Friday, June 4, 2010

Domains And Subdomains

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Multiple Domains – Is it Worth It?


If your site contains more than one major subject – like baby diapers and garage door openers, you should consider splitting your site into multiple sites, one site per subject. This case is largely a no-brainer.

If you have a site that has several related, but distinct groups of products or services, the case is not so clear-cut. You may be better off spending your time expanding the size of your main site and organizing it better.

Should you decide to create more than one site for your business, keep the following points in mind:

• Don’t copy your main site onto a separate domain and duplicate pages in order to get more incoming links. Google can detect this and your site may get penalized (or even dropped from their index).

• Use different hosting companies for each site. The reason being is that Google may consider multiple similar sites on the same server that are cross-linked together as potential duplicate sites. The important consideration here is to have each site hosted on a different Class C block.

A Class C block is that number shown in the third position of an IP address. For example, for 255.137.xxx.255, xxx represents the Class C block. This number needs to be different for all your websites and the easiest way to guarantee this is to use separate Web hosting companies for each site.

It is not advised that you create multiple “mini” sites to help increase your traffic or number of incoming links. This was a popular technique a couple of years ago but has largely fallen out of favor due to abuse. There are people reportedly that do well at these but I am skeptical. Many mini-sites are junk one-page sites with little content (or with duplicate content) in the hopes of creating lots of links to boost PageRank. Google will catch on and you will be sorry you did this.

Create multiple sites only if there is a strong, compelling reason to do so.

Domain Pointing and Subdomains

Given that you can register domain names so cheaply, it may make sense to register your top keyword phrases as domain names, and then use domain pointers (also known as domain aliases or domain forwarding) to redirect visitors from your “pointer” domains to your main domain.
For example, if your main website is at www.houseplans.com, you may want to register the following domains: www.houseplan.com, www.house-plans.com, www.unique-house-plans.com, and www.homeplans.com, and set it up to have each one of these forward visitors to your main website. In this way, you can capture visitors who may type in variations of your main domain and singular vs. plural forms.

Another technique is the use of subdomains, also known as prefix domains or third-level domains. For example - http://keyword.domain.com.

Google currently treats a subdomain as an entirely different domain name. On your server, each subdomain is redirected to a different folder on your website.

For example, www.keyword.mydomain.com could point to www.my-main-domain.com/keyword/. This is an excellent strategy is your site is comprised of related but distinct groups of topics.

Contact your webmaster for setting this up as it varies from one server platform to the next.


Changing Domain Names

Think carefully if you are changing domain names at an established site solely for the purpose of change. Google will see your new domain as a brand-new site, even if you have kept all the file names the same. That means all your old incoming links will point to the old domain. I recommend keeping your old domain name unless you have a real compelling reason to change it.

If you must change domain names, the way to do it properly is to keep your old domain active and insert a Permanent 301 Redirect script on that server to instruct browsers and search engines that the site on the old domain have been replaced by a new domain. This will also transfer PageRank from your old domain to your new domain.

Ask your Webmaster to do this as it is a little complex and varies by server (Linux/Apache vs. Windows/IIS).

Domain Registration and Domain Age

Google now looks at the length of time a domain is registered for. Legitimate domains are more likely to be paid for several years in advance, while shady domains are rarely registered for more than a year in advance, since the owner knows they are likely to be penalized anyway. I recommend you sign up or renew a domain for at least 2 years, preferably more. Legitimate businesses are in it for the long haul anyway.

Google may also take into account the rate at which Whois information and DNS Nameserver is changed for a given domain. Domains that frequently change their hosting servers and registered owners may be flagged as possible spam domains. Lastly, Google appears to give more weight to older domains (and hence older sites) when ranking sites, all other things being equal.

Domain and Subdomain Naming

When a keyword is contained in a domain name or a subdomain, there is a good chance that the keyword is pretty relevant to the content of the site. A website with a keyword in the domain name may rank every so slightly higher than another website that doesn't use keywords in the domain (all other things being equal).

Given a choice between two listings in the search results, an online searcher will likely choose the listing containing the keyword in the domain name over the listing that contains unmemorable or is spammy-sounding.

Other tips to consider:

1. The shorter the domain name, the better.
2. Go from specific to generic: houseplans.com is better than planshouse.com
3. Don't use more than one hyphen is you can help it - no more than two hyphens ever in a domain name.
4. Don't be cute and use the TLD in the domain name, like www.reallygood.info.

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