Should You Have Multiple Websites?

Jan 28th
posted in

Or just one?

Let's take look at a web strategy that has a number of SEO and benefits: the hub and spoke strategy. A hub and spoke strategy is when you create one authoritative domain (the hub), and then hang various related websites off that domain (the spokes).

If you don't yet have an authority site, it's probably best to focus on that one site. However, once you've built an authority hub, it can be a good idea to specialize in a number of niches using multiple, smaller sites.

Let's look at a few reasons why, in the context of dominating a niche.

Economics

Economic theory holds that division of labor increases profitability.

During the early days of the web, it was easy to make money by being a generalist. However, as the web got deeper and richer, it became difficult to maintain a generalist position unless you had significant resources.

Specialization, by way of niches, allows for greater targeting, and this targeting can increase value. Leads and advertising become more valuable, because the target audience can be reached more efficiently.

The hub and spoke approach is this theory in microcosm. The hub is the generalist authority, whilst the spokes allow for niche specialization.

We'll see how this dove-tails with SEO shortly.

Domain Knowledge

If you were to create a series of sites on different topics, it might take a significant period of time to know each area well. However, if you create niche topics within your own area of expertise, you should be able to create new sites very quickly.

Why would you create new sites? Why not just stick with one?

Let's say your main site is fairly broad in it's appeal. However, you've discovered some lucrative niche keyword areas within that broad topic area. By creating spoke sites, you can focus on these keyword areas, and dig deeper, without compromising the general appeal of your main site.

An example might be a hub site that is aimed at community education, whilst spoke sites might cover private tuition, corporate learning materials, and education facility hire.

This segmentation can be done in a number of ways. You could aggressively target one search engines algorithm and/or audience (MSN) with one spoke, whilst targeting another search engine on another spoke. One site might be aimed at do-it-yourself people, whilst another site is aimed at a person looking to hire a professional. Both sites cover the same topic, but require a different approach in terms of language, structure, offer and tone.

Likewise, you may use spoke sites for brand reasons. When Google bought YouTube they wisely kept the YouTube name, as the brand appealed to users. Google Video - not so much. There is a general perception that YouTube does video, and Google is a search company, and never the twain shall meet.

Google knew better than to force the issue.

Legitimate Links

A hub site on education that links out to pharmaceutical affiliates could easily get hit by Google. The relationship between the two areas is questionable. However, if you link out to your spoke sites, that cover related niches, your link pattern will be much more acceptable.

From an SEO standpoint, it can be difficult to get links to purely commercial sites. If you have a hub site that already has link authority - or is created specifically to attract links - then you can pass this authority to your more specialized spokes. Once the spokes become more popular, you can either pass that authority along to yet more specialized sites (one way), or even promote your hub site (reciprocal). Either way, the link graph makes sense.

Each site doesn't need to be directly profitable. You can use one site to attract links, and pass this authority on to your monetarized domains. One can subsidize the production of the other.

Fame

If you've already built up name recognition in your niche, you'll find it easier to get links and press attention for your new projects.

Status is important because if no one knows who you are, they probably don't care about the content so much. Let's say Danny Sullivan or Matt Cutts writes something, it will instantly get attention because of who they are and the trust relationship they have with their audience. If you're new to the SEO space, no matter how profound your content is, it could easily get over-looked.

This is why it can be more difficult building multiple areas across unrelated niches. You may need to establish yourself in each new area, which can be a lot more difficult than leveraging your name recognition in your existing niche, then going granular.

Enhanced Monetarization Opportunities

We've looked at how you can target the most profitable areas aggressively using a hub and spoke strategy, without affecting the main brand.

Other advantages include economies of scale. As your network grows, you have more ad inventory to sell people. The inventory can be segmented, as opposed to the advertiser having to accept a one-size-fits-all approach of a generalist site. Similarly, you may be able to demand higher affiliate payouts, because you can precisely target offers.

Aaron covers this toipic in greater depth in the video "Why You Should Dominate A Niche".

Published: January 28, 2009

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Comments

January 28, 2009 - 12:28pm

Great post again Pete, I work for a company that uses a tactic as you described above however our spokes are more popular than the hub which can have it's benefits. We interlink the spokes a lot and can create a lot of cross network traffic for us.

Times used to be to create a super site with everything under the sun, however with a bigger focus people appear to be feeling less trust (unless the brand is already established like say Amazon). It varies industry to industry on where to use the hub and spoke tactic IMO

January 28, 2009 - 3:45pm

Solid points here. We also use smaller sites to segment out traffic for specific initiatives...not always the best thing, becasue we are removing potential traffic from the main site. But it does scrub the numbers and helps us to measure different campaigns a little more closely and accurately.

January 28, 2009 - 4:29pm

What is the best way to go about setting up the spoke sites? Meaning would it be better to do a whole new domain name or would it be more effective to do a sub domain?

January 28, 2009 - 4:32pm

When you talk of the hub and spokes model, are the spokes independent, top-level domains or are they subdomains? The latter has been used very effectively on seobook.com

January 28, 2009 - 11:13pm

Both really. We have good subdomains here, but we also have a lot of other SEO sites as well (searchenginehistory.com, blackhatseo.com, whitehatseo.com). Truth is most of the secondary sites are not done as well as they could be, but we could always thicken them out as needed/desired.

January 30, 2009 - 5:36am

I thought this had something to do with branding, but the underlying focus of this model is topical and not so much branding, correct?

January 30, 2009 - 8:17am

Brands play a role as well. An article or section stuck within a bigger site might not seem as remarkable as the exact same content published on a niche domain.

And of course you can capture different market segments with URLs built around different niche brands.

January 28, 2009 - 6:27pm

Kind of funny, SEOmoz just wrote how these "Micro Sites" are not good, and don't pass much authority.

I agree you though, and actually have about 10 spokes.

January 28, 2009 - 11:08pm

I think people should focus their efforts until they become successful with something that works, but when they already do well in a market one of the easiest ways to expand is to either go after parallel markets or create niche brands in their core market. If branding reasons or other ideas come up then mini-sites can work amazingly well.

SEO Book started out as a blog on a different site. If I had not rolled this site out of that other site I would not have done as well as I have. :)

And of course mini-sites allow you to take advantage of not only brand, but also domain names and anchor text.

January 28, 2009 - 11:55pm

1. It's a lot of work if you write all the content and admin all the sites as I do.

2. Having really deep of knowledge at the hub can be complemented by broad knowledge down the spokes.

3. Nothing is live yet, I'll be happy to report back with results after launching.

4. I'm a old dude, an ADD polymath, and highly over-educated. I wouldn't recommend what I'm doing to anyone lacking a) a whole lot of energy, and b) a *huge* pile of existing material to leverage.

January 29, 2009 - 12:07am

ignitemystem:

I use a hosting company (which I won't name as I am an affiliate) which allows domains be setup as "addons" for no extra charge.

Addons are domain names which are associated with my primary account.

Example: Suppose I have the domains foo.com, bar.com and baz.com. I set foo.com as the "primary" domain; it functions as the login account. Then "addon" bar.com and baz.com. The directory structure now looks like (say) /home2/foo/public_html/bar and /home2/public_html/baz.

Now, http://bar.com/ and http://baz.com/ resolve independently.

I set up the hub at foo.com, the spokes as bar.com, baz.com, etc.

This significantly lightens the admin load as I can deal with all the addon domains via my shell account (linux 2.6 kernel), or through the cPanel interface.

Again, I don't have any traffic results yet, nothing is live. I am not promoting any of these sites yet, so I have nothing to report. So the whole project could be a giant wank. I'm having a lot of fun with it and could always sell off the sites that bore me.

January 29, 2009 - 12:12am

After I set up the first 4-5 of my sites, I found I could get a WP site going, from purchasing domain name to having it online with content categories, adsense, sitemap, analytics, etc. in about 30 minutes. I can do it so fast now I hold back... need to fill out current suite of sites with content.

From a speed of implementation point of view, building out several sites within a small period of time really locks in that skill set.

January 29, 2009 - 1:28am

The hard thing about using wordpress on mini-sites is that if you build a lot of them you end up having to update a lot of them :)

January 30, 2009 - 6:10am

I really like the idea of spreading out with spokes. We broke out a topic that was popular on our main site which had some authority (still working on more authority :) ), and breaking out the topic into a smaller site really helped it to gain more momentum. We noticed there was a strong market for the sub topic than we originally anticipated.

Now we are looking at breaking some of the other topics we have out as well.

January 30, 2009 - 4:22pm

Very interesting topic i saw in here and i also see so many interesting point that you share in here. However having multiple site can gives you benefit if only you have 2 website, if you have more than this then its really hard to maintain it. I currently have 2 website with different purpose and never really have intention to have a new one

February 26, 2009 - 10:54pm

I've been researching this for the last few weeks, and I'm glad I finally ran across an article that agrees with my thought process. I have a client who's in the adult health care business and currently has 25 locations nation wide. What I suggested to them was take each location and build a website for each one and link them together using the the main site as the authoritative site for the micro sites, after researching the best way to approach this e.g. should I use sub domains, sub directories or just register new domain names for each location, I was getting conflicting info from all the other SEO expert sites out there, but deep down I knew my way or the "Hub-Spoke" way just made sense, am I wrong? Should I sub domain, sub directory each location or create each one as a separate micro site?

May 21, 2010 - 3:02pm

This is a great thread. If I use the same company name and phone number (allowing google to see that I'm the same owner of all sites) on each site if I have a ton of sites, do you think I will potentially get less link value on my intersite linking or even be considered a spammer. I'm investing a lot of time into the spoke sites, I have different niche areas based on locations and based on micro niche areas.. I have awesome domain names that rank well, and have paid a lot for them, so I don't want to risk being considered a spammer by Google. I know I should use unique ips so the links among my sites are worth more, and have unique content on each site. The site structure for all of them is the same. What about the company name and phone number or other factors I should consider to make sure it is legit? Am I overly concerned?

May 21, 2010 - 6:25pm

The easier you make it for people to connect up your efforts the more likely someone will be to do so. But I can't assess your business risks publicly and for free, as the only way free would make sense (on my end) is if I gave a rushed half answer.

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