Q: I have an established website for my consulting business (let’s call it my-boring-name.com.) I’ve recently added a really exciting white paper to my site, and I think I can get a lot of links to it – especially if I register a new and memorable domain for it (let’s call it really-exciting-paper.com). I feel strongly that I’ll get more traffic and links if I use this new domain! But I want to keep my old domain around too because it’s doing well.
My hosting company offers a service that they call a pointer domain. As I understand it, this means that users entering really-exciting-paper.com will always see really-exciting-paper.com as the URL in the browser address window, even when they click into pages on my-boring-name.com.
I’ve been reading on the Internet that pointer domain is also called domain masking, and that it isn’t a good idea. Why?
A: The warnings you read online are correct. The problem with domain masking is that it creates perceived duplicate content in search engines, particularly Google. In the example above, Google would see the two addresses, http://www.my-boring-name.com/page.html and http://www.really-exciting-paper.com/page.html as two different sites showing the same content. Because Google and other search engines do not want to display multiple copies of the same content in their search results, they will likely choose one or the other of these URLs to index. Worse yet, if Google runs into a lot of duplicate content on your domains, it might decide that one or both are not worth visiting as often. Other penalties may also be possible. In short, it’s likely to be detrimental to your search engine presence and not a good strategy.
Your situation is fairly common. Even our own website, at http://www.yourseoplan.com is serving the dual purpose of being a companion site to our book, as well as a corporate brochure for our consulting business. A separate URL,http://www.gravitysearchmarketing.com redirects to the services page using a 301 redirect.
Here are a few options that might work for you:
- You could keep the two separate sites and build each of them up with unique content, and be transparent about the interlinks between them. This would be along the lines of someone like Jim Boykin, who has a corporate site at http://www.webuildpages.comand an individual site at http://www.jimboykin.com, each interlinking with full disclosure.
- You could combine your materials into a single website. This is the approach we took with this site.
- You could set up the two separate websites and then wait for a period of time for links to really-exciting-paper.com to build up. Then you could set up a 301 redirect to pass the accumulated link equity to the other domain.
- You could follow the pointer/masking approach that you describe, and then just let the chips fall where they may, assuming that one or both of your URLs may get penalties.
- You could proceed with the pointer/masking approach, but exclude indexing of one or the other URL using the robots.txt file. While we do not know for a certainty that the link “juice” will still carry through the unindexed site to the indexed site, we think it would.
You can probably guess our recommendation by seeing which approach we took on our own site (combining into a single site). We also think that Jim Boykin’s approach has merit if you have the ability to develop significant unique content on each site. The 301 redirect option will definitely pass the link equity, but is more of a “one time” event, not a solution for the long term. The last two approaches are your two extremes: take all the risk, or remove risk entirely. We hope one of these ideas will suit your needs and preferences!