Domain Parking for SEOs
- Domain Parking
- A term used to describe for temporarily placing a record in a nameserver (DNS) for later use.
This is normally done because you usually can't register a domain unless you provide a nameserver address, but many people buy domains before there is a website ready. Usually the domain is pointed at a temporary web page until the "real" site is ready.
Domain Parking Technical Details
The act of parking is physically the same as assigning a domain name to an IP address. Technically, you simply add an "A Record" to a DNS server and point it somewhere. Physically, it's exactly the same coding as a normal domain - what makes it a "park" is the contents of the destination - which is not a separate and unique site intended for the domain, but either a temporary holding page, an unconfigured server, or some other website altogether.
It will often look something like this:
www.mcanerin.com. IN A 192.168.5.100
- The "www.mcanerin.com" is the domain name.
- The "IN" is the Address Class, and in this case stands for "INternet".
- The "A" tells the DNS that this is an Address (as opposed to a mail server, alias, or whatever)
- The "192.168.5.100" is the IP (Internet Protocol) of the server.
Altogether, this line tells anyone who asks that the domain name www.mcanerin.com is an internet address that you can find at the IP address of 192.168.5.100.
Now, what would happen if I made another line in this DNS so it looked like:
www.mcanerin.com IN A
mcanerin.com IN A 192.168.5.100
This would now point BOTH of these names at the same address. Otherwise, if someone typed in "mcanerin.com" without the "www" the DNS server would not know what to do and the user would get a dead page. Most web hosts automatically add both versions to your DNS because this is a common problem.
But a search engine would consider this to be 2 separate websites, at least at first. Why? Because although it's common for people to be lazy and not type in the "www", you can actually set things up so that these point to 2 separate servers. In the old days, servers were not very powerful, so it was common to have separate servers do separate jobs. You could have a firewall called mcanerin.com, a webserver called www.mcanerin.com, an ftp server called ftp.mcanerin.com, a mail server called mail.mcanerin.com, and so on. Each of these would be separate servers with their own IP addresses.
So a search engine (unlike many of today's casual internet users) can't just assume that mcanerin.com and www.mcanerin.com are the same site - not everyone has a powerful server. Many companies are running legacy systems set up back in the old days, and even today some people in third world countries are getting by with servers that are old and slow.
At first, the search engine will treat the two domains as two separate sites, but will eventually (once it's fully indexed both for some time) figure out that they are the same, and then merge the data for the two, which can take up to a year. In the meantime, any links that you have going to mcanerin.com would not be credited to www.mcanerin.com. For a while when I first launched my website, mcanerin.com had a PR of 2 and 9 backlinks on Google, but www.mcanerin.com had a PR of 4 with 46 backlinks showing. Eventually (it took a long time), the data merged and I ended up with a PR of 5 with 55 backlinks showing. This obviously has SEO issues, since usually you want to get credit for all your backlinks as soon as possible.
So eventually (once they figure it out) the search engine is treating both addresses as belonging to the same website. This is domain parking in a nutshell from an SEO perspective. You are pointing 2 (or more) domains at the same website.
Now, lets add another domain to the mix:
www.mcanerin.com IN A
mcanerin.com IN A 192.168.5.100
mcanerin.ca IN A 192.168.5.100
You will notice that this is the Canadian ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain). If we add this to the mix you will find that the search engines will now also associate the .ca domain to the website, and therefore treat it as a Canadian website, which is good because the Canadian versions of the major search engines give preference (and a ranking bonus) to Canadian sites. The same applies to other areas, such as the UK, China, Australia and so forth.
In general, unless you are attempting to attach a ccTLD to an existing .com/net/org site for the purposes of geolocation, I do not recommend parking for SEO purposes, for 2 reasons:
- The effect of your links (and PageRank) being split between the two sites
- The fact that the second site will be considered a duplicate, and possibly trip an anti-spam filter if you have enough parks
The only time I recommend parking is for geolocation purposes. The above two reasons eventually disappear when the search engine figures things out, so it's a temporary problem, usually. Yahoo is very well known for not liking multiple domains, though, so I like to be very careful with parks.
How to Park a Domain
Telling your host to do a park is easy - just tell them to point the domain at your IP address. If you use a shared IP, then they will also need to tell the webserver to respond to the domain, as well - but if they use shared IP's, they will probably know that. Using a typical domain control panel, you simply go to the "Add new Domain" menu (or something saying basically the same thing) type in your new domain, and then make sure it's pointing at your current websites IP address.
You'll know it's working when you type in the new domain and it goes to your current website, but the new domain stays in the address bar.
- Register your new domain (or acquire an existing one)
- During the registration process, you will be asked for at least 2 nameservers (DNS) - either type in the ones that are being used by your current domain or ones under your control.
- Now that the domain is pointing at the nameservers, you need to point the nameservers in turn to your target webserver. you do this by going to the nameserver controls, which are not usually near the domain name registration area - it's a totally different area, and usually controlled by your web host or ISP. Tell them what your domain name is (make sure you spell it correctly for them!) and have them point it to your website's IP address, or do it yourself if you know how.
- If you have a dedicated IP address, skip to step 6.
- If it's a shared IP, then go to your webserver and set your website to respond to the new parked domain by adding the domain to the Host Headers for the site.
- Once enough time has gone by for the DNS servers to be updated (anywhere from a few minutes to 3 days, depending on where you live and your ISP), test the park by typing in the parked domain. You should go to the website, and the parked domain should stay in your browsers address bar.
Absolute and Relative Link Issues with Domain Parking
One clear indication of a park is that the domain name does not change in the address bar to the second site. It stays with whatever you typed in. Now, what happens if you click on a link in the website?
There are 2 possible ways to link within websites - relative or absolute. A relative link just links to the other page in relation to the current page. A relative link to this page, in code, looks like this:
Look closely at this - do you see www.mcanerin.com (this website) showing up anywhere in this code? No.This is just a link to a page, and it's only in relation to the other pages in this directory. This is what we mean by a relative link. In general, good website design uses relative links. That way, if you change a domain name you don't have to go back and change every single link in the website.
If you park a domain on a site with relative links, the domain name in the address bar will remain whatever you typed in and only the path and page names will change.
Now look at what this link would look like as an absolute link:
You see that the entire web address is spelled out.
Now, what would happen if you went to a page using a parked domain and then clicked on an absolute link? Why, the link in the address bar would change to the new address, of course! Just as if it were a new webpage on a new site.
Therefore, in practice, if you use relative links your parked domain stays with the visitor for the entire session, but if you use absolute links the domain changes to the hard-coded one as soon as the user clicks on any link. This behavior is very important to understand, since it can affect your branding and geolocation.
I hope you have a better understanding of domain parking now. It's actually a pretty easy concept, but since many people use the term interchangeably with other terms, there is a lot of confusion out there. Don't focus on what your ISP is calling it, find out what it's doing and how it works, and you will be fine. If you check a website using an Http Viewer, it will go straight to the website in one hop (no redirects) and report a 200 (OK) as a result, and the domain name in the browser address bar will not change.
Detailed Technical Information
- Domain Parking and SEO <- You Are Here
- Apache Domain Redirects - 301 vs. 302
- IIS Redirects - 302, 302
- Redirects Using On-Page Scripting and Headers
Specific Scenarios and How To Deal With Them
- I have a .com website and I want to show up for searches related to a specific country (Geolocation)
- I have several domain names and I want them all to point to the same site while keeping all the link popularity.
- I want a new domain to be associated with a sub-directory or specific page on my current site.
- Should I use a redirect for my error page?
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