Ask The Pro: Should I have multiple domain names for my website?

This month’s pro weights the pros and cons of having multiple domain names for your website.When selecting a domain name, the question of multiple domain names always comes up. There are several considerations to keep in mind when selecting a domain.

The first domain you may wish to purchase is your company name, such as abcwidgetco.com. You may also wish to purchase domains that describe the products you sell (particularly those with trademarked names that you have control of), such as purplewidgets.com. Most web users are used to domains with the “.com” extension. The “.net” is another general domain extension, often used by Internet Service Providers, while non-profit organizations use the “.org” extension. Some domains are not available to general users, such as “.gov” URLs reserved for the US government.

We recommend purchasing a .com domain that is easy for your visitors to remember. If your domain is abcwidgetco.net and you always advertise it as such, many visitors will still type in “abcwidgetco.com” because .com addresses are so familiar. You may also wish to purchase the .net and .org variations of your domains, just to protect your trademarks. This allows visitors to find your website using any of the most common domain extensions.

If your company has divisions in foreign locations, we suggest getting the country specific top-level domain for these countries (i.e. “.de” for Germany and “co.jp” for Japan). Your website can even be configured to show the German-language version to the German visitors, Spanish to Mexican visitors, and so on.

When your domains are set up on a server, they can be set up as separate websites or “fold” to one top-level domain. Suppose abcwidgetco.com also owns the domains purplewidgets.com, plasticwidgets.com and metalwidgets.com. These domains can exist as four separate websites, or the addresses can all resolve to the top-level abcwidgetco.com. This means that when a visitor types in metalwidgets.com they will be directed to the abcwidgetco.com website. If separate sites are being set up, all domains can fold to the top-level and be separated out when the new sites are ready.

We recommend that domains be folded unless the separate websites will have unique content. Some website owners set up separate websites that contain replicated content in hopes of boosting search engine rankings. This technique is outdated, and can actually get your website banned from search engines. Google even states this in it’s webmaster guidelines, “Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.”

Some website owners also purchase excessively long, hyphenated domains (i.e. we-sell-purple-and-metal-widgets.com) for search engine submission purposes. This also has little to no effect on search engine rankings. Search engine expert Jill Whalen tackled this topic at Search Engine Guide in 2002. Many search engine optimization professionals, even search engines like Google, will tell you to put your visitors over the search engines. A domain like abcwidgetco.com is much easier to remember than a domain with many hyphens!

If you company sells brand name products like Nike shoes, you may want to register a domain like bestnikesonline.com. While you may register the domain, be aware the the trademark owner may file a complaint to get the domain name from you, possibly resulting in expensive legal battles. ICANN, The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, develops domain name regulation and provides information on domain name issues. The United States Patent and Trademark Office offers information on trademarks. These websites provide more information on domain trademark issues.

Domain search tools like Better Whois allow you to search for available domain names. If you find a domain that you wish to purchase, please contact us at support@OnYourMark.com. We will register the domain for you and ensure that it is set up properly on our servers.

What would you like to ask the pro? Email your questions to askthepro@OnYourMark.com!

Links Mentioned in this Article:
– icann.org
– uspto.gov
– betterwhois.com

Phone/Text: 262-853-7900

Organizer, Wisconsin Business Owners

Founder & CEO, OnYourMark, LLC

Author, WebForging, A Practical Guide to the Art of Forging Your Web Presence

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