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 Amazon.com.
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 Sony.com to add a page about poker to the Sony website. Sony.com 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 Sony.com 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.
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