This week’s Ask An SEO question comes to us from Ellis in “Parts Unknown.” Ellis asks:
“I would like your opinion on having multiple domains point to one website, and whether its dangerous or beneficial from an SEO and Google perspective. I have a client who is adamant they want 10 different domains all pointing to one website and we are curious about the effects.”
As always, the answer to this SEO question is a definitive “it depends.”
First, let’s define the situation and clarify some things.
When you say “point multiple domains to one website,” I’m going to assume you mean “301 or some other type of redirect from the extra domains to the client’s website.”
And you do not mean “have the client’s website resolve for all of these domains.”
I can tell you now, having one “website” answer to multiple domains simply creates multiple websites of duplicate content and that is absolutely not beneficial for SEO and/or Google.
When to Redirect Other Domains to Your Main Domain
So, assuming we’re talking about redirecting these other domains to the client’s primary domain…
The first questions we need to answer in this scenario are:
- Where did these domains come from in the first place?
- Has this client always had them (as in, were they the original registrant)?
- Have these domains ever had a website of “their own” (or do they currently have their own content/website)?
If any of the domains have ever been standalone websites (that is, with their own content) or if they were run by people other than your client, you are going to need to check up on the history of each of the domains.
You’ll want to pull a historical backlink profile going back as far as you can, and you’ll want a fresh backlink profile for each domain, as well.
In the backlink profiles, look for things like links of questionable origin.
Did the prior use of the domain involve buying links or are there naughty/undesirable backlinks?
The last thing you want to do is 301 a domain with thousands of spam or porn links to a client’s perfectly good (wholesome) domain.
If the domains have any kind of footprint that indicates there were nefarious activities in the past, I would not consider 301 redirecting the domains to the client’s active domain.
However, if the domains in question might have type-in value, you could 302 redirect them to the client site.
You are also going to need to check Google to see if there are any actively ranking pages on each of the domains.
If there are, is that content directly analogous to your client’s current content?
There is no value in redirecting a domain that ranks for terms related to poodles to a website that contains content about used cars (or anything similar… if the content isn’t the same, there’s no value in the redirect).
A long, long time ago, I acquired a direct competitor’s domain and 301 redirected most of their pages to pages of mine that contained basically the same content.
This meant that the users still found exactly what they were looking for, albeit on my site and not the competitor’s.
And all of the high-value links that had been pointing at the competitor’s site now 301 redirected to mine (and brought with them the value associated with the links).
Related to this, if there are rankings on Google for any of the domains and clicking on (or attempting to click on) any of those results triggers any kind of malware or malicious content warning, do not redirect that domain to your client’s site.
If it looks like there is content on the domain, but it doesn’t look like what you or your client believes should be there (e.g., it’s a site that offers puppies for adoption, but all of the SERPs look like it’s a custom football jersey website), the existing domain/website is probably hacked.
If it’s a hacked site, you might be able to use it but you will need to obliterate the entire file system and any databases connected to the site.
I’d probably move the hosting environment anyway, and I would only go to this effort if there are other significantly valuable features associated with the domain (like amazing backlinks, or directly related content/results).
Do Not Have the Client’s Website Simply Resolve for (Answer To) Multiple Domains
You can redirect the other domains to the client’s primary domain/website, but don’t create X number of identical content websites.
That is definitely bad.
No “it depends.”
Do Due Diligence on the Domains the Client Wants You to Redirect to Their Website
- Backlink history: Is it clean? Anything good there? Anything scary? If it looks like the site was “undesirable” in a past life, consider not redirecting it to the client’s website.
- Prior content: Is it directly related (analogous) to your client’s current website? If it’s not directly related, there’s probably no value there.
- Any evidence of the domains being hacked or compromised in the past (or currently!)? If yes, do not redirect!
Is There Type-In Value for Any of the Domains in Question?
If an otherwise undesirable domain (because of any of the above reasons) has amazing type-in potential, you can still do the redirect.
But ensure that you do not pass value.
So any type of redirect that is known to not pass value will work – but still do not have the client’s website just answer to this other domain.
That is still creating a duplicate content site and it is still very bad.
Now, if this is just a case of the client having registered a bunch of similar domains, or same name different TLD domains, there isn’t an absolute need or reason to point these at the client’s website.
The client can still sit on them without a website attached just to prevent other people from registering/using the similar domains.
In closing, there might be value in this strategy, but it entirely depends on the pool of domains you’re looking at and how they relate to your client’s content.
It’s not a slam dunk in any direction.
Be thoughtful about the decision with the above guidance in mind, and I’m sure your client will benefit.
- Google on How Long it Takes to Rank a New URL After 301 Redirect
- A Technical SEO Guide to Redirects
- Advanced Technical SEO: A Complete Guide
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!