If you have a portfolio of websites, deciding to do away with (or ‘sunsetting’, for those of a more delicate disposition) one of them can be a tough decision. Much like the cliché when it comes to breaking-up with a not-so-loved one, we’ve put together a list of pros and cons associated with merging (two or more) websites or keeping them separate.
I’ve worked on a few projects where this debate has been a sticking point. Once, for a global B2B drinks provider, and on another occasion for a leading UK-based investment trust. Quite different brands operating in different sectors, both with a handful of websites to their name.
With both projects the topic of merging websites didn’t start off as the main focus. In amongst the nitty-gritty of solution development what had started as a ‘straightforward’ website redevelopment soon unravelled in to something a lot less clear-cut. Why were these websites ever separate in the first place?! This brings us to our first consideration. Appreciating the initial thought process is key to understanding the brand heritage and position in the industry. At the very least, you’ll need to know who was behind the original decision to build the websites that way. Nobody wants to offend senior management after all…
As for the other considerations, here’s what you should take stock of before making your decision.
Reasons to consolidate websites:
- Bigger websites can aid better optimisation. Searchenginejournal.com explore this in more detail if further reading is your thing. In short, if you are merging two websites, there should be more content to add to the one that you’re keeping. Adding pages allows scope for more granular content and optimisation techniques.
- If there isn’t more content to add, this means you must have had the same content on both sites. This is a big fat clue that your websites aren’t dissimilar enough to warrant being separate. Since search engines actively penalise websites where this is the case, getting rid of duplicate content will stand you in better stead in their eyes.
- It provides a ‘one-stop’ shop for your customers.
- It increases the likelihood of cross-selling if you’re bringing different products/ services under one roof.
- It consolidates your brand presence – knowing you provide more than one product/ service might appeal to some customers.
- Decreased hosting costs and domain renewals. Obvious but undeniable, fewer websites means fewer third party costs or internal resource required to keep the website(s) live.
- It reduces the resource required for maintenance, in the same way that responsive web design does… Fewer websites means less time required for website updates and managing content.
- Fewer domains to optimise. If you’ve been carrying out optimisation work on multiple domains, consolidating websites and focussing these efforts would likely mean increased returns.
- A careful website migration strategy should retain SEO value. Redirects will help transfer domain and backlink authority to the hero website.
- Example: Apple.com helps keep a sense of identity for each of its ranges by applying different look and feel to the landing pages.
Reasons to keep websites separate:
- Having a website dedicated to a particular service demonstrates expertise in that field. Flip reverse the ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ scenario.
- Similarly, third party-sites are often more inclined to link to homepages than they are deeper pages. This means outreach activity may prove more successful if you are promoting a homepage that represents a specific offering.
- If the websites are well optimised, you could be lucky enough to have multiple sites appearing in search results for the same terms. More traffic for you, less for your competitors.
- If you are lucky enough to have domain names that closely resemble key search terms, this could promote strong rankings.For example if you have a website ‘www.pinksswimmingcaps.co.uk’ this will help the site rank for ‘pink swimming caps’.
- Keeping your websites separate means you don’t need to spend time contacting authoritative sites to update links that used to point to the site that’s being retired.
- Keeping your websites also means less immediate technical work as you don’t need to carry out a website migration.
- Avoid the short-term drop in traffic that is often noticed in the weeks immediately following a site migration.
- Lastly, and this is very dependent on the size and shape of the business, you need to factor in how this might impact the various marketing agendas. It may not be one big happy family if you lump everyone and everything together.
- Example: Coca-Cola have difference websites for a number of their sub-brands; Sprite, Fanta,, Monster, Schweppes etc.
Of course, there’s no hard and fast rule. Branding, audience, and product will have a strong steer in your ultimate decision. Have you recently merged two or more websites? How did it work out? Let us know in the comments or Tweet us.
The Passion Digital team have worked on plenty of website migrations and website strategy projects. If you would like to talk to us about a Magento or WordPress development feel free to get in touch with any comments or questions.
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