Ask the Experts: Should I Consolidate Sites for SEO?
Q: We have two different businesses: catering and personal chef. Over time, we’ve ended up with two sites for these services. Additionally, we’ve purchased other domains and have them redirecting to the main sites. The personal chef site is not ranking well, but there is a personal chef page on the catering site that is ranking well. We are thinking about building a new site and condensing them into one, but are worried we may lose the traffic that the old personal chef page had. What can we do to retain this traffic?
A: First, a quick note regarding your parked domains: These are probably neither helping nor hurting the SEO presence of your main sites. But one good reason to keep control of these domains is so they won’t be be snagged up by competitors and used to compete against you. Be sure to re-point any redirects if you do decide to move your sites.
There is no single, definitive answer about whether or not to consolidate your two sites to a single site. Here are a few pros and cons of consolidation that may help guide you:
- PRO: consolidation of authority & trust signals such as social sharing and inbound links will tend to make a single, unified website have more power in search engines than two separate sites.
- PRO: a unified site makes online word of mouth more straightforward. Good reviews of one arm of your business will reflect well on the other arm.
- CON: a unified site will need to compete with focused sites that can specifically optimize for each of the specific services (personal chef vs. catering).
- CON: A unified site is probably less likely to have the opportunity to get links from lists or directories of one or the other service.
- CON: You have an existing rank that you are legitimately concerned about losing. A 301 redirect from the old page to the new page is highly recommended, but even with that, it’s possible that the rank will suffer.
If these two sites truly are two separate businesses, with a different customer base, different service offerings, and having different conversations online, then it probably makes more sense to retain the separate sites (while linking between them, naturally).
If you do choose to unify, re-using one of your existing domains would be best. Is the catering domain name general enough to house both businesses? In that case we would recommend keeping the page that is ranking well (personal chef) at the same URL that it is currently on, and redesigning around it.
If it is not possible to re-tool the catering site so that it encompasses the personal chef site, and you feel a strong need to move both sites to a new domain, be sure to follow the page redirect recommendations we discuss in “Oops, I Redesigned my Website. An SEO Checklist.” A key point: you’ll need a 301 redirect from the existing personal chef page to the new URL. So,
www.example1.com/personal-chef/ should 301 redirect to www.example2.com
However, even if you do everything right in a move such as this, you should be prepared for a drop in search rankings. Like ripping off a band-aid, the pain will probably pass quickly, but it is not impossible that your site would suffer long-term ranking drops from moving domains, so we only recommend moving sites if absolutely necessary.
Ooo I love the band-aid simile.
I have two websites http://trwebco.com/ and http://trwebdesign.com/ and unlike your asker’s scenario, they are both for the same set of services. I launched http://trwebdesign.com later, as a sort of ‘B’ variant in a A-B test, and learned a lesson about how valuable flat directory structures can be. And I have been able to out-rank my long-standing trwebco site for some queries.
But the ‘B’ site has been up for 2 years and is starting to gain its own little link profile. It also competes a little too closely with the ‘A’ site in the SERPs. My situation, since the experiment is over and the two sites are for the same services in the same town, is that I want to roll trwebdesign into trwebco (the official site) with server-side 301’s.
My question is, like ripping off a band-aid, should I do it all-at-once or go a page-at-time, over a period of weeks. I was planning on doing the lower PR pages first, then working up to the root. Would you advise that or just “rip it off” and suck it up and deal with the pain?
Best Regards and Happy Festivus,
Owner, Toms River Web Design