I was recently approached by a potential client, very much of the ‘old school’ who believes that having multiple websites to promote his business is a fantastic idea. After all, wouldn’t having lots and lots of extra exposure under different domain names and search terms be a no-brainer?
Very much no, followed by a string of ‘no’s’ to infinity and beyond.
Multiple Websites Are Extra Time And Effort
Multiple websites are a lot of extra time and effort with no gains and they rely on some outmoded concepts that in the best case scenarios don’t work. They also stand an excellent chance of crippling extra marketing value by being penalised.
1. Multiple websites and duplicate content
How many different ways can you talk about your own business? Unless you’re a giant corporate conglomerate, it’s likely that your business model only has so many aspects to it. The standard approach to this old-school approach is to use multiple domain names with locations (samsknickknackslouth, samsknicknackslincoln etc).
Now, imagine having to talk about this in a seemingly endless string of permutations. Writing about your own business is difficult at the best of times, try sitting and doing it twice.
In the worst cases, I’ve seen clients use exactly the same wording with just the locations changed. Needless to say, with the sweeping Google changes over the past few years, they’ve either lost a handful of websites or taken their whole online presence offline.
It’s all about the value of the written word – if your website content is a virtual carbon copy of another, it’s a case of first one in, last one out. The original stays and anything else gets booted out of the door, resulting in huge amounts of wasted time and effort.
2. Mixed messages in location based services
Local search marketing via Google Places is an important part of SEO for most businesses. Your Google Places entry can play a big part in your search results, particularly for local business. As you might expect, Google takes a dim view of multiple entries for the same website/business – an exception to this is a business that operates from multiple offices/premises.
Try entering the same business more than once, with the same contact details. I’ve got a feeling it might not be there for long.
4. Maintenance and updates
The internet is a speedy place where technologies come and go. Adobe Flash was once the solid gold standard for animated elements and died the instant Apple decided IOS wouldn’t have anything to do with its power sucking inefficiency. The mobile web exploded and now the de-facto standard is responsive design, adding time and testing to the task list when it comes to redeveloping your fixed width website.
Imagine having to revamp five websites. Just the one is days to weeks of work, having to do five is the point where you consider the second mortgage and the kidney donation, or masses of time that could be better spent tackling the day to day running of your business.
5. Non-organic linking strategies
My recent experienced involved a bevy of websites that formed a ‘ring’ of websites with a link back in the footer to one primary website. If you ever want to develop a linking strategy that screams ‘unnatural’ in a way that makes having Jack Black put ‘actor’ down on his resume look natural, this is the way to do it.
The perfect circle of keyword heavy anchor text – lo and behold, massively reduced rankings were recorded in a penalty checker.
6. Customer confusion and concern
The client in question had gone to great pains to amalgamate navigation and other page elements to the point where the websites were virtually carbon copies. Clicking on a link took you across domains, yet with very little (if any) visual change.
The lesson to be learned is that ‘the visitor isn’t stupid’. The visitor looks at the address within the browser, notices the difference and assumes the worst. If you clicked on a link on a shopping site and the domain changed (but not the layout), would you assume a scam? This guys visitors did – a whopping 84% drop-off. He basically pissed off over three quarters of his visitors.
Multiple websites should be one website
I’m assuming that the client makes the mistake of many – associating the front page of a website as the only page that can be optimised or marketed. SOOOO many clients that approach me almost disregard sub pages as only for those that landed on the front page. Every page is a landing page.
Through careful back linking and on-page linking strategies, lovely link juice can be distributed across pages and in turn drag them up the rankings. Sub pages can be linked to in exactly the same way as your home page.
This makes what my guy did even more unfathomable. If you go to that kind of length to build multiple websites that all look the same, why not have it all in the one ecosystem, run from one set of scripts? Sweeping changes and maintenance can be achieved with ease.
Of course, if you have aspects of your business that are substantially different, then you may wish to differentiate sections – your branding may be the same across the sections, but you’d like a different address for each. Please use subdomains – to the outside visitor they exist as different ways in, but to the bits that count towards an efficient web model, you have everything you need in one place.
Make the change today while it’s still practical, because multiple websites are killing your business!
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