Using multiple custom domains to control your online identity

Power-up your online presence

If you’re like most individuals and businesses online, you are likely investing time, energy and money to send visitors to destinations you do not own or control. Marketing phrases such as “Follow me on Twitter” and “Like Us on Facebook” might be commonplace, but they are not necessarily helping you truly build your community. That’s where multiple custom domains can help.

Why?

Because otherwise, you are training your customers, followers and fans to search for you at third-party destinations where they are likely to face many potential distractions along the way. In essence, you are giving up your identity in favor of someone else’s brand. Using custom domains for your web addresses can help you build your unique brand and claim your space online.

Related: Claim your domain and make a statement online 

The portal is dead. Long live the portal.

In the early days of the World Wide Web (yeah, a whopping 20 or so years ago), the common practice was to have one central online presence and, accordingly, one primary web address pointing to that singular destination. In that context, you had one domain name, and that became the be-all, end-all address for anything and everything you did online. Your singular objective was to drive traffic — all your traffic — to that portal.

From there, your visitors could dig in, poke around, follow drop-down menus and links galore — hopefully, to find what they were looking for (or, even better, what you wanted them to see). The “portal” became big business for the likes of uber-portals AOL and Yahoo! Their singular domains became one-stop shops to find everything you needed.

Until they were not.

Enter search. Exit the portal.

It is probably safe to say that “search” was the straw that broke the portal’s back. It is perhaps ironic that leading portal Yahoo.com was one of the first to introduce a powerful web search tool. Search disrupted the idea of a portal by making it easy to find, and then go directly to, the specific information you were looking for — often bypassing the need to poke around a portal’s cluttered home page.

As search matured and “Google” became a verb, access to information became as easy as clicking on a deep link presented in the search results — literally letting you in the back door of any website, with no real need to visit the home page on the way to your ultimate online destination.

Soon, search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) became the leading drivers of traffic to a website. Whether that traffic came in through the front door or a deep link to specific content didn’t matter as long as your site was highly visible in the search engine results pages (SERP) for search terms relevant to your business and audience.

Related: Beginner’s SEO guide — Search engine optimization for small business websites

Getting social with multiple custom domains

Multiple Domains Social

If search started the plundering of the portal, perhaps it was mobile and social that hammered the proverbial nail in the portal’s coffin. The dramatic shift in web usage from desktops to mobile (and touchscreen) devices also led to a dramatic shift in website design that favors simplicity and scrolling over cluttered menus and link-littered home pages.

Another punch to the portal.

A home page that features everything but the kitchen sink doesn’t sync with a seamless mobile experience. And then the advent of (and enormous popularity of) social sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have hammered home the demise of the portal.

Now we all (businesses and individuals alike) have spread our online presence to multiple locations, diluting our identity in the process.

Most of us have at least a few of the following places where we “reside” online:

  • Website
  • Blog
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Linkedin
  • Pinterest
  • YouTube

And more …

Despite having many properties online, we still typically have only one domain name we use for our website, and that’s it. Even though our specific account at these other sites has a dedicated location on the internet, we typically don’t assign our own custom domain to it.

This is a missed opportunity.

 

If you own a home and also a vacation home wouldn’t each property have its own unique address? You wouldn’t invite people over to your second home by saying, “you can find it in the Facebook neighborhood. Just go there and search for me,” would you? Yet that’s precisely what individuals, businesses, and big brands do all day long for their various web-based properties.

Enter multiple custom domains.

Control your identity with a domain for every account

During the golden age of the portal there were fewer domain extension choices, and perhaps the resulting limited availability of “choice” domains contributed to the dominance of the single domain name strategy.

But that was then, and this is now.

Now there are hundreds of new extensions available to complement the incumbent .com, .net, .org, etc.

With an abundance of extensions, not only are you far more likely to be able to find the words or phrases you want to the left of the dot, but you can be creative and choose multiple custom domains that are also meaningful words that are relevant to your online intention, making it memorable as well.

In this environment, you can easily have multiple custom domains that make sense for you or your business. You can point them toward your social channel or and any of your other destinations online, in addition to the primary web address that points to your website.

Custom domains in action

Multiple Domains Dog

For example, popular dog products retailer Treat A Dog uses www.TreatADog.com as their primary web address, and they also use www.TreatADog.club as a shortcut directly to their Facebook page.

Instead of relying on their customers to search for them, and finding many other similar or potentially confusing or distracting results, Treat A Dog uses a relevant custom domain to make it much easier for customers and fans to get right to their official Facebook page. Even more important, this strategy enables Treat A Dog to maintain control of their online identity.

By using logical and relevant custom domains as pointers to your social networks or other alternative online locations, you ensure your audience ends up in the right place — and you continue to build your identity and brand.

In addition, instead of training your customers, followers and fans to look for you at someone else’s domain (i.e. Facebook.com, etc.), you encourage them to go to a domain name that you own and control. At any time you can easily change where that domain points and send them to your preferred destination should it change in the future. If you had a custom domain pointing to your MySpace page, you could easily have redirected it to your Facebook page (or anywhere else) after MySpace fell from favor.

It’s your community. Own it with your own identity!

 

Perhaps it is time to let go of the single domain, portal mentality, and open yourself up to a marketing and branding strategy that utilizes multiple custom domains to create logical and memorable links to all your online locations. Registrars like GoDaddy make it very simple to redirect your domain names to any unique internet location.

With some creativity and a few clicks, you can once again truly become master of all your domains!

Jeff Sass
Jeff has over 35 years of experience in the technology and entertainment industries and has co-founded several startups including mobile commerce pioneer BarPoint.com in 1999. Jeff joined the .CLUB team in March 2012, and has led the company's marketing efforts throughout the process of acquiring and launching the .CLUB top-level domain. Previously, as vice president, chief evangelist at Myxer from 2007 to 2012, Jeff played a significant role in growing the mobile entertainment company into one of the top 15 mobile websites in the U.S. He is a co-founder of EntrepreneurWiki and Social Object Factory. Jeff has also written and produced for film and television and is the author of the entertaining marketing book, "Everything I Know about Business and Marketing, I Learned from THE TOXIC AVENGER." A graduate of Cornell University, Jeff is a frequent speaker and panelist on domain names, mobile marketing, digital music, entrepreneurship and social media. He has been an online instructor for the University of San Francisco’s Mobile Marketing Program. Jeff has had articles published in AdAge, Forbes, Entrepreneur, DMNews, Mobile Marketer, iMedia Connection and others. He was a co-host of the Cast of Dads podcast and has written regularly for a number of blogs including Dadomatic.com, SocialNetworkingRehab.com, and his personal blog, Sassholes! He also served as an Intel Advisor and Sony Digidad and is currently a member of the board of directors of The Domain Name Association (TheDNA.org).