Many small business owners thinking buying every URL close to their business name or industry description is a good idea.  This past week, I worked on strategies for four different clients around this topic.

Why people buy multiple domain names:

The idea is simple, buy it before someone else does.  At ~$12 per domain name, it’s really not that large of an investment to get a domain name registered.  I think this is  also fueled by the idea that domains are a scare resource, which they really aren’t.  While it is a true joy to find an exact match name for words (without hyphens) that have a high search volume, most clients are buying domain names like that.  My client yesterday wanted to buy “DeportCountyDestistForFamilies.com”

When IS buying multiple domain names a good idea:

To be clear, I don’t think generally it is a good idea, unless:

  • Print/TV/Radio Marketing:  If your main domain name is something obscure and hard for people to remember, like “ChalkerengensAndSons.com”, buying a domain name easier for customers to remember is better.  If Chalkerengens was a plumber that marketed himself a being quick, maybe “TheQuickPlumber.com” would be a good choice (at the time of this writing, it available).  In this case, it is best to redirect the new domain name right to the existing web page (don’t set up a duplicate website)
  • Multiple focuses of the business: If the business has two distinct focuses of the company or divisions, and the primary domain name excludes one of the divisions, buy a 2nd domain name.  In this case, the company should set up a minimal website at this domain to address the uniqueness of the focus, but highly reference the primary site.
  • High search traffic keyword domain name: If you make wool socks, and “WoolSocks.com” is available…buy it.  You can use hyphens in the domain names, like “Wool-Socks.com”, because search engines treat hyphens like spaces.  In my experience, domain names with hyphens are NOT treated by Google as an exact match search for the same words.  Don’t think you found gold by adding a hyphen, you found pyrite.

Three case studies from this past week:

  1. The Lawyer: I have a client whose website has grown to the size and scope, that it is now now way focused on their primary target cases.  It has become the Walmart of legal site; an expert in having lots of things but far from an expert in any one thing.  They focus on a highly competitive market, with very high search traffic.  Their domain name is the name of the partners, and hard to remember or spell.
  2. The Dentist: They have one site with limited traffic coming from a smaller market.  They want to buy more domain names and direct them back to their single web page.  They focus on a market that has very limited search traffic, and mild competition.  There domain name uses the keywords of what they do, and the major city that they are in.
  3. The Cosmetic Dentist: He has 28 domains going to ~20 semi-unique websites.  They are also in a highly competitive market, and their domain names use a lot of hyphenated keyword combos.  Currently, a third of these domains do not even show up in a Google search for the main Doctors name (that’s really bad).

My recommendations/strategies:

  1. The Lawyer: We’re going to break up their site into multiple highly focused sites.  This will give each site in their portfolio a stronger keyword density and strong keyword focus.  We’ll find them domain names that are descriptive of each of the focuses, which should also alert visitors to what the site is about.  Lastly, this will allow us to focus the title tags and other elements highly on each site’s focus.
  2. The Dentist: I’m recommending to my client to NOT buy extra domain names.  Simply buying new domain names in an area that has limited search traffic is just wasting money.  Unless they find the top searched keyword domain name is available (it isn’t), then buying up all the hyphenated domain names will add stress and waste resources of the firm.  They need to focus their time on developing quality content about their focus for their existing website.
  3. The Cosmetic Dentist: I’m recommend to my client that we shut down 23 of his 28 websites, and set up single page landing pages for the rest.  These landing pages are simple 1 page websites at the domain, that can then collect the existing site equity of all the domain names (however limited it is).  These landing pages will then link back to the 5 main site which will focus on the 5 primary markets the firm focuses on.  The client can then focus on only 5 sites, rather then 28, which will save them stress and money.  The goal will be to have at least one of the 5 sites on the first page of the search engines, regardless of the search term.

I’m excited for my clients to implement these strategies.  I truly believe it will be the best use of their marketing dollars, and help promote them in the search engines.  What would you do, in these cases?

Post filed under SEO, Web Marketing.