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In SEO circles, the term satellite domain website commonly refers to a website that a webmaster has created for the sole purpose of strengthening his main web presence with a strong and topics-relevant backlink. Many satellite domains are also used for link exchange. By constantly improving its algorithms, Google is now usually able to uncover link networks that have been set up with satellite domains.
How a satellite domain gets set up
Just like a satellite revolves around a planet on a particular orbit, a satellite domain revolves in terms of topic around the main web project. Usually such a domain has a classic keyword URL. The keyword is usually selected so it represents a niche of the main offerings of the website to be linked to.
Example: The main domain is a web store for sporting goods. The accompanying satellite domain could be called runningshoesforwomen-goodprices.com.
If the URL of the satellite domain has been found, the webmaster will search for a host other than the one hosting their main website. This is to avoid the satellite domain using the same IP address or the same C-class network. That way, the satellite domain cannot be directly linked to the main website and is therefore more likely not classified as an unnatural link source by search engine robots. Many SEOs also work with VPN or proxy servers, so that Google cannot detect from the IP that similar access patterns are used for the satellite domain and the main domain.
After the satellite domain has been configured, the owner provides it with high-quality links to raise it in the SERPs for the main keyword so that the link which has been set later to the main website will provide maximum content relevance and power.
Satellite sites as part of the SEO strategy
The use of satellite sites to enhance a major project, especially for niche or long-tail keywords is a popular strategic tool for many search engine optimizers. Many well-known portals were able to achieve success through this, similar to the redirecting of a keyword domain to the main website. But there are reasonable doubts about the long-term success of this method. Through the constant updating of the algorithm such as Google’s Penguin Update, search engines are always better able to detect unnatural link profiles.
A site receiving one or more content-relevant backlinks from keyword domains whose anchor contains exactly that keyword and additionally points to a subpage of a website that is also optimized for this keyword indicates over-optimization. Such over-optimization can be quickly considered a “manipulation of search results” according to the Webmaster Guidelines of the popular search engines. The consequence would ultimately be a devaluation of the satellite domain and in extreme cases, a drop in ranking for the main website.
Moreover, many webmasters and SEOs forget that the maintenance of a satellite-domain or even an entire domain park is very complex. Accordingly, any SEO and webmaster should ask themselves first whether it would not make more sense to invest these costs and efforts in the main project to specifically optimize subpages there.
Sometimes the use of satellite-domains may still be useful if they are created only for certain campaigns. A good example of such a strategy is the umparkenimkopf.de website. It was created and run by an advertising agency which planned the campaign for the automaker Opel.
This site provides information on new Opel models as well as on the individual campaign aspects and aims to demonstrate how the Opel brand is different from other car brands. The created satellite domain was not primarily created for backlink generation, but rather to strengthen the campaign. However, online stores, who intend to follow a similar strategy must always first consider how Google would ultimately interpret these actions. One possible solution would be to provide the backlinks to the main page with the rel=nofollow attribute.