Should I Use One or Two Websites?

SEO Question: A friend of mine has a non profit organization. Part of the organization sells topical literature and another large roll of the site(s) will be to give the background information about the charity. Should we use one or two websites?

SEO Answer: When does it make sense to use two or more sites?

  • If hosting the product catalog on the same site will make it exceptionally harder to get links to your organizational site you may want to use two separate sites.

  • If you are selling to different market segments it may hurt your credibility to sell similar products on the same site at vastly different price points or to different demographics (ie: a site that appeals to uber conserviative right wingers is going to use different ad copy than a site that sells to ultra liberal gay couples).
  • If you are in an organization that may come under a bunch of criticsm you may want to use multiple sites to try to clog up the search results so that naysayers do not get as much exposure. Think international flagship site, local sites, sites for business partners, sites for customers, etc. Some companies like Paypal, Dell, and Home Depot have some pretty bad stuff near the top of the search results.

If you are not one of the above (or have similar reasoning) I would recommend sticking with one site (I will likely eventually integrate many of my various domains soon enough), and here is why.

Google has moved further and further along with their duplicate content filters and generally does not like ranking fairly empty product catalog pages high in the search results. Sites that do not have much specific useful original relevant citation worthy content will struggle as they continue to lose marketshare to other sites and evolving search algorithms.

People will not be highly likely to link at the product catalog pages unless they are highly interactive or your site has an amazingly well known brand like

Link popularity flows more naturally internally to other pages on a site than cross site to a product catalog that may not be well integrated into the web.

Some search algorithms not only look at page specific scores, but also use some domain scores to help boost the relevancy / trust of content hosted on that domain. A great example of this occured a few months ago when someone exploited a cross site scripting problem on to add a page about poker to the Sony website. quickly ranked in the top 20 results for some queries like poker or online poker (although the page may have since been removed from the site).

If you separate your money maker and your best web integrated domain it will likely be substantially harder to leverage your original domain's link popularity for as much profit generation.

Published: January 3, 2006 by Aaron Wall in Q & A


January 3, 2006 - 8:37pm

A great insight and explaination as usual mate.

Now can you tell me why Google has droppped my site - Smart Keywords - too many links from you????

January 4, 2006 - 5:22am

Hi, I have a very similar situation :).

One main goal of the organization is trying to increase their overall donation received per year.

Currently when a visitor comes to the main page they are bombarded with products versus a mission statement of the organization.

Having met with the organization I learned that they have hundreds of pages of content on the history of the organization and previous missions they ran. We will use these on the new site.

In this case I have advised (freebie ofcourse) that the client focus one site on the non profit and the other on their products.

I am confident in the long term (with lots of follow up work) this will be more beneficial to the non profit.

Have I totally lost my mind? Perhaps I am thinking to much like a PR person and not an SEO.

What do you all think?

January 4, 2006 - 5:32am

RL you could always put the products on the same site and not advertise them aggressively on the home page, etc.

although it is hard to give an exact answer without being more involved in the process

December 11, 2006 - 4:47am

Hi Aaron:
I've been working with realtors recently and they all seem to own more than one website. They purchased the additional sites is to attract different target markets, but the pages are identical. What would you suggest they do? Are they going to run into duplicate content problems? If so, what is google most likely going to do about it?

January 5, 2008 - 5:23am

I'm researching the benefits of having two separate websites one for the Chamber of Commerce that would be more informational about it's members and a Convention and Visitors Bureau to showcase tourism events, lodging and attractions etc. I need documentation that I can present. Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you

January 5, 2008 - 8:33pm

Hi smckeeth
With creating an organization and then preferring/recommending some business interests on the same site...that depends more on business interests and conflicts of interests more than anything else.

January 6, 2008 - 2:37am

Hello Aaron, thank you for your reply and I've enjoyed your website. My goal is to help create a bigger presence for the Chamber website by having the CVB website. I am not an expert on SEO but I thought having two credible websites linking to each other would have a bigger impact on ranking. We want to promote our town and I think we would get more bang for our buck with having two websites versus spending thousands on billboards and magazine ads.
Would there be an advantage of having two cooperative websites versus all the information being in one place?
Thank you for your time.

January 6, 2008 - 3:25am

Two websites can have different promotional purposes, so to some extent the answer is yes. But creating multiple sites means you have to market multiple sites, so to some extent the answer is no. It really depends on strategy. Other than SEO stuff, why do you want to have a second site? etc.
July 4, 2008 - 11:56am

I have a client who owns 3 websites with no duplicate content. The goal: targeted keywords for specific pages visitors get to by clicking on a navigation link. Depending on the link, the visitor may stay on Site#1 or visit Site#2 or Site#3. From an SEO and SEM point-of-view is this smart? Should the client focus on having link popularity and the same targeted keywords on one site?

From a web usability point, all 3 sites look the same except for the domain name changes which may confuse some visitors.

July 4, 2008 - 2:14pm

We answer specific SEO questions inside our member forums.

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