PS: This is a post which is a direct outcome of a discussion on IndiBlogger forum.
The question was whether Google and other Search Engines treat Add-On domains differently? The direct answer is no, but it does affect your SEO efforts. The culprit here being CPanel, the trusted and proven Web Hosting Manager used by most of the Hosting Service Providers.
I could not find a single post telling me everything I need, and I had to read through many forum threads to understand the issue. Hence I thought of putting it all together in a post, hoping to help fellow readers.
Content and Search Engines
There are some interesting finds that I came across while trying to understand this situation.
Google does not treat Add-On domains separately but interestingly MOZ tracking does to conclude domain authority of your blog / website domain.
These domains are not treated differently from content perspective. When MOZ tracks domain authority, I think they are also taking into account the Sub domains though I am not totally sure about this one.
So in essence, Add-On domains do not have any direct implications on your domain.
Now interestingly, Add-On domains have an indirect effect, if you are using CPanel. It is a world-renowned Web Hosting Manager, and is very popular with Hosting Service Providers. I personally prefer CPanel for its easy to use interfere and flexibility it provides.
But it has some flaws. The one flaw we are going to talk about is how it treats add domains!
CPanel creates sub domains automatically every time you add an Add-On domain. This is actually not required, but has been part of the system as a legacy feature, something they added to make analytics easier or something. The challenge is that add-on domain and sub-domain point to the same folder on your hosting account. This means that site can be accessed by both the sub-domain and add-on domain.
For example, my domain http://indianomics.co.in and indianomics . hemalshah.net or hemalshah.net / indianomics.co.in (added spaces so that Google does not crawl here and list this as one of the links) open the same page and this leads to duplication of content on logically two domains.
If you are hosting your website using a Content Management System (CMS) or Blogging engine (WordPress.Org), then damage could be limited if your CMS or Blog engine has a functionality to define your domain.
For example, WordPress.org (self-hosted WordPress) lets you confirm the domain address you would like to use. Once that’s added as your Add-On domain, only the home page of your blog works using the sub-domain (your sub domain created by CPanel for your Add-On domain) or folder path where Add-On domain has been stored. E.g. Maindomain.com/add-on-domainname.com.
However, if Google has a list of links with your CPanel created sub-domain? That’s a trouble…
This, as SEO goes, calls for a SEO Penalty by Google and other Search Engines. One of the things that could happen is a competitor can manipulate this to his benefit by adding your Add-On-created-sub-domain as links or submits it to Google to crawl. This, though largely unlikely to happen, but could still technically happen.
There are a lot of users who are facing this issue and currently do not have any permanent resolution in sight. There are two things that you can do.
- Change the DNS entires on your host – This will be reversed every time you restore your backups or a server refresh, and you have to do it again and again. Also, the sub domain is only blocked from access, and not removed from CPanel.
- 302 Permanent Redirects – Add .htaccess 302 redirects for sub-domains to redirect the URL to your Add-On domain.
A preferable permanent solution would be to host your Add-On domain outside your public_html folder (if your web-host permits this). However this is a hack solution and installation of PHP Scripts using Fantastico or Softaculous will not work, nor will your basic CPanel functionality (am yet to confirm this) and you will have to manually download the scripts and install them.
The Situation where it gets really Cracky
Now, this is manageable (still not preferred) where domain names are different. But what about when the domain names are same?
For example, you purchased a new hosting service and added your domain name – domain.com. On this hosting, you added domain.co.uk as your Add-On domain. The CPanel creates a sub domain automatically as domain.domain.com which is understandable based on the functionality. Now you try to add the third Add-On domain which is domain.co.in – and this is exactly where the problem is.
CPanel will not let you add the Add-On domain since the sub domain (domain.domain.com) is already created. In this case, your only option is to purchase a separate account.
CPanel has accepted this flaw but are very slow in their upgrade plan. What CPanel is trying to do is build in a True Multi Domain Support functionality, which treats each domain separately. And it is long time coming… please bring this to all of us who use CPanel.. please…