People come up to me often and tell me they’ve registered 10 additional business domain names, expecting their website traffic to increase when they point these new URLs at their website. However, they’re disappointed when the traffic doesn’t increase. That’s because there’s more to the domain name game than that.
This article provides some tips on choosing domain name URLs. You can find more information in my previous article: Tips on Registering Domain Names for SEO FAQ.
Guidelines for Choosing a Business Domain Names
There are some basic rules to follow when choosing a website address (Domain Name URL) for your business:
- The domain name should be easy to remember and create an association in people’s mind with your business, product, and/or service.
- The domain name should be easy to pronounce as you’ll want to tell it to people. This helps with online videos, radio, and TV ads, too.
- The domain name should be easy to spell from its pronunciation. Spell out the words. Avoid using abbreviations.
- If you have two or three words in your domain name, you can separate them with dashes. Do not use underscores or other punctuation. Dashes are good for search engine optimization but not good for pronunciation and spelling. Too many dashes can be considered spamming.
- Use keywords in your domain name to specify what you do and where you’re located. For example, a business law firm named XYZ and Associates in Chicago may choose xyzlawchicago.com or chicago-business-lawyers.com.
Remember that the website address you choose is registered as a domain name. You own the rights to this name just like your business name so give it careful consideration.
Primary vs. Forwarded Domain Names
The files for your website reside on a web server, most likely at a hosting company. A domain URL is associated with this location. That is the primary domain name. All other domains you register point to the web server location for your primary domain via forwarding. This is usually done with a 301 Redirect. This means when you type a forwarded domain into your browser, the Internet servers need to do extra work to determine where the website files are located. The extra work slows down the loading of web pages making it take longer to load your site. Here’s a simple diagram showing this process:
Search engines now include site loading speed in their calculations for page ranking. So, since the primary domain loads faster than a forwarded domain, use the primary domain on your business cards, letterhead, store window, and in all your marketing. Keep this in mind when choosing your main website address.
Selecting Additional Domain Names for your Business
There’s no limit on the number of domain names you can register to point to your website. Each registration has an annual cost associated with it, so you’ll want to budget for the forwarded domains. At a minimum, I’d recommend you register the following domain names and point them at your primary domain URL:
- Your primary website address with different extensions such as .org, .net, .info, .biz
- Your personal name, e.g. johndoe.com
- Variations of your business name
- Localized versions using cities and towns along with your product, service, or business name
- Any domain name that you don’t want your competitors to get.
Registering your competitor’s names, company names, brand names, or personal names of others is frowned upon and can get you into trouble legally. Use the Guidelines for picking a Website Address listed above when choosing your forwarded domains.
Internet and Search Traffic from Forwarded Domains
Now, back to the original problem in this article where businesses are registering multiple domain names for their website. Just registering a domain and pointing it at your website, won’t increase your traffic. The search engines, other websites, and people looking for you need to know the new domain names to index, link to, and search for. The forwarded domain is just a name. You may get some traffic if someone types in that exact name in their browser or searches for the exact words in the domain name. But without promoting the new web address, you won’t see a traffic increase.
AVOID DUPLICATE CONTENT
Don’t make a copy of your website files and host them in a separate location than the primary website. You may be tempted to do this to make your forwarded domains more effective, but this practice of creating duplicate content can yield severe penalties in the search engine rankings. Your websites addresses may even be removed from Google’s index! Read the Google Article on Duplicate Content.
Implications of Changing your Primary Web Site Address
Companies sometimes change their website addresses to something different. This should be avoided if at all possible. It takes time to build an online reputation around your primary domain name. Google and the other search engines give URLs that have been around a long time a higher ranking than new ones. People will remember your URL. Other websites may link to your site. You have the website address printed on your business cards, signs, and marketing materials.
That’s a lot of reputation to change. So, unless there’s a good reason, keep your primary URL active and pointing to your site even if you don’t like it or feel the urge to change it. If you must change your primary website address due to things such as business name changes, a merger, or buyout, then keep the domain name registered and make it a forwarded domain, not the primary one.