The Pros and Cons of Using Multiple Domains

Having multiple domains means having more than one website for the same, or a similar, company.

It can also be a case when pointing or redirecting multiple domain names to one or two websites only. Then domains like that are considered to be “supporting” domains for securing the business name or supplementing type-in traffic. 

Some online businesses think having more than one website (domain name) might seem like a good idea, especially if you have a product or service that appeals to different audiences. A site for each target audience makes it possible to customize the messaging, sales materials, and other marketing strategies that hook a particular potential customer. For example, a website for engineers will use a different approach than one for school teachers, so a cross-over product (e.g., cleaning supplies) might be difficult to pitch on a single site.

Multiple Domains – Good or Bad?

Taking a narrow view that only considers search engine optimization (SEO), the short answer is multiple domains can hurt your page ranking. Many still park multiple domains as aliases for their main website. That was quite popular approach in old internet days. Not today.
Also there is no real benefit to having several keyword-rich domains pointing to your website. SEO is done on a single domain name and incorporates many things such as site popularity, the amount and type of content on the site, keywords in meta and title fields, and paying for a spot in the search engine database.

Exceptions can be considered when protecting your website name or business brand. As a rule of thumb, it makes sense to register similar, complementary domains closely related to your site name before someone else does. Ending up with multiple domain names is quite natural. They don’t bring much of an advantage to website rankings but will guard your brand recognition and reputation. Additionally, after redirecting, they can be a good source of type-in traffic, given that the domain names are of a high quality (short, memorable, pronounceable).

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However, there are some benefits when taking into account the functionality of the site and how it supports your goals. It’s important to consider the role of your website (or sites) when choosing to use more than one URL.
Multiple websites tend to be created for short-term marketing purposes utilizing various PPC or social media campaigns. Although this may produce good temporary results, the long-term outlook is more inclined to building strong authority sites.

If your website serves a simple purpose, such as a portfolio of work samples, using multiple pages on the same site will likely be adequate. If the business model is a bit complicated, then it’s worth exploring how to leverage several sites. But a few words of caution before you start:

More work – Each site will require unique content, regular updates, and SEO attention, so this will mean more time.

Higher cost – All of that extra work will cost staff time, tech support, and outside vendors will also require two paychecks. There can be some economies of scale for hosting and other services, but that needs to be weighed against the value added to the goals for the sites.

Organization – More than just scheduling regular maintenance and content updates, you’ll have to make sure your marketing messages are consistent across all platforms, including the websites.

The Pros of Multiple Domains

So when does using multiple sites make sense?

A Single Business with Diverse Audiences

Any marketing or sales professional will tell you that one-size does not fit all when it comes to communicating with different people. Each group has its own set of needs and expectations about what products or services will do for them. When a diversity of messages are required, separate sites makes it possible to tailor content as well as approach an individual group.

For example, a company that supports schools with a diversity of resources might have product lines specifically for K-12 teachers, high school teachers, and college professors. Each audience has a distinctly different professional style and educational criteria to meet. A separate site for each group will avoid the need for the visitor to sort through any irrelevant information to find “their” material. This audience-specific approach can also be helpful for cultivating links with other sites, which does help search engine rankings (the more, the better).

Niche Website for Showcasing Specialization

Niche websites can be much more appealing over a large, generic site. Larger sites run the risk of having too much overlap with a competing site, which diminishes the likelihood of adding links. Niche sites – which don’t necessarily have to be small – allow for the kind of specialization that can be helpful to complement the information (or services) of other sites. This can support the development of deep, topic-specific content making your site a valuable (and linkable) resource. From a marketing and sales standpoint, these niche sites can support niche products and services.

Nowadays, with the new donuts domain extensions, there is a new complexity involved. If you intend to run a serious business, you will definitely consider securing a complimentary “twin” domain. For exmaple, if your business is k-12school.com, common sense dictates to get k12.school as well. The same applies to similar cases like k12group.com -> the twin donut domain would be k12.group. Or k12shop.com with its counterpart k12.shop.

High Turnover

In some industries, name changes are common. A financial service firm or law firm might change partners – adding a new name or removing the name of a retiree. If an affiliation exists with a parent company, such as a real estate broker with multiple state or regional offices, a rebranding effort might dictate a change. In these and other cases, multiple domain names can be helpful to leverage an established identity or geographic presence.

Multiple Countries, Multiple Languages

If you’re doing business in multiple countries, it might be worth having separate sites for each geographic location. Localizing the colors, images, and content to match the social and cultural norms will make the sites more user-friendly. And matching local preferences and habits can make the URL easier to find.

The Cons of Multiple Domains

The issues related to maintain multiple sites are as much practical as they are SEO related.

Ranking

There is zero benefit to having multiple sites depicting the same product or company. Often the sites can be penalized for identical or double content even if published in different languages. And there could be some negatives, such as scattered back links to your sites or garnering bad links to phishing sites, which require significant technical troubleshooting.

Can’t find you – People tend to look up a company by name, so multiple domain names can make it difficult (not to mention confusing) for a prospect or customer to find what they need.

Loss of authority – Longevity is necessary for a domain name; changing it hurts the site’s credibility.

Expenses – The time and money required for building and maintenance (including fixing problems) increase with the number of sites you have to maintain.

Diluted identity – Depending on your brand, splitting off products and services on different sites could undermine the power and market influence of your company.

Merging issues – If you decide later to move to a single website, the migration needs to be done correctly (which means more expense).

A single website can support multiple product lines and services as long as the site is easy to navigate. So it’s important to keep that primary motivation in mind, not the ease or low cost of design maintenance.

What to Do if You Have Already Registered Multiple Domains for Your Site?

The answer is simple. Pick one and stick to it. Figure out which domain name resonates best with you and your business model. Preferably a short one with the .com extension (not a rule nowadays), easy to remember and type. The rest of your domain pack should be permanently redirected to this main domain. The 301 permanent url redirection can be easily set up at your domain registrar or directly with your web hosting provider.

Each website owner is going to have a unique combination of goals and priorities. Those, not a fabulous web hosting package, need to guide this kind of domain decision.

20 Comments
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  1. Thank you for the article!
    What would you recomend for a company that offers private tours to families of different faiths? As it is a sensetive subject for some people, some people might not like the idea of a company serving other faiths as well. Also, regarding SEO, the search terms are different. Would it be better in this case to use different domains?

  2. If those are religious oriented tours, I believe it would be better to adopt a concept of different domain names. You can host them all under one multi domain web hosting account and have totally separate websites.
    Hope that helps!

  3. Thanks for the interesting post! Multiple domain has same C-IP address which can cause with indexing. Google allows certain limit on indexing, so it is better to have different IP just to make sure. I have 5 domains actually, each of them has a unique IP.

  4. This article is very useful for us. Thank you so much.

  5. Great article, do you get a penalty for having domains redirected to your site?

  6. …Just reading this. Nope, you won’t get any penalty. This is a common approach used by many well-known sites. Many misspelled domains are being redirected like this. For example Yahoo uses yhaoo.com, yahooo.com, yaho.com and many other. Or the regular ones like yahoo.net, yahoo.org. Similarly Google redirects domains like gogle.com, gooogl.com, goolge.com or google.net for that matter.

  7. Hi. Here is our scenario. Our client is about a holistic approach. He now wants to have another website for his colonic business and points to a different address. Currently, he performs colonics in his other clinic.

    The setup will be like this
    main website = unique address/clinic 1
    colonic website = unique address/clinic 2

    Is it more gain than loss if we follow what he proposed?

    • Hi Sam,

      It depends on the client’s situation, business size and his needs. If I understand correctly, he wants to have another domain/website dedicated to this “colonic” business. Instead of having everything under one umbrella, correct?

      I don’t see this as a loss. For you it will be more work (meaning more money, which is a plus I think), for your client an opportunity to gain authority and trust in more areas. A fully dedicated website covering a specific area (colonic) can gain more authority and can better target unique clients/patients.

      There are definitely some advantages. For instance, for this new practice he can have a separate personnel, management, even office premises. He can still “label” it as a subsidiary or branch of the main clinic.
      If he decides to sell this “colonic” business in the future, it will be an ideal solution. Or later, he might want to focus solely on this area and easily sell the rest (the main website). I really cannot read his thoughts.

      What I would recommend, under the main clinic’s website you can create a page with some presentation/description of this colonic practice. Then place a link there that will bring interested visitors to the new colonic website. You can get some backlink credit for the link to the new site (or you can backlink both).

      Sam, I would write more, but the key point is to talk to your client first. Find out what he’s up to. It will be easier to decide once you know more.
      Hope that helps!

  8. Hi Andy,

    Thank you so much for your response. Wouldn’t that be considered a PBN if we place a link of the second website to the main website?

    • Sam, I know what you’re worried about. But this will be a legitimate (one-way) link , you’re actually not building any private network blog, are you?
      If you use a different web host/IP address, that one link pointing to the new colonic site shouldn’t be an issue. Again, I don’t know how your client is planning to split his practice. Will he be adding more “specialized” services, more sites like this? Will he be outsourcing the work? If the new (colonic) site represents a practice with a different business address, personnel + have a different hosting then you will be safe to even backlink both.

      Anyway, Sam, there’s an additional advantage I forgot to mention in my first comment. He could also get a more suitable domain name that would better target this ‘colonic’ business (better for marketing).

  9. Hi,
    I have a test prep company that specializes in one specific graduate exam. My question is, is it better to have a name like Kaplan and Princeston review that offer all different tests on one domain, or is it better to have

    gmatprep.com
    lsatprep.com
    XXXexam.com

    I have not put any energy to the first domain yet, only developed the content and the tests, so its at the point that I need to decide which route i should go with name. can you please help.

    • Hi Daryoush,

      You don’t want to end up developing multiple websites (unless money is not an issue). There are so many tests, e.g. MAT, GRE, LSAT, TOEFL, IELTS – and there is no guarantee that the new ones won’t be added in the near future. Would you want to build a separate website for each test? Sounds like lots of work!

      I would be more inclined to build an authority site. I think it is better to have a short, brandable, easy to remember domain name like the ones you mentioned.
      If the short form is taken I would choose something like Kaplan ~ exams, coaching, tutoring, etc.

      Then, keep those test domains (gmatprep.com, lsatprep.com, etc.). They still have value and may be useful for further marketing.
      Create “landing pages” or simple sites under each test domain and link them back to your main website. Your (authority) website should have folders/sections for each test exam. I would use different hosts for this, keeping the test domains separated from the main site.

      This way you can keep building up the content for all tests under one umbrella (the main site). That would definitely help to establish your brand name and grow your business.

  10. Hi,

    If I currently have a site that is active and has a fair amount of traffic but the name is hard to spell, can I buy another domain name that is more “user-friendly” and redirect it to the main (hard to spell) site without hurting/penalizing my SEO, etc?

    An example would be like a singer by the name of John having a popular site but with the awkward name johnsgreatsingingenterprise.com and then buying (and redirecting to it) singingjohn.com and johnthesinger.org.

    I assume this would fall under one of the previous examples of misspelled names but I thought I’d inquire first.

    If it is permissible could I later on take one of the redirected names, remove the redirection and use it for another site that would be separate from the main one?

    An example would be an author who has their own site +++.com and plans to launch their own publishing company in the distant future. In the meantime they buy in advance the domain name ###.com and redirect it to +++.com (which has a temporary page referring to all of their books for sale) so they can have ###.com printed immediately in their books. Then when the publishing business was ready to open they remove the redirect and place a notice in +++.com to now visit there for purchasing their books and any other authors that they decide to publish, too.

    • Yes, Jimmy, you can certainly do that.
      It won’t happen overnight though. It takes time, that’s why you need to keep your old domain for a while. In your case, using the singingjohn.com domain would make sense. After all content/links are moved and redirected, then you can use your old domain for a separate site.
      Again, it’s not so easy. It requires some time. Search engines won’t update your changes right away. This applies to both cases: singingjohn.com and ###.com.

      In general, replacing the old website domain with a new one has a strong connection to backlinks. You need to avoid loosing power or “juice” of the old domain +++.com. Make sure you work with your backlinks. They will be slowly changing/pointing to your new domain ###.com. You will also need to use search engine consoles. In other words, you need to submit requests for domain change to Goolge/Bing so all the redirections/changes will be more transparent and faster.
      Once your old domain is “clean” or has only a few low-ranked backlinks left, then you can use it for your new project or just keep it redirected back to your new domain ###.com.

      As this is not an easy “one-time” procedure, I cannot advise more here (it’s just a comment section, after all). Jimmy, there are many guides over the internet that can help you with that. I am pretty sure you will find what you’re looking for and succeed with your domain change:)

      • Andy,
        Thanks for the reply. You actually gave me more info than I was asking :).

        I may not have made my questions clear enough for the answers I was expecting.
        What I was wondering (before I go and make any purchases) was:

        1. Can I have more than one name redirecting to my site w/o penalty, etc. if the main address is confusing or difficult to remember? I’ve seen ‘big name’ companies do this often and assumed that it is acceptable but being a ‘tiny name’ I wasn’t sure.

        An example (along the lines of John the singer) would be a grocery business with the brick & mortar name of Triple Q Supermarket and Pharmacy who has a website with the name, tripleqsupermarketandpharmacy.com. While the site has a fair amount of visitors the top complaint among the customers is that it is too hard to remember or spell correctly. Rather than changing the site’s name completely the business owner decides to purchase additional names such as qisbestforyou.com and theplaceforvalue.com and redirect them to the main site. He has no intention of replacing the original name or using it for another website, he just wants to make it easier for the customers to reach it.

        2. This is unrelated to the first question. Can I have a domain name that I don’t plan to use currently and have it redirected to another site that is in use with a temporary page for the visitors coming from that redirection on the main site? Then when the website that is for the one that’s being redirected is finished and ready, I remove the redirection, keeping the visitors there instead.

        I refer to myself as the example here.
        I plan to self-publish books in the near future and I want to have a site dedicated to the books and book publishing business with its own name (ex.: mysuperduperpublishingmedia.biz) (sort of an umbrella for all of my sites/businesses) but I want to print some of the books that are ready now. Rather than having the website printed in the books with name of the site that I am currently using I was going to put in the books the domain name of the future publishing business and redirect it temporarily to a page or section in this site I just mentioned (ex.:mycurrentsuperwebsite.net/books) (I hope this makes sense).
        Or would it just be better SEO-wise to spend the money and make my own landing page (rather than the default generic parking page) for the publishing website address that would be printed in the books instead?

        The reason I ask these questions is that I was looking recently at another site which adamantly stated that it is no longer acceptable to have multiple domain names for one site and after reading your post I began to be confused. I think that what the other site was referring to was the equivalent of a brick and mortar business that has more than one name for itself. An example would be a deli and pizza parlor with the name Bill’s Pizzeria on the building and Super-duper Delicatessen on the door, which would leave one wondering if it’s a deli, pizza place, both, or what.

        • Jimmy, the multiple domains topic is always confusing. Many people see and understand it differently. Words like “domain redirection, domain parking, domain masking, domain pointing”, etc. cannot be taken at face value without knowing more about them.

          To your questions:

          1) Yes, you can. Why not? If you are just simply redirecting your other registered domains to your main website there is no penalty. Many websites do that.
          Now, you have to be careful what domains you “redirect”. Have you recently acquired a new domain you like? You better check if that domain hasn’t been faillisted/blacklisted. Or where is your redirected domain registered? If it is with some shady domain provider then I wouldn’t bother redirecting it.

          Jimmy, in your example, redirecting qisbestforyou.com and theplaceforvalue.com is okay for a short-term business boost. Or to make “use of unused” domains.
          In my opinion, the owner of tripleqsupermarketandpharmacy.com will sooner or later realize that this main domain has to be changed. Eventually, he will have to choose a new domain and stick to it. Those redirected domains can be still utilized for typed-in traffic. However, those are not to be considered as “multiple domains”.

          2) Yes, you can.
          In your example, if you are serious about your future business, you would build a landing page under that new domain (ex.: mysuperduperpublishingmedia.biz) right away. The reason being – building your new domain’s history and not have your readers/customers confused.

          Jimmy, if you think of that, it is actually not possible to “have multiple domain names for one site”. The only way how to achieve that is to PARK YOUR DOMAIN/s on top of your current domain (usually done via cPanel, add-on, parking features). This practice is a big “NO-NO” nowadays! Meaning – if you type in any parked domain in the address bar, the domain does not redirect, it stays there, thus the same site can appear under multiple domains.

          Your Bill’s Pizzeria case may have many valid points. I understand, but that is not quite the same as using “multiple domains”. A website can only have ONE domain name.

  11. I don’t think multiple domains are bad. Cause if you have a good domain name or if you have a global business with ccTLD it will help you to grow your money. Cause you can start domaining with a good name. And ccTLD you can use for local SEO boost.

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