Everything You Need to Know About Using Multiple Domains for Your Site
Your domain name is your home on the web, but it needn't be your only address. In some cases, organizations can benefit from having multiple addresses for different reasons. Maintaining multiple domains can help with everything from marketing to maximizing traffic, but there's a right and a wrong way to do it.
You might use the domain somecompany.com for your main site. Think of 'somecompany' as your online house, and '.com' as its neighborhood. But what if you wanted to make a particular part of your company easier for the world to reach? This is where using multiple domains can sometimes be helpful.
Why You Might Want Another Domain
There are so many instances where registering an additional domain name could help more people get to your site.
For example, if your company has multiple sub-brands, products, or different lines of business, creating a unique domain name for each of those (that directs people to the appropriate place on your site) can help people find what they're looking for more easily. Take Apple, which has iphone.com redirect to the iPhone section of its main website.
You can use an alternate domain name to create a simpler address that's easier to share on marketing and advertising materials. Take bayareaserchengineacademy.org. Sure, that address is great for helping them index for search engine education, but it's pretty long to type and share, so they have bayareasea.com redirect to it as well.
Other great uses for multiple domains include:
- Targeting a specific demographic (e.g., if you owned gifts.com you could buy gifts.pet to direct to the section of your site with gifts for man's best friend)
- Creating an easy-to-remember domain for a specific campaign (e.g., if you owned donor.org you could use donormatch.org to direct to matching opportunities running right now)
A final but important use case is to capture 'type-in traffic'. This is traffic from visitors erroneously entering what they think is your web address directly into the browser. You may have somecompany.com, but if someone enters some-company.com, sumcompany.com or somecompany.net, will they still reach you? Depending on your domain name and company size, this can help to vacuum up traffic you'd otherwise miss.
Using TLDs to Expand Your Neighborhood
A bolder option is to add a new top level domain (TLD) that reflects some aspect of your business. The TLD is the part after the last dot – the .com, .net or .org that you'll see at the end of many web addresses. In 2008, ICANN, the organization that governs these things online, opened an application window allowing many more such domains (called gTLDs) to describe various interests and communities, from .ski to .organic and everything in between.
Smart businesspeople use this to target specific markets. Angela Giampolo's primary blog for LGBTQ content is phillygaylawyer.com, but she quickly snagged lawyer.lgbtwhen it became available, pointing to the same blog.
Another way to use a more meaningful TLD is to help people easily navigate to specific content on your website. For example, public companies might use a .info domain to separate out their investor relations information. A company running a campaign around environmental initiatives could have websitename.green direct to the campaign page. A company might use websitename.promo to direct to special discounts. You could even tie this with specific marketing campaigns to help track where traffic is coming from.
Finally, you can register country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), like .uk, .au, or .in. These can help more potential customers in a specific area discover your company. Plus, these two character names are great for custom URL shorteners used for your social media. A creative example of this is People Magazine's use of peoplem.ag which utilizes the .ag domain from the tiny island nation of Antigua and Barbuda!
Setting up Multiple Domains
Setting up multiple domains may seem complicated, but it's actually easier than it seems. Start by getting them from a single registrar in order to make them easy to manage. This will record your ownership of those domains in one place. Most registrars have an easy search tool you can use to see if the domains you're looking for are available, and which TLDs you can purchase them with.
After registering the domains, decide where to put the website that people will see when they visit your domain. Many registrars offer website hosting services along with domain registration so you can easily do everything we're discussing here in one place. You may also arrange for a separate web hosting company to do it.
If your registrar is also hosting your site for you, you may never need to touch this setting, because the registrar will already control the computers hosting your website's files and will automatically fill those out for you with its own information.
If using a separate host, you must tell your registrar where to find the website by updating its nameservers. It uses this information to update the web's equivalent of a giant address book, known as the domain name system (DNS). This address book tells visitors where they can find the computers hosting your domain's content.
If you do need to create nameserver settings for a separate web host, then your registrar will typically have a domain management panel with a 'nameserver' listing where you can enter the nameserver info provided by your host. If you're registering additional domain(s) that will point to the same content as another domain, you'll need to take an extra step at this point and set up a server-level permanent 301 redirect.
A 301 redirect instructs your web host to tell online visitors (including search engines) that the URL they are trying to access has moved permanently to a new location. You use it when pointing one domain's visitors to another domain's website. You would do this when catching type-in traffic or sending domains targeting different audiences to the same site.
It is better to use a 301 redirect for forwarding one domain to another because search engines like this server-level redirection. They are less likely to think that different domains have duplicate traffic if you use a 301 redirect, and therefore less likely to penalize your website in search engine rankings.
How you set up a 301 redirect depends on your host. Most hosts should offer a specific URL redirect function in your account or domain management panel, inviting you to enter an alternative redirection URL for your domain. Choose a web host that offers a simple 301 redirect service to make this easy on yourself.
Managing multiple domains need not be a chore. By sticking with a single registrar, picking a capable web host, and ensuring that you structure any interdependent domains properly, you can benefit from the advantages of multiple domains names without any negative impact on your SEO.