Multiple Domain Names Penalty

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If you own a web site AND you have multiple domain names registered, you might want to read this with your full attention.

There are a great many web sites out there which, by inappropriate use of multiple domain names, effectively cripple their search engine rankings by blatantly breaching search engine guidelines!Site owners often register more than one domain, and there are sound reasons for doing this, including;

  • The main URL includes a keyword phrase but is too long to type quickly, so a shorter, cryptic one is utilised and maybe is also used on business cards and letter heads.
  • You take various versions of domains to prevent competitors from grabbing them – dot.com, dot.co.nz, dot.biz, dot.info etc, and point them all to the “main” site.
  • You take various country versions – dot.co.nz, dot.com.au, dot.co.uk because you are going to expand into those markets – but in the interim you point them all to the “main” site.

There are also misguided reasons for doing this, including;

Having multiple domains pointing to the same location in the hope that the search engines will be duped into indexing ALL of them as different content, giving you lots of top rankings under different domains.

Search engines hate duplicated content with a passion but their automated spiders and bots cannot determine which category YOU fall into – uninformed and innocent of intent, or deliberately and knowingly manipulative. So all sites who transgress can expect to be treated equally. And yes, you can be banned from the SE indexes for getting it wrong!

The search engines do not give out many guidelines – in fact they are all very coy about giving too information much away. However, when they do make a statement by way of guidelines, regardless of how politely it is worded, you had best sit up and take notice because they are really, really serious about it!

Google Guidelines on Multiple Domains

In the case of Google, their Webmaster Guidelines are unambiguous! E.g. on this page; http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769 Google are quite clear on this;

Quality Guidelines – Specific Guidelines

  • Don’t employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
  • Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content

What This Means to You

There is a clear and present danger in having multiple sites pointing to the same location if they load exactly the SAME content – this is a SERIOUS breach of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and is expressly FORBIDDEN because the search engines can only interpret this as a blatant attempt to generate duplicate content under different URL’s. Regardless of your actual intentions in this, its likely to result in a BAN from search engine indexes. Not a good start to an online presence, right?

Ignorance of The Law is No Excuse

Ignorance of search engine guidelines is not a valid excuse either! Unfortunately, many web designers and hosting companies are blissfully unaware of the correct way to implement multiple domain names. The result is that many web site owners unknowingly jeopardise their site’s inclusion in the search engine rankings.

My advice is that if you have more than one domain name, you check how its been set up. If your have two domains; http://www.2nddomain.com and http://www.2nddomain.com and BOTH load the same pages but with the different domains showing, then you have a problem. If you can also load the sites as http://www.2nddomain.com and http://www.2nddomain.com then totals 4 different ways of indexing the SAME content!

The Right Way to Do It

That said, it IS permitted to have multiple domains pointing to the same content BUT it may only be done via the use of a Permanent 301 Redirect being applied to the secondary domains, e.g. typing in the URL for any of the secondary domains will redirect you to the main site. This change can easily be implemented, at no cost other than a few of minutes of time.

In this example, http://www.2nddomain.com is redirected to http://www.2nddomain.com and and neither visitors nor SE spiders ever “see” content under the secondary domain name. The same logic should also be applied to the non-www versions of both domain names to complete the process and to prevent potential conflicts with the search engines.

Ben Kemp is the author of “The SEO Guy’s Blog” : SEO comments, hints on successful web site design for effective search
engine optimisation. Plus, life as a Road Warrior… living in The
Land of Smiles! How it feels to be an alien, living in Thailand,
immersed in a new culture and language.

Multiple Domain Names Penalty
About Ben Kemp
Ben Kemp is the author of "The SEO Guy's Blog" : SEO comments, hints on successful web site design for effective search engine optimisation. Plus, life as a Road Warrior... living in The Land of Smiles! How it feels to be an alien, living in Thailand, immersed in a new culture and language. WebProNews Writer
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  • http://lapettaxi.com Guest

    I do not own the domain name for our site the adminstrater/developer fell off the face of the earth.

    Our site needs a serious facelift regarding prices. etc.

    Will creating another site hurt us.

    What can we do?

  • http://www.greatpuppydogs.com puppy for sale

    As to multiple domain names, I have often wondered if just HAVING multiple domain names can cripple you. For example, I have a variety of interests, dogs, web development, horses, credit and so on. In particular, I have purchased a large quantity of domain names, many relating to puppies for sale and also just general dog information. Some of my sites are breed specific.

    I have often wondered if a who-is is performed to see who owns a site. I have heard stories about this, but is there some support for believing it? In other words, would a spider actually take a gander at one of my puppy related sites and maybe notice that the whois info of another dog or puppy related site also points back to me – and more importantly, might this affect my search engine standings?



  • http://www.chah.co.uk Guest

    Great article.  I’ve recently started to use an online shop and it has a different domain name shop.chah.co.uk  from my orginal www.chah.co.uk is this also a bretch of guidelines?

  • Brion
    I have one main domain name hosted. 
    (Example) XYZ.COM
    Then I have about 10 other registered 
    names all pointing to XYZ.COM
    When one of the other domains is entered 
    (like ZYX.COM) the browser redirects to XYZ.COM. 
    When the redirect had loaded it is XYZ.COM that is seen 
    in the address bar.
    Is this ok, and allowed by the search engines??? 
    let me know,
    Thank you & Great thread!!
  • http://www.jumpmankicks.com Air 23 Air Jordans

    Thanks for the heads up, I had no idea about this. Guess I have to work on another strategy, lol.

    Air 23 – News, release dates, info, tons of pics, and much more!!

  • http://www.urdumaza.com imran

    very nice informative article.

    you can have multiple website pointing to 1 domain , but you can’t have 1 domain copied-with-same-contents and uploaded to other websites.

    simply , no duplicate contents. i was doing it with my two domain names , but i have stopped doing it. i have made offline one domain :)

  • http://www.aarson.com Internet Marketing Tampa

    Google will ban you if you dont abide by their rules. I have seen it happen. Unfortunately you can not always tell when you get into the questionable areas.

  • http://www.TheMythofTimeTheMovie.com xmanz

    Thanks for the tips.
    This post was extremely helpful, and
    to the point.
    Our film’s name was bought by a domain
    entrepreneur after we were in production
    most likely based on info we had released
    to a non profit organization for their magazine.
    What we registered,


    is far too long.
    So we have a new domain that we will
    distinctly link as a redirect.

    More posts like these will keep the internet in the
    people’s hands.


  • http://fishingtackleoxford.co.uk/ carp tackle

    Hi i hope someone can help me. I have my main site http://fishingtackleoxford.co.uk/ and i just bought a new domain http://carp.bz . Can someone check to see if this bad.

    Many Thanks and kind regards

  • http://www.online-marketing-agency.co.nz Conrad

    Hi, I have two domains, one 301 redirecting to the other but I wish to now use the 301’d domain. Should I move content and reverse the 301? Any suggestions on making the transition?

  • http://www.drivehq.com/ Jacky

    What about two sites like:

    http://xyz.com/ and http://www.xyz.com/ ?

    Does it cause any problem with Search engine?

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