Ever worked with a lead management marketing system? There are many out there, for a monthly fee, you get a website complete with a choice of landing pages, auto-responders (often prewritten for you) and a contact management system. They work well with online advertising; where your banner, PPC ads drive traffic directly to your pre-built landing pages, generating leads for you.
So what about setting up your own domain and pointing it to your marketing system? Not a problem, for $10 or so, you buy a domain and then forward it to your marketing system URL.
This won’t cause any SEO problems for my new domain, right? Well, “it depends”.
The simplest way to forward your domain is with a redirect. This means that when a user visits your domain, say www.mynewdomain.com, the server sends back a code to the browser that tells it to go to a new location, such as iuser.marketingsystem.com. There are two types of my website has moved codes. One is HTTP code 301 which says the new location is permanent, the other is HTTP code 302 which says the move is temporary.
If you browse SEO articles on the web you’ll see advice to always use 301 redirects to make sure that the SEO benefit passes through to the target domain. But is that really what you want here? If you are interested in building up the SEO power of your new domain, a 301 redirect will defeat that goal as it just passes all that link juice to the marketing system, which may not be what you want. A 302 might be better, although with 302s, Google will decide which URL to index, which may or may not be in your favor.
With the redirect described above, the user will see the iuser.marketingsystem.com URL in the browser after the redirect completes. Masking, also called URL Frame, will hide the target domain from the user, keeping www.mynewdomain.com visible in the URL box in the browser. Sounds perfect, yes? Well, let’s look at what spider sees when it visits the domain. Here’s an example
<frameset rows='100%, *' frameborder=no framespacing=0 border=0><frame src="http://iuser.marketingsystem.com" name=mainwindow frameborder=no framespacing=0 marginheight=0 marginwidth=0></frame>
This code tells the visitor that the content is all coming from the marketingsystem.com domain. The general consensus is this masking using frames are bad for SEO and most tests agree with this. Your mileage may vary. In any case, savvy users visiting with Chrome or Firefox might notice that the browser is getting a response from marketingsystem.com, specially if it is slow (Waiting on ….). So, although you can insert meta tags in the frameset code to try and optimize the “page”, this approach is not ideal either.
So what’s left? Instead of forwarding the domain, you can use DNS to map the domain to the target system’s nameservers. DNS is how the internet determines where your website is actually hosted, it translates the domain name to an IP address. By pointing to the marketing system nameservers you are transferring that translation process to the marketing system which will figure out what files to show your web visitor. Since in this we are trying to build the SEO value of our domain rather than the marketing system URL, this is a better approach than redirecting or forwarding with masking.
There are a couple of drawbacks however. One is that if both domains get indexed, Google may consider this duplicate content. You want to avoid having any links go directly to your marketing system URL. Also, as much as you can, customize the marketing system website. If your website looks like a hundred others, it will be harder to get it to rank highly.
Kathy Alice Brown is a SEO expert specializing in Technical SEO and Content. In her spare time she loves to get outside.
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