I met a criminal defense attorney while camping at San Elijo State Beach who asked me whether or not it is better to have a few smaller websites rather than one for search engine optimization reasons. I am often asked this question so I thought I would blog about it.
The general premise to be that the more websites you have the more success you might have in the search engines. In other words, you might be found in either more places or take two (or more) spots in the top 10 results of a particular keyword. My knee-jerk reaction is that it is better to have one website and promote the heck out of it instead. However, the answer really depends on you and your situation. You might also be wondering if Google (or other search engines) have a problem with this tactic in general.
From a purely technical/logistical/cost perspective the reason I say to have one website is because I find most customers have enough trouble simply building and maintaining their website and two or more becomes a heap more trouble. Consider these factors: cost of outside help, time to write content, cost to advertise two websites etc .. Think of each website as a brick and mortar store- do you have the time to manage both? So if you are capable of overcoming these challenges, and you have a lot of time, then it may be feasible to have more than one website. But what does Google think?
The primary goal of an search engine (especially Google) is to hands-down have the best search results for a given query. That said, it doesn’t help if all of the results are riddled with duplicate websites spouting the same company, content or products. So given this simple idea, if you are going to have multiple websites then you should not duplicate your content. If you are developer like me you might say that with some simple programming I can reorganize my content so that it looks differently. My response to that is that search engines go deeper than that so you really better mix it up.
Here is when I think (IMO) that having more websites MAY be warranted:
1) You have two businesses that are similar but truly different.
2) Your company has distinct product lines, each of which will fill an entire website full of content.
3) Your website has become so large that organizing it into multiple smaller websites is ideal.
4) You have language specific (localized) websites for which you would prefer to have country specific domains.
5) Your secondary websites are landing pages for a specific promotion or event.
6) You are required to have a landing page due to advertising issues.
Here are some reasons to have just one website:
1) You will spend less money for development and advertising..
2) You can focus all of your traffic on one website and have the benefit of cross-promotion.
3) You can just as easily syndicate your content across multiple mediums using RSS, Twitter, and Facebook.
4) It is entirely possible to focus your organic search results to come up on a variety of keywords.
5) You can deeply develop your back-link relationships and page rank to give your website a boost. Keep in mind that sub-domains are DIFFERENT websites– including using or not using WWW.
Here are the wrong reasons and some possible reprocussions of having multiple websites for the wrong reasons or doing it the wrong way:
1) You think you can murder your competition by filling up the search engine result pages (SERPS) with your company. This might backfire with your customers and piss off your competition who might try to make things hard for you. e.g. expose you to others, write bad reviews about you etc..
2) Duplicate content on your web pages might land one or more of these websites in Google’s secondary index. This is the area that Google puts supplementary content that it does not deem important. It is not easily seen by customers. Worst case, Google might sandbox or ban your company for some time.
3) The Stupid Reason: You have brained a business scheme whereby you will mass produce websites using stealth means, sophisticated technology to overwhelm your industry with your message. You have thought of everything including multiple IP addresses from multiple hosts, multiple corporations, mixing up merged text as to appear different, and using different designs… for COMPLETE WORLD DOMINATION. LOL. I hear this about once a month and I just laugh. First, it never works. Second, if you took all that energy and worked on one website it would be a great website. Third, you are way late in the game to do this as it is an old tactic. Lastly, and the most obvious, if it were that easy everyone would do it. e.g. your competition. Google was invented to weed out the crap.
So, the answer to the question of whether or not to have multiple websites is this: If you are doing it for the right reasons and have the time, money and technical capability to produce and maintain quality websites with unique and interesting content then by all means do it. Otherwise, it is probably in your best interest work on developing your website with additional content, features and general usefulness.