I am often asked by startup businesses, whether it is a good idea to redirect idle or parked domain names to the primary website being used by their business. Many times these domains are new registrations. The strategy of the business owner is to:
- a) Block similar domain from being obtained by competition
- b) Funnel traffic for the idle or parked domains to the main website
On the surface, the strategy makes sense, but if you dig deeper it might not. While I agree that the block makes sense, if you believe that you can truly block all variations of the domain from your competition. In the past when there were only a small number of Top Level Domains (TLD) available and .COM was king, one could register the .NET, .ORG, and a few others TLDs and pretty much block any serious contenders from creating confusion from your brand or taking any traffic. Now one could still argue that .COM is king, but there are thousands of new TLDs and more coming. Is it practical to register every possible variation that could impact your brand? Not likely. Besides TLD variations, what about the variations of the “domain string”, which is the part of the domain to the left of the dot? If your domain is “UsedCarSales.com”, wouldn’t domains such as UsedCarSale.com, UsedAutoSales.com, UsedVehicleSale.com, and so forth be within the realm of “your brand” identification. Point being, is can you effectively block competitors anymore without establishing trademarks, and other legal deterrents to prevent someone from stealing your thunder? In most cases – no!
As for the second reason that startups want to redirect idle or parked domains to their main website, I ask what benefit they expect? If the domains are new registrations, none of these domains would likely have much of any type in traffic. If the domains were never registered, they would not have a legacy search engine footprint which results in residual traffic from the search engines as well as possible backlinks. If the domains were used in parking, checks should be made regarding the domain’s reputation before pointing it to your main website. Most of the time parking services are very legitimate, especially when they serve Google or Yahoo ads. However, things get risky when the service is routed lower ad networks, or directly to end user’s websites, because sometimes these sites have malware, or phishing sites at the end point. You might need to do some damage control before putting that domain in play.
Unless these domains have existing traffic which might help your main website, I think it might be more effective to develop these domains into standalone websites with unique content, and then creatively link these websites to your main website.
If each domain were developed into a standalone website with unique content, and then then redirect via links to your main website – then you should see some targeted traffic lift in the main website.
The advantage of doing things this way are:
1) backlinks to your main site.
2) if each domain has unique keywords from the main website’s domain, you score some additional keyword matching option that may slightly improve the minor website’s chances of being ranked by the search engines providing you do not use the same content as on the main website.
The disadvantage of doing it this way are”
1) added cost of the additional domains, hosting, and development time
2) extra care must be taken to not duplicate content on the minor websites that also appears on the main website, as that might reduce the main website’s reputation at Google, reducing your relevancy to searches.
In closing, I would not suggest that a startup use this bulk redirect strategy if it involves registering new domains. It adds overhead cost to the business and may not prove effective anyway. However, if the domains are already owned and are sitting idle, then little harm can come from directing any type-in traffic to the main website. If the domains are parked, then some quality checks should be made before putting the domains in use. If the domains had recently been online, have been indexed by Google, have backlinks pointed to them, and are closely related to your main business website then redirects or satellite websites should be considered. If new websites are created and connected to your main websites, make sure the content is unique at all websites, else you may take some negative hits at Google for duplicate content.