URL” in a scenario of mix-up as described above, the issue is relying on a search engine to make the right selection, which is no less frightening than letting one of your media vendors tell you how often to advertise. Whenever possible, tell them what the main URL is.
These strategies may seem minute, but in the ever-growing competition of organic search every little bit helps.
The Right Implementation
The correct way to implement multiple domains for use on a website is to leverage 301 redirects to accomplish the arrival. As a permanent redirect, a 301 redirect tells the search engines that the page that they are requesting has permanently moved. Therefore, the authority that is being created for that page through the use of the alternate domain name is being passed through to the core URL.
This can be accomplished for the main domain request only (http://www.guspretzels.net) or it can be accomplished for individual pages within the site (http://www.guspretzels.net/menu.php).
The Wrong Implementations
The most common way that multiple domains are implemented incorrectly is through the use of domain name service. Many organizations simply set up second, third, and fourth domains with a DNS with a record that point to the same IP address. While this will ensure that the site answers for all of the domains pointing at a site, it also means this implementation is the quintessential incorrect way to accomplish your goal. Again, to follow our example that would mean that http://www.guspretzels.com/menu.php, http://www.guspretzels.info/menu.php, http://www.guspretzels.net/menu.php, and http://www.guspretzels.us/menu.php are all being indexed as separate pages by the search engines, competing for placement against one another, allowing the engine to best select the main domain and splitting the authority for the menu page across all of these domains.
Another common way multiple domains are implemented incorrectly is by having your hosting company simply create a second hosting directory/account where they place a simple HTML meta redirect. This is often the path of less sophisticated development firms because it is easy to accomplish with HTML mark-up. However, this results in an unfriendly redirect that the search engines will abandon on discovery and no authority will be attributed to the secondary domain. Often, this strategy also completely disregards subordinate pages on the site, only redirecting “home” requests.
Some people, if given the opportunity, prefer to use 302 redirects which, by definition, are temporary. Under the concept that “nothing is permanent on the Internet” they select this route “just in case.” Unfortunately, this type of redirects does not pass authority through to destination pages, while the 301 redirects do.
Part of the reason that multiple domain implementations are so unsuccessful, is that there are so many ways to accomplish them incorrectly. Talk to your Internet strategy, web development or hosting provider for specifics and get these items corrected if they are occurring within your own domain portfolio implementation.
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