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Should you have multiple domain names?

It can be very difficult to settle on one domain name for your website and email. Too often the decision is made in a vacuum or in haste. But fear not, you can have several.  The question is, how do decide which ones you should have?

There are some good and some not so good reasons for having multiple domain names, but ultimately the decision is yours. Lets assume you've made a logical choice for you primary domain and are now considering grabbing a few more.

The good reasons for registering an additional domain name:

1. You can get one that includes your target keywords

You may have set up your website on www.hairdresser.com, when in fact your company name KurlsRUS. So you may have www.kurlsrus.com and have it redirected to or operate as an alias of the first one so you can still use it on email and business cards etc whilst retaining the SEO benefit of having keywords in the domain name which the first one does.

Keywords in the domain name are a strong ranking signal

2. To stop the competition using them.

If for some reason you got in early and got a domain name that contains very valuable (i.e. competitive) keywords such as www.plumber.co.nz or www.builder.co.nz then hanging on to it even if you aren't actually using it is a good idea.

If only because it means one of your competitors can't use it, and believe me they will if given the chance.

Try googling a common search small business related search phrase that has lots of big and small marketing -saavy players, and you'll see that on the front page will likely be a mix of a) very big brands with good visibility and b) small companies with the keyword in the domain name (even if not in their business name)

In these cases, have the domain(s) redirected to or operate as an alias of your primary one.

3. To use for separate products and services

You may be an electrician that uses www.heatpumps.co.nz as a separate site to promote that one aspect of your business. Larger companies and corporates have separate sites all the time for sub-brands and specific product or service lines so it is a legitimate approach, but can be expensive to maintain. You can redirect domains to sub-pages of your main site which could be more useful.

4. To use them in targeted promotional material.

You may want to set up a one page site on a separate domain for a specific piece of promotional material like a competition or brochure. Not something we'd recommend necessarily but sometimes you want to have different branding or messaging for some reason.

5. To protect your brand name.

You may have yourcompanyname.com, yourcompanyname.nz, yourcompanyname.net, yourcompanyname.org etc. which stops a malicious other party grabbing them and trying to sell them back to your for an exorbitant price

This is entirely your call.

If you think someone else might use the same name because its a common one and confuse your customers, by all means have these alternatives.

In these cases, have them redirect to your main domain name.

For example we have www.essentee.nz as well as www.essentee.co.nz but haven't gone mad - but then our company name is not one that you'll find in every corner of the globe.

We do have clients who have domain names very similar to their competition, or who have companies in other countries with exactly the same name. Not much you can do about these.

You could register every variation of your brand name across the globe, but we wouldn't necessarily recommend it unless you have deep pockets and the resources to manage them all. It ends up being a never ending game of chase-your-tail.

6. Misspellings.

If you have a domain name that people get wrong, like www.abcompany.com instead of www.abccompany.com it pays to have the common errors.

But then if you were visible in Google, wouldn't they just search for you?

What are the not-so-good good reasons?

1. To improve SEO/Google/Search rankings

Having domains and redirecting them to your 'main' site gives you NO benefit from a search visibility perspective. The keyword rich domain has to be the primary one.

The exception to this approach is if you manage to buy a domain that is a high ranking one - eg has been around for years dominating the search results and suddenly comes up for some reason. You can grab it and redirect the urls to ones on your own site. Not sure how long the search ranking benefit of this would stick around but if the new destination page has the right ranking signals it could be a while.

2. Because your domain registrar told you to

It's in their interest to sell them to you.  Don't get sucked in to doing it just because they say so.

3. You're trying to muscle in on a big brand

You might decide to register www.bigsbrand.com Because it's very similar and easily confused with www.bigbrand.com who is a big player in your industry.

Don't try and attract people with trickery.  You may even find your self with a legal challenge for trademark infringement.

What do we do?

In case you were wondering we have about half a dozen domain names, which:

  1. One contains valuable keywords for our industry so we hang on to that so no one else can have it. One day we may use it
  2. Location variations of our name (ie the essentee.nz example)
  3. Our main domain is www.essenteewebdesign.co.nz rather than www.essentee.co.nz because it has target keywords in it. We have it mainly to demonstrate to our clients what we mean by 'keywords in the domain name'
  4. Testing – we have some domains we use to test functionality out but that's probably unique to our industry
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Client words...

Thanks so much for your audit. It's really valuable in that you have targeted the very things that I have neglected- i.e. case studies and proof of professionalism. Also that I should be focusing on keeping existing clients revisiting the site - an area for further work.

K Browne