Recently, we at BizBudding have had quite a few discussions about brand strategy, website domains, and SEO — directly resulting from customers who asked “Should I combine my websites?”
There are plenty of business owners who think having multiple domains makes it easier for them to brand different components of their business. In some ways it may. Truth is, having multiple domains for related brands, keywords, and topics will most likely kill your online business.
Your online business is more than selling something online. It is how you create domain authority — how you represent your business to the online community and to Google.
There are several reasons having multiple websites is a bad idea. Here are a five of them.
1. Duplicate Content Kills
Duplicate content is website content that appears in more than one place (website URL). Duplicate pieces of identical content on the Internet make it difficult for search engines to tell who the original author is. Duplicate content on the same domain (or on multiple related domains) makes it difficult for search engines to determine which version is more relevant.
Search engines don’t know how to direct link metrics (trust, authority, link juice) to versions of duplicate content, and when that content is spread across multiple websites, you reduce your domain authority.
2. Search Engine Rankings Decrease
Let’s say you put the time and energy into managing multiple websites and ensure there is no duplicate content on any of your sites. It’s still not a great idea to have multiple sites, as they will compete with each other to rank in search engine results. Unless your websites are for very different products, it’s quite
likely that you will be using the same or very similar keywords on those websites. You would be better off focusing all your energy on a single site to which you could drive traffic.
Additional problems may crop up if you put your address on your various websites or on Google+ Local pages. Google frowns on businesses having slightly different names, but the same services, address, and telephone number.
3. Google Dislikes Websites for Each Location
Many people think they should build a website for each of their locations or facilities. Google strongly recommends building a single site with pages for each location and adding a location finder tool.
Google’s John Mueller gives one of the best reasons why you shouldn’t go with multiple domain names for each location:
Focusing on a single website makes it much easier for our algorithms to understand your site, the services you’re providing, and the regions that you service. Splitting that into separate sites for each location that you ship to not only makes it harder for our algorithms, but also for users (imagine if the post office did that).”
You can imagine how confusing and hard it would be to find what you need if the post office had a website for each branch.
4. Customer Confusion
What happens when one of your customers searches for a service you provide and you have that service listed on two different websites? You create confusion for the customer. If they visit both sites, they may notice similarities, but may not be sure the products/services they are viewing are from the same company.
5. Paid Search Costs More
A single website is easier to optimize for good search results than multiple websites. The same model holds true for SEM, or paid search. This is especially true if your websites share common keywords. Quite often, your multiple websites will compete with each other for Google Adwords.
Redirect Your Approach
Dedicate yourself to making one website that really stands out. Keep the content fresh. Focus on building a brand that conveys trust, honesty, and transparency.
What about those old domain names? Place a 301 redirect on them, and point them to your main site. The code “301” redirect is interpreted as “moved permanently” by the search engines and ensures that any website traffic your URLs generate is directed to your main site.
Pulling It All Together
Unless your products are completely unrelated (like Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Mello Yello), you should combine your sites. A good Information Architecture is your key to pulling your sites together. According to Wikipedia, Information Architecture is:
…the structural design of shared information environments; the art and science of organizing and labelling websites, intranets, online communities and software to support usability and findability; and an emerging community of practice focused on bringing principles of design and architecture to the digital landscape.”
Said differently, a good Information Architecture provides you with a road map, guiding you on how to combine your multiple sites into a solid single site.