SBS Mailbag: Should I Buy Multiple Domains for SEO?

Filed in Featured, MY BEST POSTS, SEO by Matt McGee on April 29, 2010 19 Comments

For decades, small businesses have been naming themselves “A1 This” or “AAA That” because yellow pages and similar directories listed businesses alphabetically. They optimized their company name for the primary marketing vehicle of their time; they wanted to show up first in those listings.

The online equivalent, to a large degree, is choosing domain names. And SBSM reader Laura recently sent in a question about optimizing domain names with SEO in mind.

keyword-domains

If exact match domains still have such a big advantage in 2010 over websites whose domain does not contain a keyword then is it a good idea to buy several domains with different keywords in it and redirect them to the same website or to the same website but to different pages? Is this considered to be spammy technique?

Laura, it’s true that exact-match domains and domains with keywords can tend to have an advantage over more generic, non-keyword domains. When there are few signals and lower competition, the value of an exact-match domain goes up. But despite that, I’d answer your question by saying no, you shouldn’t buy multiple domains with keywords in them as you’ve described here. Here are two reasons why:

  1. The plan you’ve described — to buy these additional domains and redirect them to the main site — wouldn’t benefit from the keywords in the new domains. In order to get any benefit from the keyword-based domains, you’d have to build out content on those domains; buying and immediately redirecting them won’t help in any way where SEO is concerned. (If the terms are common enough, however, you might get some type-in traffic that way.)
  2. If you were to decide to build out the keyword-based domains, the problem then becomes one of scale. Rather than having one web site to market and do SEO on, you suddenly have three sites, or five, or 15. You’ve created a ton more work for yourself. The better suggestion, in most cases, would be to focus all that time and energy, to build all that content and links, etc., on the main site. Helping that site, after all, was the reason you thought about buying all these new domains in the first place. So, focus everything on that site; don’t distract yourself with several additional domains/sites.

In some situations, using keyword-based domains can be a good idea. Two years ago, my wife and I launched four hyperlocal blogs — each one using an exact-match, keyword-based real estate domain. But with respect to my #2 above, we planned from the start to build out unique content on each domain, and that’s what we’ve done. So, if I knew more about your business and situation, I might recommend something different. But generally speaking, I rarely advise clients to buy multiple domains for SEO purposes.

Your turn: How would you have answered Laura’s question? Did I get it right, or do you disagree with me? Comments are open.

Comments (19)

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  1. Jim Rudnick says:

    Ah…my own blog features a great “spot-on” article from yestereday, on just this topic too, Matt…

    Go here — http://www.canuckseo.com/index.php/2010/04/28/to-dot-ca-or-not-to-dot-ca/

    – to see same!
    :-)

    Jim

  2. Natalie Reis says:

    what about buying the additional domain and setting up just the first page, with something similar to what is on your main site’s front page – using the same layout and links, but with different content that is targeted for the specific keywords that you have bought this aditional domain name for? I’ve seen it done recently and it seems like with good results.

    You would still have extra site content to deal with, but just one page – because all of the links from the page would be the same as your primary domain’s index page and would link to that primary domain.

  3. Matt- I wonder how this fits in with your discussion on Hyperlocalblogger.com about Permanent Topic Pages.

    http://www.hyperlocalblogger.com/update-topic-page-experiment/

    I haven’t bought any keyword rich domain names lately, but I certainly did in the past. I have had good luck with creating niche pages and giving them a domain that points to them. These pages have relevant content to the keyword, but are also part of my larger domain.

    (Lake Wenatchee Homes, Kahler Glen Real Estate, Stevens Pass Real Estate)

    Some of these keyword rich pointers do much better on Bing and Yahoo than they do on Google.

    Another reason to have pointer urls is for ad campaigns – either print or radio. This isn’t SEO, but if you use a unique url only in one ad, you can track how well (or not) the ad has performed.

  4. Paul says:

    Hi Matt – sometimes there’s a limit to how many keywords/phrases you can optimize a site for. For example an online gift store can optimize for generic terms (birthday gifts, Christmas gifts, wedding gifts, etc) but some will outweigh others with regards to the level of organic success they might get.

    So for those terms that need a little more ‘help’ what’s your view on genuine decent content high authority site link wheels?

    I appreciate this is a tactic that can also be abused, but if done correctly and with real relevant keywords is it something you would recommend/consider?

    Paul

  5. I’m so glad that I’m not the only one who thinks this. I had a prospective client a while ago that had a handful of domains and sites they needed work for. I told him that buying multiple domain names and building multiple sites is not going to solve the problem. In the end, its best to work with what you have and not try to find a bandage to fix it. Otherwise, you are back to where you started.

  6. Anon says:

    Of course you must buy multiple domains with keywords in them (all the .com and cctlds you can find available). There’s one simple reason: you’ll stop the competitors from getting them and develop them. Therefore you won’t have to wake in one morning and see your business on second page due to developed keyword domains – and lose a big chunk of your customers.

    • Matt McGee says:

      In some cases, Anon, that certainly makes sense. But the specific question I’m answering in this post is whether or not you should buy additional domains and redirect them to help with your own SEO.

  7. Uttoran Sen says:

    You know, sometime back people were buying dropped domains and re-directing them to category and article pages and that was kind of working too, until one day when google came down on them… its an old idea and it won’t work now,

    as its mentioned in the points, no reason to buy keyword filled new domains either, its too much of work building them up just to get the link value. Besides, the way google and other search engines are giving value to brands, perhaps working on that one big site is just much more valuable and profitable for the future :)

  8. Ben says:

    Buying domains which exactly match important keywords for your business is bad. Please don’t buy any exact match domain names for your target keywords so I can buy them, develop them, and sell them to you at a large profit in a few years.

  9. Laura says:

    Matt, thanks for addressing my question in your blog, I really appreciate it.

    2 further comments I may add:

    1. I understand that you do not attach any SEO value to buying multiple exact-match-domains and redirecting them to the same site. What I am still hesitant about: is this technique explicitly considered to be spammy by the search engines? Opinions on this vary even among your commenters.

    2. Annoying situation: our site http://www.kendoshortfilm.com is loved by many people across the globe, our Facebook fan base is groung day-by-day, we update our site regularly and yes, we are on the first page of G for the keyword “kendo film” with several of our pages and social media profiles. However, we can’t get into the #1 position because there is an exact match domain on it with absolutely no content at all, just the domain name! Annoying as it may be, it seems to work – when someone else is doing it lol.

    • Matt McGee says:

      Laura, plenty of companies purchase multiple domains and redirect them to their main site. There’s nothing inherently spammy about doing this. It’s good business practice if you have a company or product name that people might misspell when typing in the domain name.

  10. Laura says:

    Thanks, Matt.

  11. John says:

    I own http://www.topbuypc.com and when I first started developing the site for good SEO I targeted ‘buy’ ‘pc’ and a few other keywords since I had those keywords in my domain. I still think I should have stayed with those keywords, but instead I switched to ‘custom’ ‘pc’ ‘computer’ and ‘components’.My question, is switching keywords this late (I have had the site open total of 5 months, with the new keywords for about 4 months, the first keywords were set for 1 month) a good idea or should I keep everything set? Any site suggestions would be helpful as well to improve my SEO. I am a bit new to SEO and this is my first website SEO attempt. Thanks guys!

  12. John says:

    This theory does not work these dys after the recent J C Penny issue. So no a long-term solution.

  13. Chris Avery says:

    Laura: If you want your site to appear at the top for “kendo film” then there are a few simple on-page tweaks you could perform that might be enough. For example the “Intro” tab could be renamed to “Kendo Film” or “Kendo Film Intro” or even “Kendo Film – Intro” if you could squeeze it in. There’s also no h1 tag on the page so you should create one and put some useful words to describe the page that also include Kendo Film in them.

  14. Nina Anthony says:

    Hi Matt. I hope you’re still responding to this post thread. I’m pulling something you said in response to Laura’s comment: “Laura, plenty of companies purchase multiple domains and redirect them to their main site. There’s nothing inherently spammy about doing this. It’s good business practice if you have a company or product name that people might misspell when typing in the domain name.”

    I understand that if you have a url that has the potential to be misspelled, then it makes sense to buy one of two additional domain names that might cover you in the event your url is misspelled. For example: My employer used to own both “wesstartisans.com and westartisans.com. (The latter was redirected to the former, since we anticipated that many people might type it in with one “s.” )

    But recently a colleague told me that she advised clients to buy additional keyword relevant domain names for sites that used the owner’s name and or business as the domain name. The urls she mentioned were in no way close the owner’s name in the url. The urls she suggested buying were keyword-rich domains. I told her that it wouldn’t have any SEO benefit unless they populated the site with relevant content and maintained it. She said she understood that it would have no SEO value, she just thought it would be better since the client’s name in the url had to potential to be misspelled. (The example she gave me wasn’t difficult to misspell — it was a short six-letter domain name) It seems like the better solution would be just to optimize the original site for the desired keyword phrases. Am I misguided? My collegue’s approach seems like a totally different situation than companies buying multiple domain names because their company name is difficult to spell. To me, my colleague’s approach seemed closer to the old spammy multiple domain name buying technique. What’s your opinion on this particular situation?

    • Matt McGee says:

      Nina – I’m not sure I understand what you’re describing in the third paragraph. If they’re buying extra domains and using 301 redirects to point those to the main site, there’s generally no harm at all in that.

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