Add-on Domains and SEO

A tip for intermediate web developers and web designers hosting multiple websites on the same hosting account.


Is it Bad for SEO to Host Multiple Websites on the Same Server?

If done properly, no – not at all. But if done improperly, you might never see these websites on Google, ever.
Those of you who have a web hosting server that allows you to host multiple websites on one primary hosting account using add-on domains may find yourself making a huge mistake that can desecrate your organic search engine rankings. Usually your hosting provider will take care of this upon request (but may charge you for it), but if you are creating multiple add-on domains on your server yourself, then this is up to you to fix, and I have the solution right here.

What is an Add-On Domain?

add-on domains in SEOFirst off, for those of you who are not familiar with add-on domains, they are seconday domain names that mask a subdomain and/or subfolder on your website, thus allowing you to host multiple websites on a single web server.

For example, I can create an orange county search engine optimization resources website on the same hosting account as this website (which according to Matt Cutts of Google, Google does NOT dock you for using shared hosting, or sharing your dedicated hosting with other websites – IF DONE PROPERLY.)

I would create a folder on the root of and call it ocseohelp, which would be accessible at the URL Now in order to configure an add-on domain, a subdomain must first be created. So, using my CPanel, I would create the subdomain which would be pointing to the /ocseohelp folder I created earlier. The new add-on domain (let’s call it would then point to this new subdomain;

duplicate content rules in SEO

SEO Problems with Add-On Domain Names

This is where our SEO dillemma arises. This is a bad joke, but here it goes anyways: What do the following URL’s have in common (hypothetically as per our example above):,, and Everything – the answer is everything. Three websites with duplicate content. It all backfired, didn’t it? No wonder our new Orange County Search Engine Optimization Resource website is buried on page 12 on Google… You accidentally left your site exposed to a severe case of duplicate content.

The Solution to Using Add-On Domains and Retaining SEO Rankings

Here is our solution. You need to create two .htaccess files that will forward the subdomain and the subfolder to the add-on domain using 301 redirects. If you don’t know how to create an .htaccess file, just type the following into notepad, save it as a text file, then after you upload it via FTP, rename it to .htaccess (yes, it starts with a . and it does not have a file extension – for all you noobs out there). These .htaccess files are a series of instructions on how the Apache server handles domain names and various URL functions. We will be using them to utilize 301 Permanent redirects which are extremely search engine friendly.

The first .htaccess file will go on the root/primary domain of your server, in this case, It will look something like this (replace the green font with your own):

Options +FollowSymLinks
RewriteEngine on
Redirect 301 /ocseohelp

This first .htaccess 301 Redirect will send the subdirectory URL ( to the add-on URL ( Half the problem solved, but now we have to worry about the subdomain.

The second .htaccess file will be placed in the subdirectory that you’ve designated for this, in this case, /ocseohelp. This .htaccess file will look like this:

Options +FollowSymlinks
RewriteEngine On
RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST}$ [NC] RewriteRule ^{REQUEST_URI} [R=301,L,NE]

At this point, both the subdomain and the subdirectory will be redirected to This makes sure that Google understands that and are actually Some people think to make robot.txt files to tell spiders not to visit the subdomain or subfolder. DON’T DO THIS… It would prevent search engines from indexing ANY of the content in these folders.

Now you have a website that will easily rank top organic rankings on Google and it shares the same hosting account you use for other websites!

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