Over the years, many of my clients have had multiple sites, and have had to decide whether or not to combine the two sites into one. There is no one answer. It’s a business decision with many considerations.
Case Study 1: Eleanor’s Project
This is a case where the two sites are very different.
Many years ago, Rick Aldridge took a basic web development class I taught. His website was Eleanor’s Project: a site to gather support for sending wheelchairs to children in Peru. Many of the children live in isolated areas, and their only means of moving around was being carried on the backs of family members. When my Mother passed away, I contributed for one of those wheelchairs in her honor.
Since that time many years ago, Rick and Tamara have added a new project called Hammie, a device to help illustrate “how tight hamstrings can cause poor sitting posture”. Sale of the Hammie device to therapists and other practitioners helps fund wheelchairs. Now, as Rick and Tamara are looking to upgrade their websites, one of the considerations is whether the two sites should be combined.
The starting condition is that both sites are self-hosted WordPress sites, but they are on different hosts, and they use different themes.
- How “tightly coupled” are the two projects?
- Is one project part of the other project?
- Does one project depend on the other project?
- Are the markets for the two projects the same, partly the same or totally different?
- Keep the sites the way they are, but move them into the same hosting account.
- Rebuild the sites individually and in the same hosting account.
- Make one site a section of the other site.
While the Hammie project is structurally owned by the Eleanor’s Project, their markets are different enough that I recommend them to be two sites. With the split, the artwork on the Hammie site can communicate the medical profession, specifically physical therapy fields. The Eleanor’s Project graphics can be more about Peru, wheelchairs, and kids who need wheelchairs. Besides the marketing considerations, if the entities are ever separated legally, the websites will be easier to separate, as well.
The sites can exist in the same server space, using the same theme and plugins. That will make updates easier because there is only one learning curve. The inefficiency will be that backups and updates have to be done twice.
Case Study 2: DorothyHinshawPatent.com and DogWriterDorothy.com
This is a case where the two sites have quite a lot of content in common.
The practice of having a blog site separate from a main site was an idea that has passed. The web world went through a period where a “blog” was considered a separate function from a website. Part of the idea was that the blog could link to the website and help the website’s SEO. The truth was that the blog site cannibalized the main site’s SEO because the blog site generally had more new content.
The truth is that a blog is a type of website. And, blog posts are content. Blog posts may be written in a more informal style than the other pages on your site, but they are still content. Additionally, a blog is interactive in that a blog has a comment function.
But, if your blog is on a second site with a different domain name, the second site is cannibalizing the SEO of your main site, not supporting it. Using the links from a blog site to improve the SEO of a site was a common practice a few years ago. It was a gimmick that was so overused, Google finally had to address it in their software.
” … In the old days (2+ years ago), you could build any number of separate web sites, point most of their links at your main website, and successfully inflate your main website’s SEO authority and Google search rankings.
Not any more.
For obvious reasons, Google doesn’t like artificial link building. … “
And, if you have the same or similar content on both sites, you have duplicate and authorship issues to work through. Each page that has a duplicate will need a canonical link to the “master” page. Or, you can just combine the sites and send all the SEO to your main domain name.
Combining sites with duplicate content is more complicated than just importing the content from the blog to the main site.
Main Steps to Combining Two Sites
- Inventory both sites. The inventory should include content, technologies and outside services, such as newsletter services.
- Note which pages are a full duplication between sites … don’t move those.
- Note which pages are similar … decide how that content will be represented on the combined site.
- Note which pages are totally different … copy those pages into the main site.
- If information is so out of date that it’s incorrect or not helpful to your goals, note it and delete it.
Other Beneficial Tasks
- Rethink your categories for the merged site. This is an especially good time to do it because you are concentrating on your content.
- Start a regular activity of updating each post/page. Whether weekly, bi-weekly, etc. Most every day, I edit and add 100 words to a post on this site, whether it’s a recent post or a new one.
Technology Rules of Thumb
- Don’t stick with a technology that is past its prime, just because you are familiar with it.
- Consider the work that staff will have to do in all technology decisions.
Breaking Up a Site
Sometimes, the question isn’t whether to combine a site, but whether to break up a site. The considerations are similar: markets, business structure, staffing, etc. If part of a business is sold to another entity, this becomes a critical task. Part of the value of a business is in the web assets. The key is to hand over the relevant parts of the site with as little disruption to each piece as possible. For example, the minimizing the loss of SEO to both sites is critical.
Low Coupling, High Cohesion
Your success in merging or splitting a website is dependent on good planning before the need arises to do either. The principles of low coupling and high cohesion applies in both cases. It’s all in good planning!