Interesting SEO Discovery – Forwarding Domains Can Drive Page One Rankings

Every week I review how all of my sites are ranking in Google and what keywords they are ranking well for. As I’ve said a few times now I’m a huge fan of SEOMoz and I also use Google Webmaster Tools – both are excellent and really must-have SEO tools. When I was reviewing my rankings I saw something I didn’t expect. One of my debt sites (DebtEliminationPrograms.com) was on the first page of Google for the phrase “credit card graphics” even though I didn’t use the phrase on my site. Nobody was linking to me with this phrase as the anchor text either, so how the heck was I ranking well for this term?

credit_card_graphics_searchThe answer? I am forwarding CreditCardGraphics.com to the site and that, on it’s own, provided for the page one ranking. On average my site is in position 4.8 for the keyword phrase. Now this is not a competitive phrase so it’s certainly an easier one to rank for, more competitive terms would most certainly be harder to rank for, but the point is – forwarding a domain name absolutely helps with SEO and in this case drove a page one ranking.

Ranking well for a specific term just by forwarding one domain name to your site is definitely an incredible advantage to owning an exact-match .COM even if you don’t develop it. Just forwarding the name could provide a nice SEO boost that, when combined with backlinks and on-page optimizations might give you the edge you’re looking for.

I’m not saying that if you want to rank well for any phrase you just buy the exact-match .COM and forward it to your site. What I am saying is that when used with other SEO techniques it does seem pretty darn apparent that just forwarding the domain will give you an SEO bonus. Just another great advantage to having an exact match domain and a potentially interesting SEO use for some of those high search volume longtails that nobody wants to buy…

{ 32 comments… add one }

  • Theo October 11, 2011, 12:14 pm

    Hey that is pretty cool Morgan.

    I thought that forwarding domain names did nothing, think i will tinker with this now 😉

    Reply
    • Morgan October 11, 2011, 12:25 pm

      Thanks @Theo – I did think it was a pretty cool discovery, really jumped-out at me when I saw it!

      Reply
      • lunaraurora March 26, 2012, 8:40 am

        Looking at competitors results, i think it will give great benefit ..but not sure this would be considered as a ‘white hat’ technique..

        Reply
  • anthony @ dners October 11, 2011, 12:17 pm

    I had been wondering lately if using a 301 redirect to forward related domains to a main website would provide any real SEO benefit. I am glad to see that someone actually had positive results with just forwarding a domain. I speculate that if you build some proper backlinks to the redirected domain name that you might get an even bigger boost. I am going to test this out myself soon with some of my spare names.

    -Anthony

    Reply
  • Jeff October 11, 2011, 12:22 pm

    I’d be really careful with that. Google scrutinizes 301 redirects very carefully and if they are not used in the way they were intended – to inform search engines that a website has moved – Google may well penalize the website.

    Reply
    • Morgan October 11, 2011, 12:27 pm

      @Jeff – very good point, in many cases I forward related domains to a main site, I do this a lot of niches, it is absolutely critical that you forward domains that are in the same niche. Forwarding a domain about knitting to a site about travel doesn’t make any sense and Google will notice that for sure. The idea isn’t to mislead people but instead to point relevant domains to relevant sites.

      Reply
  • DomainReport.ca October 11, 2011, 2:43 pm

    @Morgan, I agree with your last comment there, I also forward related domains to a main page, if the subject matter is related. When you have a lot of domains, it helps to cut down on building a site/page for each one, and you are still forwarding to relevant content. I figure it’s better than parking.

    Didn’t know there could be an SEO benefit to it.

    Sometimes a search engine will index the domain I’m forwarding too, though it’s not my intention.

    Reply
    • Morgan October 11, 2011, 2:45 pm

      Thanks @DomainReport – completely agreed, I find that forwarding related sites is definitely far more valuable than parking. This is particularly true for directory sites where I can forward a geo-domain to that city/state in the directory.

      Reply
  • Logan October 11, 2011, 3:11 pm

    I have noticed a similar bump to my insurance lead gen site by forwarding .us domain names with insurance keywords.

    Reply
  • Brad Pineau October 11, 2011, 3:17 pm

    Nice find. You got me thinking… I’m going to try registering a bunch of different TLDs (like .info .biz .us .etc) for a desired search phrase and see if redirecting multiple domains has a greater effect.

    Reply
  • Morgan October 11, 2011, 3:26 pm

    Thanks for sharing @Logan – very interesting info to add a bit of texture here. Right now I just forward .COMs but seeing value from other TLDs like .US could be an even bigger breakthrough!

    Reply
  • T1D October 11, 2011, 3:48 pm

    Something to clarify, forwarding a bunch of parked domains isn’t a good idea, especially if they aren’t currently ranking. Since most people (reading this blog) have parked domains I’d advise against re-directing a previously parked domain to any website that you want to retain ranking. Additionally Matt Cutts has said that while there was previously no penalty for the amount of 301 re-directs that’s no longer true.

    If you have five to ten mini-sites or sites that have KW ranking, yeah you could re-direct them to your main site. In fact re-directing to inner pages of your main site, that are specific to the keyword is a great idea. But if you just have 10 keyword match domains with maybe a trickle of type-in traffic but no organic rankings they aren’t worth re-directing. It’s not worth it in terms of risk VS reward. And there’s zero point in re-directing 10 parked domains to another parked domain.

    On the flipside, if you have some monster domain with little to no ranking but a huge amount of type-in traffic and some pagerank well then yes a re-direct can help. I’d look for PR4 and up.

    But again, just re-directing non ranking domains without PR, and significant traffic isn’t going to bring a SEO value. In Google’s eyes you’re a website that has a bunch of previously parked sandboxed domains pointing to you. AKA: Guilty by association.

    Reply
  • James October 11, 2011, 5:11 pm

    Thanks for the info Morgan, really interesting.

    Reply
  • John October 11, 2011, 5:20 pm

    Excellent Post

    Reply
  • Francois October 12, 2011, 2:00 am

    I want to say the following:
    This trick is ONLY valid if the fowarding domain has his own site in the past and already had a fair ranking for the term.
    I checked all my domains that are forwarding and did not seen a single case where this distinction of the rule does not apply.

    And the snippet of text from the old forwarded site in the Google SERPs validate this rule.
    The SEO juice you can maybe get for some terms D’ONT come from the URL forward domain but from the previous site it was hosting.

    So NO, if your have a great domain that never was a site with a good ranking for a given keyword then forwarding it to another site should NOT help you in any way to acheive a good ranking for that term.

    So don’t register dozen long tail terms using that theory … you will lost money!!!

    Reply
  • Ryan O;Meara October 12, 2011, 3:28 am

    I had previously used 301 redirects to great advantage. In fact it almost seemed too easy how it worked. I particularly used the technique after Panda and was able to get good quality articles that appeared on my panda hit site to regain their rankings on a new domain. Then bam! Google not only devalued the 301 redirect, it applied the Panda penalty to the entire domain of the site I was pointing to.

    Reply
  • Angler Gang October 12, 2011, 4:59 am

    I thought forwarding domains was bad for SEO as they create “duplicate content” no?

    Reply
  • Mike October 12, 2011, 8:06 am

    CreditCardGraphics.com has a PR 2 with some existing traffic and that’s where you’re getting the SEO juice. for those thinking of experimenting with hand-registering keyword domains in altTLDs to forward to your site you are wasting your time and money

    Reply
  • Francois October 12, 2011, 8:10 am

    @Ryan
    This is why it’s better to forward the domain of an old existing site having a good ranking for a specific keyword to an inner page having content targeted to that keyword. Otehrwise once hit by Google you will fall in the troublion.

    @Angler
    You must forward through a permanent redirect (http 301) to avoid the duplicate content penalty.

    Reply
  • Nima.Co October 12, 2011, 11:28 am

    Morgan,

    I’ve been running a case study on 301 perm redirects and the seo benefits for about 2 months. I acquired access to thousands of domains with extremely valuable backlinks from authoritative .Edu sites. I’d like to run a case study with one of your domains that we can publish results on. Please shoot me an email to discuss details.

    Reply
  • T1D October 12, 2011, 1:12 pm

    If at all possible, if you catch a name on drop that has SEO value backlinks etc, make an attempt to get rights to the content that was previously there. I’m going to post something regarding this on SEOFSB.com (SEO For Small Business) when it launches in a month. Going to be dead simple DIY SEO for small local businesses and mostly free information.

    @ Nima, I think Google started catching onto the .edu back link strategy a few years back. It’s played out IMO.

    Reply
  • Nima.Co October 12, 2011, 9:57 pm

    @Sean- It’s nice to meet you and I appreciate your feedback. I’d like to connect with you via email or by phone if you’re open to the idea of running a case study. If so, lets put .EDU backlinks to the test. In my humble opinion online marketing is an ongoing case study of what works and what doesn’t. If part of our strategy isn’t effective anymore we adapt to new strategies that are weighted heavier in the search algorithm.

    Reply
  • John October 12, 2011, 11:57 pm

    Francois is correct, try Google site:CreditCardGraphics.com

    Reply
  • Nima.Co October 13, 2011, 7:29 pm

    It’s not the domain or the keywords. It’s the very things that make a domain that isn’t a category killer valuable; backlinks, page rank, domain age, existing traffic, etc.

    Reply
  • Chris October 28, 2011, 7:57 am

    I tell my clients to retain all their domains and make use of them. Not only does it provide quality backlinks, but your competition will not be able to capitalize of it either. I have one client who owns 90 different variations of their industry and it seems to work well. We have all of the names forwarded properly.

    Reply
    • Morgan October 28, 2011, 8:49 am

      Right on @Chris – completely agreed!

      Reply
  • Brian Smyth March 7, 2012, 1:46 pm

     If you have a main website would it be best to redirect all your other
    related domains to that website or just duplicate that site into each
    domain creating virtually independent websites that are all almost
    identical all having google adsense an each one.? Just to recap should i
    copy my main website with google adsense and paste it into each domain
    name creating 10 websites or just keep 1 site with 9 redirects ? My
    reasoning is that it may look more real and keep web browsers from
    detecting redirect and maybe its better for Google Adsense some how ???

    Reply
  • Emma June 27, 2012, 5:44 am

    Hi

    I have a question, If i use http://www.Domain1.com and redirect it to http://www.Domain2.com >> And i driver traffic to http://www.Domain1.com and it will be redirected to http://www.Domain2.com when someone visits domain1.com

    Will domain1.com get a piece of the cake of its ranking ? or domain2.com will gets all the credit ?

    Reply
  • Henry A. July 31, 2012, 12:06 am

    Truly, to get any SEO benefits from redirecting a domain name, the site most already have some sort of traffic and rank for a specific keyword(s).

    However, if the reason for redirecting plain domain names (not a website) to an existing website is to limit competition, then it’s a good idea – but won’t offer any SEO benefits.

    Reply
  • Chris November 1, 2012, 10:14 pm

    I was interested to know if this effect is still working?

    I noticed that the example you originally referred to no longer seems to be working.

    Reply
  • Mike January 15, 2013, 2:59 pm

    I realize this is an old article, but your results actually aren’t quite what they appear… What I would bet, however, is that you were seeing your domain on the first page because you were logged into Google+, which is likely the same Google+ account that’s linked to your Webmasters/Analytics which houses that domain.
    Working in the industry, I’ve seen this mistake happen on countless occasions, when clients call me up excited because of how their site is performing, when in reality its rank is actually being inflated only for them because they are logged into Google. For example, find a low ranking site, +1 it, and then you’ll notice that the site is automatically appearing higher in results (but only when you’re logged into Google).
    Not saying this is 100% what is happening here, but this is something people need to be aware of to get the most accurate results.

    Otherwise, you’ve got a nice looking site 😉

    Reply
  • Todd February 22, 2013, 12:27 pm

    It’s not there anymore!

    Reply

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