“United We Stand, Divided We Fall” had a different meaning when it was first said, but it applies to website design and site consolidation efforts perfectly. When it comes to site consolidation strategy there is one question that seems to repeatedly come up from clients, “What do we do with the domains that we already have indexed or ranked for a keyword set?”.
There are a few options that that clients seem to keep coming back to when they are thinking about consolidating websites:
- Map them and 301 redirect them into the primary domain
- Keep the domains live and somehow use them to funnel users into the primary website. Or use them as stand alone lead gen sites.
- Keep them live and publish targeted content sets around specific keywords that the primary site targets as well, thus hoping to get 2 sites in the top 10 results.
Lets examine a scenario in which we have 2 websites, and look at some of the issues with doing #2 and #3 on the above list and how it can affect the website.
SiteA.com (primary domain with a ton of trust and value)
SiteB.com (smaller website that hyper-targets a specific keyword that is a subset of the content on SiteA.com)
Concerns with Implementing Strategy #2
Google has said many times that it wants to keep a certain level of diversity among its search results. They are becoming more stringent about not showing the same type of content from the same type of sites, or from websites owned by the same parent entity. Thus, because SiteB.com is owned and operated by SiteA.com, to keep the diversity of their search results, filtering one site or the other for the keyword set can occur.
When talking about content targeting the same set of keywords Matt Cutts, Lead spam engineer at Google said:
Google would seek to detect that there is no real differentiation between these results and show only one of them so we could offer users different types of sites in the other search results.
By splitting up the two domains any metrics such as inbound links and user metrics that Google uses to value and rank websites are fragmented (split) across two websites, instead of focusing them on 1 primary site.
Even if one was to argue that you could link from siteB.com to SiteA.com, the value of that link would come into question as technically because SiteB.com it’s owned and operated by SiteA, it is not an editorial based link.
If the thought process was to utilize the rankings you might acquire with SiteB.com to funnel people from SiteB.com to SiteA.com through a link, I think that strategy should be reevaluated. The only goals for SiteB.com would be to rank for a specific keyword as well as funnel people to SiteA.com, anyone see an issue with that mentality? Lets take a look at what Google Webmaster says about it.
In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination. Whether deployed across many domains or established within one domain, doorway pages tend to frustrate users, and are in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines. – Google
So I guess you have to ask yourself what value would SiteB.com provide to the user besides a doorway to get them to SiteA.com? If you cant come up with at least 5 things then its probably a doorway page.
What type of keyword set would SiteB.com target that the primary domain would not target?
In talking about sites that have similar content Google’s Matt Cutts said,
Those other sites are not bringing additional value. While they’re not duplicates they bring nothing new to the table. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with what these people have done, but they should not expect this type of content to rank.
This point speaks directly to the fact that SiteA.com will be targeting the same keyword set as SiteB.com. The assumption that that somehow Google could be tricked into thinking that they both should be ranked for that keyword set is slightly misguided and in my opinion a short term strategy that holds little value.
Concerns with Implementing Strategy #3
Higher Cost of Maintenance
Not only will there be a higher cost of maintenance but for SiteB.com to have any chance of being valued in the highly competitive keyword space it will need content sets built out as well as a complete strategic SEO campaign. But then again, even accomplishing building value in SiteB.com, Google will most likely choose between SiteA.com and SiteB.com for the defined keyword set.
Basically the sites would be competing against themselves.
Confusing User Experience
There is already a hesitation by users to give out their information online. Switching users between experiences that are not consistent from a design or URL standpoint can leave the user confused as to which site they are giving their information to, thus lower the conversion rate based on user trust.
I would suggest following the first option when thinking about consolidating a group of websites, 301 redirecting the SiteB.com into SiteA.com with a 1:1 mapping of URLs to relevant content sets (remember don’t just redirect all of SiteB.com into SiteA.com’s home page) during site consolidation efforts for the following reasons.
- You have a primary domain onto which to focus all marketing efforts
- Focus ranking metrics onto an already powerful domain
- The user experience is consistent
- The brand experience is consistent
- Easier to manage 1 domain from a content, tech, and brand standpoint