In the dim and distant past, when Google wasn’t nearly as smart, it was common practice for brands to have more than one website. If a business sold keyboards and mice, it might have sites at “cheapkeyboards.com” and “cheapmice.com”. At the time, this was a sound technique because Google paid particular attention to exact-match domain names. A few years ago, the advantage of having an exact match domain name was removed, and today Google uses more sophisticated signals for indexing and ranking websites. There’s little SEO advantage to having multiple sites of this sort.
But that doesn’t mean there’s no good reason for a business to have more than one website. I’d like to explore when a second website might be a good idea, but I’m going to start by looking at when it’s a bad idea. I’m starting with the bad to clear out some misconceptions I’ve frequently heard from small business owners before I put the positive case.
The main reason to stick with a single website is so that you can focus all your marketing efforts on it. If you have lots of websites, you’ll need content, design, strategy, link building, and inbound marketing for each. It’s far better to have one authoritative site with great content and a healthy link profile.
A single website also makes it easier to up-sell and cross-sell products and services. There’s nothing to prevent reciprocal promotions between sites, but cross promotion is more effective within a brand than via what’s perceived by customers as a different brand altogether. Additionally, tying together the content management systems or eCommerce platforms used on several sites can be a headache.
Unless you’re very clear about why your business needs more than one site, the default should be to invest your efforts into building a single authoritative online presence.
When is it a good idea to launch a second website with a different brand? Some businesses sell and provide services to discrete groups that have different marketing and informational requirement. This issue frequently arises with brands that sell into the consumer, B2B, and enterprise spaces. The ideal site for marketing to a consumer is quite different to one that effectively targets enterprise customers.
Elizabeth Hollingsworth recently published an article on Practical eCommerce that illustrates the point nicely. Her business — My Wedding Decor — sells and rents wedding decorations to couples. But she noticed that a number of her best customers weren’t couples about to get married, but companies in need of decor for corporate events. There was an obvious market need for corporate event decor, but the My Wedding Decor site was not well suited to market to other companies. In fact, it’s likely that Hollingsworth was missing out on corporate customers because potential leads were discounting her business as an option.
The solution was to launch a second site with a focus on the marketing and product profiles that suit corporate event planners, leaving the original site free to focus on the soon-to-be-married market.
As a general rule of thumb, it’s better for smaller businesses to focus their efforts on a single site. If you’re considering launching a second site, make sure there’s a clear business advantage to making what could be a substantial investment.