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Mirror domain: what is it, what is it for and possible SEO problems?

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A mirror domain can increase traffic to a website, but it also has drawbacks that need to be addressed

what person or company with a website does not want to receive as many visitors as possible? Among all the existing techniques to achieve this, one of them is the mirror domain. This concept (also called mirror site, mirror URL or mirror site) refers to replicas of a website pointing to the same IP address, i.e. different URLs that allow users to access a main or canonical page.

and why mirror domains can generate more web traffic? By offering more domains to reach the same site, the owner makes it easier for users to access the page through several URLs, thus anticipating possible errors that internet users may make when typing the domain in the search engine.

But the mirror domain not only guarantees a higher number of visits to the website, it also ensures better access to the page and guarantees content downloads, in case you need more support than a single site or if the main domain has problems.

It is common for companies to buy and register more than one domain extension to protect the brand. But how do you form different URLs for a site? This is possible by generating variations of two fundamental domain groups:

  • Generic Top Level Dom ains(gTLDs). They are composed of three letters. They have an international regulation, so they are more coherent and unified. Some examples are: ".com", ".org", ".net", ".gob"... They are therefore suffixes that appear after the domain name.
  • Geographic or country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). In contrast to generic domains, they are composed of two letters and are reserved for specific territories. Therefore, each country regulates the management of its domain. Some examples are: ".es", ".uk", ".it", ".jp"..

Let us illustrate what we have just learned in a real case: users can access the OCCAM website from its main domain (which, in this case, is a gTLD):

Or from its mirror domain (of type ccTLD):

Although they are not the same URLs and each belong to a different group of domains, both direct users to the same website (you can check this by copying and pasting each URL in the navigation bar of your search engine). Thus, access to the page is facilitated by diversifying the options. In this regard, we recommend reading this blog post on how to design a URL according to the parameters recommended by SEO.

Dominio espejo: qué es, para qué sirve y posibles problemas en el SEO

what problems can a mirror domain cause?

The benefits of a mirror site are undeniable and useful for users, but its nature poses a risk in SEO positioning. Remember that mirror domains are replicas, so they offer the same information to users. This can generate duplicate content conflicts, which is penalised by search engine algorithms.

Thus, if Google or another search engine discovers that you offer duplicate content, you will have problems in the SEO optimisation of your website, i.e. you will lose positions in the search results and it will be more difficult for users to access your content.

In addition to this, Google also responds to duplicate content by automatically selecting a domain as the main domain. Thus, if you have mirror domains, only one will be considered relevant for the algorithm. The chosen one may not match the one you consider the main domain of your page, as Google crawls it according to three possible parameters: it may be the oldest, the most popular or the first one where it finds duplicate content. As a consequence, the rest of the domains will be marginalised.

how can I solve these problems?

Whether search engine optimisation and SEO are a priority for your company or not, it is in your interest to solve the problems caused by duplicate content, otherwise you are likely to lose potential customers and hinder the profitability of your business instead of reaping the benefits of mirror domains.

Therefore, if you opt for a mirror domain strategy to increase and facilitate access to your website or improve support, bear in mind the following techniques to avoid duplicate content problems:

  • 301 redirection. With this formula, you can program the rest of the domains to direct to the URL of your choice. Thus, you would be telling browsers which is the main domain of your website so that users can access it from that and the other domains. In this other article of our blog, we explain step by step how you can establish a 301 redirection.
  • noidex tag: This is an alternative to the 301 redirect. Instead of selecting the main domain as such, you configure the rest of the domains through this tag. In this way, Google will understand that these URLs are not considered relevant and will only index the remaining one as the main one.

The canonical URL or canonical tag is often mentioned as another possible solution to mirror domains. However, as we explained in another blog post on this concept, the canonical URL only works for pages on the same domain or between subdomains. In other words, it does not solve the problem of duplicate content between different domains. Therefore, opt for one of the two techniques above and take advantage of mirror domains.

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