domain variations

One of the comments on my blog had a misspelled URL, but it still worked. Thankfully, Merriam Webster has learned to accept that people misspell words. By adding a few extra domains they get additional traffic. More traffic often means more money. The same approach can be used in the keywords meta tag, but they are going the way of the dodo, so it’s not as useful and probably won’t result in much extra traffic for your site.

Smaller web sites don’t have the cash to snap up 15 variations of their domain, but a corporate web site is smart to register common misspellings of their URL. Even if you’re not a corporate site though, courtesy dictates that you insure that all URLs work with or without www in front.

Once you’ve registered the extra domains, what should you do with them? There are a few options. The three that I thought of are:

1. Set up an alias so all the domains are valid.
2. Have an error page that redirects to the correct domain after displaying the error.
3. Have the web server redirect the requests to the correct domain.

A negative of option 1 is that it could dilute the name recognition of your official domain. You don’t want to berate people for misspelling a URL, but you also don’t want to encourage misspellings. It may be hard to figure out which one is correct when you’re linking to the site. Option 2 is okay, but it’s not very convenient. Option 3 is my preferred solution because they end up seeing the correct domain even though they entered an invalid one. If you use apache, it can be accomplished by adding


to httpd.conf. (Typically located in /etc/httpd/conf on Unix machines).

Merriam Webster used option 1, but I use their site because of a short and easy to type variation, When looking up a definition, I used to use but I switched because m-w is so much faster to type.


Yahoo chose to go with option 2, which works fine, but it’s a bit more of a hassle to wait for the 15 seconds for it to refresh to the correct site. It would be faster to retype the URL.


Google used option 3, my preferred solution.



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  1. Because I type common words pretty quickly but punctuation significantly slower, is only slightly faster for me. And when combined with galeon’s auto-complete, I just have to type ‘dic’ and hit enter, which is pretty darn fast.

    I agree that it’s nice that all of them exist, though, because I imagine is faster for a lot of people.

    Comment by Levi on October 31, 2002 @ 1:47 pm

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