3 Domain SEO Mistakes Hurting Your Organic Search

In Owned Media, Search Marketing by Andrew Gouty

It’s 2014, and your company is no longer an online infant. It’s at least a young adult, if not a juggernaut, and has some heft to throw around. You get leads and new business, and hopefully, you treat your online presence like the marketing and sales asset that it is.

Over time, Web technologies change, and so does your brand in order to meet and use them. In the wake of a new brand, new Web site or multiple online initiatives, there are a handful of pitfalls in the clutter that can make your Web footprint more of a drag and less of an adrenaline shot.

Mistake: Ignoring Webmaster Tools when moving from one domain to another

This mistake is the obvious “gimme” of this post, and still, lots of development teams completely ignore Webmaster Tools during a rebrand or when moving to a new Content Management System.

Not paying close attention to Webmaster Tools during major website changes is the easiest way to lose a vast majority of your organic search traffic in the blink of an eye. Ever feel like you wanted a direct line to Google to tell them about your content? Webmaster Tools is it – and is grossly underutilized by most digital marketing teams.

There are a few things you need to do when considering a change:

  • Map your old content to its new location using 301 redirects.
  • File a change of address in Webmaster Tools.
  • Monitor Webmaster Tools closely for any new crawl errors.

Mistake: Creating a subdomain for your blog

I always get in trouble with Account Executives of the Inbound variety on this recommendation. Google’s favorite SEO spokesman Matthew Cutts has publicly stated that you shouldn’t concern yourself with subdomains versus subfolders, but there are a handful of reasons why you want your blog to be hosted on the same subdomain as the rest of your marketing content:

  • It coalesces more domain authority on your root domain.
  • It’s easier to link to other product/services pages and push around link juice internally.

The downside is that a handful of SaaS providers default to a subdomain because it’s easier technically. Cutts says they’re “roughly equivalent,” but I don’t buy it. A blog that is integrated into your main site as a subfolder is more likely to distribute link juice to the rest of your site (as a result of using your standard navigation).

Mistake: Hosting vanity domains instead of redirecting them

So you have a shiny new campaign or product launch you want to promote, and you want it to have a life of its own. You give it a name, a team, maybe even its own domain: BigNewShinyThing.com

At first glance, this is benign and brilliant, until the shiny new things start to multiply and have children of their own:


You get the idea. The point is that each of these smaller initiatives can and should redirect and live on your root domain:

BigNewShinyThing.com >> 301 Redirect >> Brand.com/BigNewShinyThing

In this preferred scenario, you get the benefit of the vanity URL, while letting the content authority reside with your branded domain. The content will rank more highly out of the gates, to boot.

This isn’t to say that you should never host campaign content on a vanity domain. In our experience, however, vanity URLs and subdomains are overused (especially when they don’t redirect to a subfolder) and end up harming the organic search results of content marketing efforts.