One Site Fits All or Better Having Microsites?

micrositeMany website owners as their businesses expand they come to the dilemma of splitting their sites into a few microsites so they can rank better for their targeted terms.

This is not really an easy topic and before you make such a radical move there is a lot to take into consideration.

The first thing you need to ask yourselves is why would you want do something like that?

Reasons to split a site into Microsites

  1. Your brand name is not doing very well and you would like a part of the business to be re-branded and market it separately.
  2. Your businesses are expanding into a few different niches, thus the one site you have can’t really serve all those different businesses.
  3. You think that by splitting your site into some smaller ones you will manage to engage the visitors as they all microsites will be dedicated to one particular service or product. Conversion may increase as users will think that they are at a specialist’s website rather than a generic one offering all sorts of services or products.

Risks and Dangers

There are certain risks you will be taking by making such a big change and you need to think carefully before you make any decision.

Log Tail and Link Juice Loss

By splitting your site into microsites you will have to remove a great deal of content. That is going to affect two key elements:

  1. Your long tail will be reduced, so will long tail traffic because there will be much less content on the (main) site compared to what used to be there.
  2. The power of the whole site will be diminished as certain deep pages with a number of backlinkswill cease to exist. Usually webmasters redirect those removed pages to the new microsite, thus the link juice will be permanently gone.

Subdomain vs Separate Domain

There are two different ways to embrace the Microsite approach:

  1. Generate them as subdomains of your main domain so if your main site is a subdomain microsite would look like
  2. Generate microsites in a new separate domain, something like

However, since Google stopped treating subdomains independently and is attaching some association between them, the first approach does not sound like a very good idea. That means that there isn’t much opportunity anymore to rank for both, your main site and the subdomain site so you should choose the separate domain approach.

Links Farms Issue

This is a quite controversial issue but in theory, a great benefit of splitting your site into microsites is to interlink between them so each one passes link juice to another. Because this is a technique that in several cases have been abused by web site owners who deliberately buy tens of websites just to easily get links back to their main sites, your site(s) may end up being banned from Google’s indexes. This practice is called ‘link farms’ and although not all web sites do not end up being penalized, you should probably link between some of your sites and not all of them! And definitely avoid reciprocal links as that is an obvious indication of potential link farms.

Slow growth

Each microsite would be looked at by search engines as a new site, which means you will need to do everything you would normally do for a new site such as creating back-links and all other problems associated with domain development. Unless you have a massive budget you will probably struggle for the first few months as you really need to optimise all those different sites. The more competitive your site’s niche is, the more time and money you would need to spend so your microsite will be in a position to compete with other long established power websites. If your niche is not that competitive that shouldn’t be much of an issue.

The Key Questions

The questions to ask yourselves before making such a big step are:

  1. How long could you afford waiting and spending money until you see your new site(s) ranking in Google’s 1st page?
  2. Is the situation with your current site really that bad? What if you spend all those money linkbuilding in order to gain more positions in the SERPs?
  3. Is it really because of your brand name that you don’t get the traffic you are expecting? Have you looked carefully at your SEO campaign and how your traffic coverts? Is there anything you can do to increase conversion (i.e. enhance usability, fresh web design) ?

The Big Benefits of Microsites

The post doesn’t suggest that Microsites are a bad idea. There are several benefits if done correctly with the main ones being:

  1. You can have various keyword-rich domain names that are highly valued by Google. With a consolidated site you would never manage to fit more than 1-2 keywords in your domain name.
  2. Your backlinks will mainly target the homepage as there isn’t any great need to link build for deeper pages. Many directories only allow links to homepages so there is a big advantage here.
  3. Your brand name will be very close to your product or service, thus some visitors will think they are at the right place. Specialists’ sites convert better in general.

Modi is an SEO and web designer who works an a consultant for a team building company. You can connect with him on Twitter at @Macmodi.

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