Multiple Domains… One Website
By Brad Stitgen
For many businesses having just one domain name for their website is not enough. There are a number of good reasons for this strategy. Are you using a single domain for your website? In this post, I’ll list some reasons why you may want to consider having more than one domain name for your business website.
A Name for Radio
Driving web traffic from radio advertising can present a challenge due to the fact your customers need to remember the correct spelling of your domain name without actually seeing it. For domain names mentioned on the radio to be effective, they should be short, easy to spell, and memorable. It should also not be so similar to your competitor’s domain name that your customers actually go to their website by mistake! If your current domain name does not fit these criteria you may want to create a separate domain that does. Then, with a simple redirect applied to your new domain name your website will be reachable using either name.
A Name for Print
For the purpose of discussion here I am referring to any type of promotion where you can actually see the domain name. This could be for traditional newspaper and magazine advertising, billboards and signs, domains displayed on delivery trucks, or even on a television ad where the customer can actually see the domain name. In each of these cases, your customer actually gets to see your domain name.
The challenge with print is that people typically scan ads very quickly so the domain needs to be easy to read as well as to remember. In the case of billboard and delivery vehicle signage, you’ll likely only have a few seconds to get the domain name across to the viewer. The domain name needs to be prominent and easily readable. As with radio, short names are typically better. An example that comes to mind is Seattle Sutton’s Healthy Eating. Their billboards show their domain as sshe.com but when you enter that domain you are automatically redirected to seattlesutton.com.
Registering Close Variants and Misspellings
While the .com top-level domain (TLD) is immediately recognizable by even the least internet savvy as a domain name, the .net and to a lesser extent .biz TLD’s are also commonly recognized as such. A common practice is to register not just the single .com or .net version but the .com, .net, and .biz versions of the name. The purpose is to prevent competitors or others from registering domains that are confusingly similar to yours. In the same vein, registering the hyphenated version of your domain may be a good idea. This is especially true for generic descriptive names that could apply to a number of businesses in a specific industry.
Does your business have a shorter, less formal name commonly referred to by your customers? These make great names for redirects. Real world examples include: coke.com which redirects to coca-cola.com, chevy.com which redirects to chevrolet.com, and domain name registrar Network Solutions which registered netsol.com to redirect to networksolutions.com.
While domains with hyphens are typically considered less desirable than names without them registering both variants can be a good idea. First, it prevents competitors from registering the hyphenated variant. Secondly, it can make a domain easier to read when seen in print. As long as you own both variants it does not matter if your customers forget to enter them. Lastly, since some business names include hyphens customers may just assume the domain has them also. Real-world examples are: cocacola.com which redirects to coca-cola.com and the paint manufacturer Rust-Oleum whose rust-oleum.com domain redirects to rustoleum.com
Finally, since not everyone is a spelling bee champ and even the best spellers make typos from time to time a common tactic used by businesses is to register common misspellings with a redirect to the correct name.
So you’ve decided that having more than one way for your customers to access your website makes sense for your business. Great! There is, however, one issue that you’ll need to be aware of so you don’t get penalized by Google. That issue is duplicate content. By allowing a website to be accessible by more than one domain name means you run the risk of offending pages seen as being duplicate content. This can happen if you allow yoursite.com and your-site.com to used to access your website without using what is known as a 301 redirect. Using a 301 redirect will allow you to select one preferred domain with the alternate domains automatically switching over to the preferred domain. So, for example, say your preferred domain is yoursite.com. If you also have registered the your-site.com domain and the website URL shows your-site.com when you enter the hyphenated version of the domain this means your website is at risk of being labeled by Google as having duplicate content. To fix the problem a 301 redirect needs to be set for your-site.com domain.
If all this seems a bit confusing, just be sure to tell your web designer/developer which domain you wish to use as your preferred domain. They’ll be able to set this up for you.