Is Having Multiple Keyword Domain Names Good for SEO?

Multiple Keyword Rich Domains and One Website to Help SEOI got an email a few days ago with a question from a web consultant whose client was solicited with an offer to purchase a keyword-rich domain name. The premise here is that because Google counts keywords in your domain name (see my recent post, “How to SEO Your Content: 16 Places to Place Your Keywords“), that having a keyword-rich domain name would benefit the client’s search ranking. Was it worth it, and was it worth the nearly $500 they wanted for the domain name?

I get this question every so often, and I even wrote a post about it way back in 2009. So what’s changed in those ensuing 7 years, if anything?

My standard consultant answer to these types of questions is, “It depends.” (Yes that’s a joke.)

Let’s break it down a bit.

Does Having Keywords in Your Domain Help SEO?

The simple answer here is, yes. If you have already established your domain name, and it has keywords in it, then it is a factor in Google’s ranking. As an example, this website is www.dog-obedience-training-review.com. I’ll give you three guesses on what their company is all about, and the first two guesses don’t count. They rank well for all kinds of dog training information.

When I set up my own domain, I specifically wanted “Bay Area” in the domain name, because people search for SEO training in the San Francisco Bay Area where I teach. It’s a ranking factor, and it helps me get found for my target search terms. How much does it help? Who knows?

Does Adding Extra Domains Help SEO?

Multiple Keyword Domains Pointing at One Website

Do Multiple Keyword Domains Help SEO?

So it would seem logical that if I have a website, www.company.com, and purchase a couple target keyword domains, and point them at my website, that because Google counts keywords in the domain as valuable, then this would help me rank higher for that target phrase.

Hold that thought for just a second.

Google counts unique web addresses (including domains) as being a web page. So www.company.com/page1.html is one page of content. Similarly, www.company.com/page2.html is another page of content, and Google gets that.

However, if www.company.com/page1.html has some content, and www.company.com/page2.html has exactly the same content (because you copied it for some reason), then Google gets a little suspicious that something fishy is going on, because the content is identical. This is called duplicate content, and Google will discount the second address, and it won’t rank well, if at all (I’ve tested this).

Now if you compound this and point www.keyword1.com to www.company.com, you’re going to further duplicate the content on every page. www.keyword1.com/page1.html will be identical to www.company.com/page1.html, but in a different domain. Now things are smelling really fishy to Google, because you’ve duplicated ALL pages into another domain.

If you purchased five keyword domains, this has just been compounded to be a bigger duplicate content issue, and you’ve completely shot yourself in the foot. Google will devalue all the duplicate pages, and they won’t perform at all in the search engines.

The Problem With Keyword Domains

Unless you’re starting a new website or changing the domain to something else for branding, keyword domains severely limit you. You’re stuck with whatever you chose, and if you chose wrong, then it will prevent you from expanding into other lines of business or switching gears if your company changes (and whose doesn’t?).

Being very picky about the domain name is important so you don’t box yourself in unnecessarily. My own domain for instance, includes “Bay Area” and “Search Engine”, but no other specific terms. That’s deliberate. I didn’t want to box myself into one thing.

Furthermore, if you haven’t done the keyword research to find out what people are searching for, randomly buying a keyword domain could be a complete waste of money. If you think it sounds good, but haven’t done the research, then you might as well roll some dice. Chances are good your roll of the dice will lose.

As an example, the consultant’s client website was something like “SamsAutoRepair.com” (I’m making this up – not a real website). The domain they were being offered was something like “houston-carburetors.com”. Sounds good. But why would they limit it themselves to carburetors when they do so many other things too?

When It’s Useful to Have Multiple Domain Names

Yes, you absolutely can have multiple domain names, but you don’t want them to resolve or be indexed by Google. To prevent that you set up a 301-redirect or “forward” the domain to the “real” domain. If you 301-redirect a domain, it will never be indexed, because the “301 error” is a message to Google that “sorry, this URL doesn’t exist, here’s the ‘real’ one you should pay attention to.”

As an example, I have bayareasea.com which redirects to bayareasearchengineacademy.org. The former is just easier to send in social media or in emails. But I never want it to be indexed. Go ahead and try it (click the link). You’ll see it automagically changes to the correct web address.

You might want to own the .com, .org and .net versions of your domain so a competitor doesn’t get them. Just 301-redirect them to the one you want indexed. Example:

I had a student in one of my SEO classes that said people were always calling them to say their website was down. It’s because their company name was an odd spelling, and the customer was mistyping it. I said, “Buy the misspelled version, and 301-redirect it to the correct version. No one will ever know the difference, and you’ll stop the phone calls and end customer frustration!”

So to conclude, in my opinion, the company that was being solicited for a keyword domain purchase, was a complete waste of their money. It certainly wasn’t worth the $500 unless they had done their due diligence on the selling company as being legit, done the keyword research, and validated it as a viable option that wasn’t going to limit their business in other ways.

What are your thoughts on this? Tell me below!

About Thomas Petty

Thomas Petty has been a Master SEO trainer with the Bay Area Search Engine Academy since 2008. He teaches SEO classes in the San Francisco, California Bay Area, and is President of an SEO consulting services company. He is an HFI Certified Usability Analyst™ from Human Factors International.

Comments

  1. I have a client that purchased multiple domain names so his competitor doesn’t have them. Right now, I just redirect them to his website. Question. Can I or should I register the domain names with Google and Bing? If so, what’s the SEO advantage if any?

    thanks,
    geno

  2. Hi Geno, If you’re redirecting them properly with a 301-redirect, you can’t register them with Google, because the domain won’t resolve. So there is no SEO advantage to having them, but it’s fine that you have them to keep others from taking them as long as they stay redirected.

  3. Would it help if I pointed a keyword domain name to a single landing page on my site, then provide a link on that page to my products? For example, I sell Hazmat Placards on my site. I registered hazmatplacards.org and forwarded it to my site. After reading this article I removed the forwarding. However, I was thinking…if I created a page on my site named hazmatplacards.asp and pointed hazmatplacards.org to that page, then placed a link on that page to my hazmat placards….would that be considered duplicate content?

  4. Hi Tim,

    Links don’t hurt and can help your SEO. But see my other response below to Jan. You can’t have a domain point to a subpage, only to another domain. You can 301-redirect referral clicks from that domain to a subpage if you want, but it won’t help your SEO efforts at all.

    Hope that helps.

  5. Thanks for an insightful post, Thomas. So if I am looking at buying some domains to use in my marketing (say, widgetA.com, to point to my allwidgets.com site) I should use the 301-redirect in all cases, correct? The purpose of the extra domains is that we have multiple customer personas – and want to specifically direct them to the widget A page rather than http://www.allwidgets.com/widgetA – particularly when we start with print media.
    Thanks,
    Jan

  6. Jan, you can’t point a domain at a single page. But you could point it at a subdomain like http://widgetA.allwidgets.com and that could work. Or you use a 301-redirect so any referral clicks from widgeta.com get redirected to the folder level. It’ll never get indexed, so it won’t help your SEO, but it works for print or other collateral marketing. I also use bit.ly for that purpose. You can purchase a tiny domain and point it to bit.ly. As an example, http://bit.ly/10waysreport goes to a subpage on my website, but I also have my own vanity url, http://basea.me/10waysresport.

    Hope that helps.

  7. Thanks for the info. What about this scenario:

    I sell hammers. I have hammer.com (wouldn’t that be nice). I then purchase nyc-hammers.com, brooklyn-hammers.com, queens-hammers.com, and manhattan-hammers.com. I forward them directly to hammer.com.

    Would that help?

  8. Hi Rory,

    Again, if the domain isn’t indexed because you’re forwarding it, it won’t do you any good from an SEO perspective. If Google doesn’t index it, it doesn’t exist, and therefore has no value whatsoever. If you had a blog with nyc-hammers.com and had links that pointed to hammers.com, then that’s a different story. They both have unique content and therefore would be valuable.

    Hope that helps.
    Tom

  9. Hi Thomas,

    Thanks for the excellent article.
    I do have a question though if you don’t mind:

    Let’s say, I have a webshop pen.com, selling different type of pens. I also have a competitor office.com, who sell similar pens, and pay Adwords to be on the top of the Google if anyone search for “pen”. I am the second or third on the Google search list.

    What if I register ballpen.com, fountainpen.com etc…, put UNIQUE content on each of these new sites (few quality sentences and pictures) and then 302 redirect them to my original site pen.com.

    I this case google will crawl the new sites and may put these on the first page of the search results after a while.

    Is my theory wrong or can work?

    Thanks,
    Marou

  10. Hi Marou, You can create other domains and link them back to the primary domain, and as long as the smaller domains have unique content, they’ll be indexed. I’m not sure why you’d 302-redirect them because that’s a temporary redirect, and I don’t see the advantage to doing that. The smaller sites probably won’t get ranked for anything, but it can generate some keyword links back to the primary site if that’s your goal.

    Tom

  11. Mike Millington says:

    Really useful article Thomas thanks.
    I’m looking into purchasing several keyword domain names as blog sites so each site has unique content and linking back to my branded e-commerce website. I know this will be a lot of work keeping the blogs relevant for the target audience but I think it will pay dividends in promoting the branded website.

  12. Hi Mike, yes that’s a lot of work for sure, but it could have a payoff. The keyword domain won’t really add much to the formula. You can just as easily create a keyword.wordpress.com blog (for free), and it will work just as well. Do the same on Blogger, Tumblr, or other free hosting sites and save the $ to buy and host domains.

    Tom

  13. Hi Thomas,

    I thought 302 redirect is a better option than 301, because if I use 302, then the site’s (unique) content will be indexed (while 301 redirect won’t)?

    Thanks for your inout!

  14. Very interesting post, thank you for sharing!

    I have a question, what if I buy another domain name and create a simple landing page (without duplicated content) with a button that takes them to the main website ?

    The idea is to use the new domain for SEO as it has much better keywords.

    What is your opinion about this?

  15. Hi Samuel, There’s no problem in doing this. I don’t think it will have much effect other than to build a link. Google looks at domain diversity as well as the richness of the content from those incoming links. So if you just have a button with no text, it’s not helping much. If you have a series of articles with keyword-rich links that are contextually relevant to the copy and the destination page, then that will be more significant. Just a keyword domain pointing at another domain isn’t going to give you much help.

    Tom

  16. Thomas, I have enjoyed jumping on many a webinar with you over the years and ran into you on Twitter profile today.

    You have covered this topic in great depth.

    Here are a few comments:

    There may have been a time when domain names that contained keywords that were an “exact match” to their core business services matter more. Semantic search has changed SEO. I like what you said – that a structured approach to building contextually relevant support pages is better. The domain still matters, but maybe less. Things like user engagement, CTR, how fast the pages load, AMP, and machine learning matter more in my experience.

  17. Hey Jeannie, Good to see you here!, You’re spot on with all your points. My problem with using a domain name is how do you pick the “perfect” domain name for your business? What if your business shifts (like mine has many times), and you aren’t doing exactly what you picked before? Content, content, content all matter the most.

    Thanks for your comments and your experience!
    Tom

  18. Hi Thomas,
    We are opening a law firm website where we are going to add a domain that is currently available and actually has a strong keyword representing what we do. The question is that there are other areas too that we would like to focus and we were thinking to but domains for those keywords and redirect them to our main website (of course by meeting google policy – 301 redirection) – By having the domain it will prevent the competitors to open them in the future as well as helping our SEO. What is your advise?

  19. Hi Tom, A domain that is 301-redirected will give you no SEO benefit because it won’t be indexed. It will, as you say, allow you to own the domain so a competitor can’t own it. Hope that helps.

    Tom

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