Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Multiple Domains there not big or clever !

I had a query recently from a friend – who was hosting 2/3/4 domains of the same content. They had noted that Google was now mainly indexing one URL and not the other. They had also seen shifts in the search results, this is my advice….site names have been deleted to protect the innocent! And it was an innocent mistake.

Although written on here about Duplicate content penalties before, thought to share my comments here (in a different tone) and could be useful for others to refer to in the future – as the duplicate content issue will never change on Search Engines.


Firstly I see your site is built in asp now this was designed and released before SEO became the talk of the town. However it is performing well for some key terms, well done on that, and it certainly does the job at converting visitors with great help areas and calls to action.

Should you be building the site right now, the first bit of advice I would give you to plan early for SEO, considering how your sites architecture is going to be laid out. Building relevant link paths of relevant content – good thing about the fact it is a “Holiday site” is that you can dig down deeper from UK to South East to Berkshire to Reading to Reading East. You could look at adding content as appropriate ie: events in area, places to see, restaurants etc – lots of lovely content for spiders and most importantly the site visitors. Your site has a community feel too, you could build on that, get others to send you the information (information on this blog on building communities).

Hopeful that you will already be using Google Webmaster tools to help you with SEO really useful, especially the ranking information plus suggestions on how to improve your site for indexing.

If you are not using it, start today. With digesting & implementing data from Google, the comments below and keeping your current internal linking, headers and content, will put you on the right path.

First step

Before beginning to develop new key word rich content (density of around 3% for 250 words) and implementing tools as required. You need to tackle a pretty big issue of duplicate content.

Firstly I am unsure why you thought parking more than one domain was a good idea ! If you think it would increase your presence in search engine result pages, you would be mistaken.

To be even more blunt this is Pretty Old School !

By having more than one website – showing the same content on multiple domains you are taking away the uniqueness & richness of your content – Google want to supply searches with unique and relevant data. Check out the Google Rules in Webmaster help, it tells you clearly there that duplicate content is a no go.

Several site owners actually use Copyscape.com, to check if people are using their content – which can some times happen and decrease their relevance quality in Google.

Google only want to present one website, not a big list of similar websites.

It makes sense

Imagine what a dull place a search engine would be if that happened all the time, ie: presented you with the same site, over and over again. After while (the big G) will work out which one/site it prefers – there are lots of algos (rules) to determine this, however the main one would probably be links into the site from external sources. Another option is to think you are up to something dodgy and ban you (it does happen!).

It is likely that the site that remains has more external links (links in) than the other site – it could be bookmarked by more people.

As this site does mirror another site, your quality score of relevance is diluted this is why you are seeing a shift in search results as Google struggle to make up its mind.

You are making the spiders job difficult. Don’t.

Another thing is that the spider won’t come back as often if you make its life difficult, think customer service, give it what it wants and it will come back. (as mentioned earlier see Webmaster help).

Second step

I do hope that you don’t have a link from one site (of same content) to another as if Google doesn’t see it, a competitor may, and they can very easily submit a spam report across the 3 major search engines. Outcome being as above, you will be banned from search results.

In effect by having multiple sites you are cheating the system as you are putting out more relevant words…… Google is highly focused, clever, and getting clevererererer so beware.

Third step

Query: Is it 3 domains you are supporting or more ?

Most people don’t realise that the below URLS are not the same:


Search engines would view these as 4 different sites – and this isn’t even counting your other domains. (However note - if your site has history, Google does work out in the end that mysite.com is the same as www.mysite.com - takes about a year).

So if you create content which the search engines can get to with or without the www you are decreasing your uniqueness and duplicating the content.

On a positive – it is pretty easy to resolve your issue of having a number of domains with same content.

Finally: Sorting it all out

Lucky for you, your IIS server does have a built in ability to sort this out.

You will need to create a permanent redirect in IIS. In the Virtual Directory – it will say when connecting to this resource content should come from - …Tick ‘A redirection to a URL’ – and then place in Redirect to: http://www.mybestrankingsiteblahblah.com/ Make sure you also tick ‘ Permanent redirection’. So when requests are put in for your other domains – the server will issue a Permanent redirect.

You will want to check who is linking to you too, you could request for some sites which have wrong link, to change it to the correct one.

You can but ask !

It will be OK not to change the URLS though, the only downfall is that your server will have to work a bit harder as it is having pull 2 pages (the first one and the correct one).

With regards to links, IMO the best place to check links is Yahoo Site Explorer UK, rather than Google (using inlinks:) obtain the little snippet of code in Site Explorer and keep check of those links in – and keep building them (good links, not link farms, and don’t submit to more than 25 link directories a day – Google have eyes and see this too). I have spent quite a while sourcing those good directories, think about 3 yrs in total.

With regards to which URL you should pick, first thought, which has the most external links pointing to it and also consider the name.

Note although Google doesn’t have URL name/wording in their algos/rules – (some people think they do, as appear highlighted in search results, this is just conditional formatting) – a positive about having two main keywords in your URL is useful in link building exercises – as Spiders do read the link text. Positive move for you was using a hypen, between two keywords relating to your brand, reason being is Google read underscores as continuation of a word (due to historical codey stuff) – hypens separate the word.

More information on SEOing your site for visitors and search engines on the blog.


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