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If I have a site registered and running on ThisIssomething.com for example, does registering This-Is-Something.com and redirecting it actually help SEO? Or is it mainly to protect your brand?

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up vote 6 down vote accepted

It's mainly to protect your brand. The dashes don't help search engines determine keywords unless the words are ambiguous like expertsexchange.com or whorepresents.com. In those cases it may help although anchor text in hyperlinks (internal or external) most likely removes the ambiguity.

See this related question for more information on why it doesn't help.

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I'm just venturing a guess, but 2 domains pointing to the same site might actually be bad for SEO. You'd be competing against yourself.

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Duplicate content issues would be the biggest problem. Pages from both sites might be included in the index when you only really want one site to be represented. –  John Conde Oct 29 '10 at 15:58
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If you do a 301 redirect from the site with dashes to the one without it will not hurt your SEO at all. –  RandomBen Oct 29 '10 at 16:01
    
Yea, a lot of sites are accessible from multiple domains. As long as you're using a 301 redirect, search engines will only look at your canonical domain. It'll confer no benefits or penalties. –  Lèse majesté Oct 29 '10 at 16:16
    
We have a few clients who have a lot of domains all pointing to the same site. 301 redirects are the norm for them. –  John Conde Oct 29 '10 at 17:49
    
I guess I was referring more to literal duplicate sites, not one that points to the other. As in they both point to the same code/structure but are coming out from different domains. –  XOPJ Oct 29 '10 at 19:02
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There is quite a lot of power in domain names that include your keywords, at least according to an article on SEOMoz - Exact Match Domains from last week.

That said, my own opinion is that buying additional domains that will be only used for 301 redirects will not affect your ranking at all. Since these domains will never appear in the search results (if the 301 is done properly).

So just pick a good domain name, with or without dashes, and stick to it.

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