Don't be a loser

Does domain forwarding affect SEO or can it help with SEO?

Can my site rank better with a keyword-rich domain name?

Will my site rank better without a keyword in the domain name at all?

Does domain masking affect SEO?

I get questions (or assumptions) like this regularly. If your goal is to get a better ranking with a new keyword rich domain name, please take my advice and reconsider.

Let’s say your website has been out there for 6 months or more and you assume, for whatever reason, that you can get a higher search engine ranking if you were using a keyword in your domain name instead of the one you have. So, you rush to purchase, and After all, domain names are cheap – most of the time.

There’s nothing wrong with buying up domain names, but beware of the ranking issues with multiple domain names for one website when they are pointed in a way that is not sound technically. Duplicate content and reducing Google’s trust in your site are the most common problems that follow.

Which domain name does Google have more history and trust with, your current domain name or one you just bought?

Common methods webmasters use to point multiple domain names to your web server include:

  • Domain Mirroring/Masking
  • Domain Cloaking
  • Domain Alias/URL Alias
  • Domain Redirecting

Domain mirroring/masking is sometimes called a pointer domain. It looks like it is the domain name when it is used in a browser, but it is simply a mask overlaying the real domain name and its content.

Domain cloaking uses an iframe or embedded frameset to display the content of another site.

Domain redirecting (also called URL redirecting) requires all traffic that is sent through the new domain name to be redirected to the main domain name or redirecting a domain to another domain name.

But, let’s back up a second and look at the issues you must consider before making this decision. Some people wonder how to change the domain name or business name without losing rank in Google.

1. To limit confusion, it’s better to change the brand (or company) name to better reflect the keyword-rich domain name. This could be as simple as recreating the company logo, but you might consult your customer base first.

2. The technical procedure of redirecting domain names must be done so that the search engines do not get confused about what you are trying to do.

Just for fun, let’s say you’ve gone through all the turmoil of changing the company name to reflect your new keyword-rich domain.

If you use any method other than domain redirecting, you are going to be disappointed with your search rank. Domain mirroring, masking, cloaking and aliases confuse search engines because they see the same content under a different domain name. Google then selects one of the domain names to display that content and leaves the others out of the search results. Google chooses for you – since you are not aware of how to manage your duplicate content issues – and no one knows which domain name Google will choose. You could be saying “bye-bye” to all the hard-earned link juice pointed at your main domain name.

The more serious issue with domain mirroring/masking is if Google suspects you of attempting to manipulate search rank by suddenly using keywords in additional domain names. The result can be loss of whatever good ranking you did have. Ouch!

This is precisely what happened with a client. Despite my warnings, but thinking they might change the company name eventually, they bought additional keyword-rich domain names and had the webmaster point them at their server (using domain masking). Within a couple weeks Google dropped their domain ranking across the board.

Of course they came to me with their issue. I gently reminded them about how this should have been done, using a 301 redirect, and asked them to consult me next time they’re considering a marketing or technical decision regarding the website. It took about 6 weeks – a long and painful 6 weeks – for Google to restore their good rank again.

When a company acquires additional domain names, they should be permanently redirected to the main domain name – the one, central location on the web for all of the company’s or brand’s content.

So, how do you redirect a domain name properly (how to 301 redirect a domain to another domain name)?

The best answer depends on the type of server hosting your site (Apache or Windows), how much control you have over that server (hosted on a shared or dedicated server) and the purpose of the redirected domain name. Without getting into the specifics of permanent redirects, here are some resources:

Check server headers and verify HTTP Status Codes

Redirects using HTTP 301 headers

301 Redirect on Windows Server

301 Redirect For Apache

Duplicate Content Tool

Tom Shivers
Tom Shivers

I'm a ecommerce SEO consultant and President of Capture Commerce. I've managed digital marketing campaigns for scores of clients since 2000 and found that every business is unique with its own challenges and opportunities. When I see that I have contributed to the success of a business by helping them grow, it makes me feel awesome! That’s the coolest thing and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to do this.

    16 replies to "How To Lose Top Rankings By Redirecting A New Domain Name To Your Site"

    • Matt Haff

      Great post Tom. I had gone through this with my website, when I changed my business from to I knew of the troubles that I would face if I didn’t do it correctly. The steps that I took were a little harder but I think they definitely paid off.

      I bought the new domain name, launched a new website with it, and redirected to for about 3-6 months. I also did a permanent redirect on all of the old pages to the new location. After I saw that Google had indexed it and everything was working fine, I launched a new portfolio site at and took down the redirect.

      Thanks to the steps I took, now both websites are very highly ranked under my target keywords “atlanta web design” and “atlanta website design”.

    • Marwan_Arafah

      RT @tomshark: How to lose top rankings by redirecting a new domain name to your site >>

    • Katie

      Question for the author – will it hurt my current website if I purchase another URL, add semi-new content to it, and link to my current site?

      For example, let’s say an insurance agent has a page on his site dedicated to homeowners insurance. He buys, adds relevant content, and links to his current website’s homeowner’s insurance page. The content would be similar, but not an exact replica.

    • Tom

      @Katie, creating a separate website, or mini-site, is a fine way to segment and communicate more directly with a subset of your target audience. But, I wouldn’t host those mini-site’s on the same IP address and I wouldn’t expect much from building a “link wheel” with your mini-sites.

      If you are going for a competitive keyword phrase with your mini-site, having the keyword phrase in your domain name will only get you so far in the rankings.

    • Mark

      Very nice and informative post thanks for shearing

    • Amit Sharma

      Ok…my problem is a little complex. My site is blocked by akismet for blog commenting and my comments always go into spam. I am thinking of buying a new domain and 301 redirecting it to my main domain and use this url for website field in blog comments. What do you think? How google will respond to this. Building links for a domain redirected to another domain? Is it ok or it looks fishy in the eyes of google. I have no other way to comment. And I have appealed to akismet but don’t know when they’ll unblock my site.

    • Tom Shivers

      @Amit, I agree you have a complicated problem there. But, as far as 301 redirecting a domain name to another, Google should honor the links and credit the final domain name with the links.

    • Gilbert@namebadges

      @TomShivers, as far as i know 301’s DO redirect link juice and you get credit, but not as much as if hte link went directly to the correct site. If for example you change hosts or domains, you need to really get the ‘old’ site to be 301’ed to the new one. however, it’s not foolproof.

    • Tom Shivers

      @Gilbert, you won’t have a problem if you simply change hosts and keep the same domain name, but if you ever change domain names, you do need to 301 redirect all the important pages of your old domain to the new domain. One of the easier ways to do lots of 301 redirects is with apache rewrite.

    • Jay_sportoboots

      Thanks for the advice @TomShivers. I wish I had more technical knowledge, talking Apache rewrites is a bit over my head unfortunately! (I understand some basic stuff). Thanks for the post anyways!

    • Tom Shivers

      @Jay glad I could help. Toward the end of this post there are a few links to some very helpful technical know how. Also, if your site is less than 100 URLs, you probably don’t need Apache rewrite.

    • David Williams

      This is a common problem. Thanks for the tips.

    • Andy W

      I am setting up a new site on an aged domain I have owned for 5 or 6 years.
      I am thinking of buying a few websites in the same niche which are content-rich. Moving the content to my new site and redirecting the pages / posts to the new site
      The idea being I can buy 2 or 3 sites with lots of content that is ranking and have all of that content on my branded domain (I won the FB page, group etc and have a large following) rather than starting from scratch creating all-new content.
      Any major flaws with this idea? It is going to cost a fair bit to acquire related sites but I am balancing the cost against years of writing content and aging it.

      • Tom Shivers

        Andy, you seem to have thought this out a bit more than most and it seems good mostly. However, although quality content is the foundation for high ranking web pages, there’s more to consider, assuming the content is evergreen: user experience and reputation of the businesses who used those domains. Plus, there may be relationships/partnerships earned by the people who sold you the domains.

        It’s difficult to account for some of those intangibles, but Google will.

    • Daniel

      Im trying to figure out:
      I have my main domain that isn’t keyword rich, could it help if I buy a new keywordrich domain, 301 redirect it to the main domain and then make all new backlinks come through the new keyword rich domain?
      Example buy, 301 redirect it to and make new links from UK come through .
      The same thing with (for italy) etc

      Would it be the same than linking directly to the main domain ot better because this links go through a keyword rich domain?
      Thank you!

      • Tom Shivers

        That’s a lot of extra work that won’t make any difference but force Google to crawl through another redirect to get to the destination. Just link directly to the main domain URL.

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