Search Engine Optimization is one of the most effective ways of building traffic to your website. If you apply proper SEO tactics and strategies, people who are looking for products and services that you offer will find you instead of your competitors. However, you need to be careful with where and how you host your websites as SEO issues may arise when you are working with multiple domains and one host.
After being in the web design, development and marketing business for years, we have learned a lot about how design, hosting and programming work together, whether in favor or against your website’s SEO. Hosting is a service that holds your website’s files to make them accessible to anyone who is on the Internet and requests it. Your domain (www.example.com) is your internet address and the hosting is what makes your address accessible on the Internet.
Where you host your website and how you connect it with your other web properties has a significant impact on the website’s rankings. This is even more important when you have multiple websites that are all hosted with one host in one single account.It is not uncommon for businesses to have a trusted hosting partner with whom they host all of their websites. It is easier to hold all web properties in one single trusted place rather than struggling to manage multiple hosts with unknown performance.
What is Multi-Site Hosting?
Businesses which operate multiple websites can easily host all their websites in one account with one FTP access rather than worrying about keeping multiple accounts and multiple accesses. This is referred to as multi-site hosting.
Technically, when you register your first domain on a hosting plan, your host assigns you a primary domain. All your additional domains become your primary domain’s sudomains. For example if you run two websites – example.com and example1.com, your accounts are initially added as example.com (primary domain) and example1.example.com (secondary domain). Your web host will later tweak its system to point the secondary domain to its corresponding folder so that you can access example1.com as is and not as a subdomain of your primary domain.
However, one thing that most website hosting companies do not care about is the SEO of your website. While some do not know about it, the others just don’t care. After they tweak their system to serve your website at example1.com, they do not take care of the fact that your website is still being served at example1.example.com. No human notices it, but the search engine robots do. They crawl the web and take notice of both the addresses on which they find the same content – duplicate content. Duplicate content is a strict no-no in search engines and results in search engines choosing one version of the content (which they think is the original) over the others. The other versions are relegated to the supplemental index, also known as Google Hell.
While the concept of supplemental index is no longer talked about because Google no longer maintains two separate indices, it is still very real. A page labeled as duplicate never ranks high enough in search engines. From a searcher’s perspective this is correct too as they only want to see the content once from the best site that serves it.
When search engines see your website at both example1.example.com and at example1.com, they decide to pick one. You would be lucky if they choose example1.com, but there is no guarantee that they will do so. If example.com is an old domain with strong content and link popularity, and the example1.com is a newer one, it is the later than will be caught as duplicate while the subdomain will be treated as the original.
Solutions for Hosting Related Duplicate Content Problems
The solution is to use a file which as no name and just the extension – .htaccess. This file is found at the server level and at the subdomain level. You need to find the one at the subdomain level (example1.example.com) and write a directive in it to redirect it to the main domain (example.com.)
To write the directive, download the file using an FTP client like CuteFTP or Filezilla (or any other that you want to use). Use a basic text editor like Notepad. Here is the directive that you need to add:
Please remember to replace example1.com to your website’s domain name. If you cannot save it back after modifying as .htaccess then save it as .txt and rename the extension later as .htaccess. To check if it worked correctly, open your subdomain address in the web browser and see where you land. You should land on example1.com.
We hope this technical insight will help you walk out of the SEO dark house. Keep receiving more tips and tricks like this on our blog.