|Two Sites for the Same Company: is this a bad thing?|
I have been asked a question by one of my clients. My first knee-jerk reaction was a flat no, I wouldn't do it. But I started doing some investigating and now I am totally confused as to whether this is a problem or not.
There is a website out there about widgets. We'll call this site Widgets. When you type in widgets, it is listed as #1. On this site, there is a forum about widgets, a directory about locations you can use widgets, product reviews on widgets, how widgets are made, blogs, articles, etc. etc. etc. A very comprehensive and apparently authoritive site on widgets. Very nicely done and apparently very well established and busy. On this site there are several links that go to another site, we'll call this site Buy Widgets. On this site, it is the typical e-commerce type site that sells widgets.
Now, these sites are both owned by the same company. They also interlink rather heavily. On the widgets site, if you want to purchase a widget... "go to our Buy Widgets site." On the Buy Widget site if you are looking for locations to use your widget... "go to our Widget site to find locations." One thing that really struck me was that at the top of the home page for each site, it actually says... "Brought to you by Widgets . com" on the Buy Widgets site, and on the Widgets site it says... "Brought to you by BuyWidgets . com." Both domain names are registered by the same company.
My gut reaction to this was that there would be problems in Google doing 2 websites from the same company. But upon further investigation, I am finding quite a few very successful, large and very well known, branded companies doing just this.
My question is, is it really a problem if you keep everything above board and transparent? Can a company have 2 sites that have totally different reasons for being? I understand that the motivation is probably the same for both sites... to sell more products, but if a company registered 2 domain names and developed 2 sites for two totally different reasons, is there a problem with this? And if it is deemed a problem, how can companies so blatantly do this, much less get away with this? There is absolutely no duplicate content between either site. One site is totally informational while the other is strictly e-commerce.
Many companies run heavily interlinked sites with no problem. Just take a look at any of the large packaged-goods companies with multiple brands, variations, spinoffs and such. And I think your post answered your own question as to why they are able to: "very comprehensive and apparently authoritive," "very well established and busy," "very well known, branded companies," "above board and transparent," "no duplicate content," "One site is totally informational while the other is strictly e-commerce."
In short, I guess it all comes down to the trust factor.
I'm sorry, but I don't see the question. (1) Google is happy with the site, and (2) Surfers can tell the two sites are related. So what else is there to go wrong?
I believe that Google treats the two domains as one "interlinked website" (that is, they think of it as a partitionable submatrix of the links-to matrix). And as such, the one "IW" is treated on its merits.
Where you'd see problems is, if those 2 (or more) domains performed as a mutual-admiration-society but were shunned by outsiders. That would be a link-popularity-ring (and a bad thing in the eyes of Google.) But so long as those domains behaved like normal web citizens (some links out to apparently-reputable sites, and some links in from apparently-reputable sites), then normal web surfers and sane spiders will treat all the involved pages as if they were legitimate.
[edited by: hutcheson at 5:28 pm (utc) on Oct. 20, 2008]
This is a very widely employed approach, and the key to success is wrapped in a few phrases you used:
1. 2 sites that have totally different reasons for being
2. no duplicate content between either site
3. keep everything above board and transparent
webdude - Do the two sites rank well for the same phrases, or does one rank for some phrases and the other rank for others?
Well, this is what has me confused. On the authoritive site, they have widgets broken down into type and then they have different types of widgets broken down by manufacturer. Clicking any of these brings you to a list of products on the e-commerce site.
Searching for widgets places the authoritive site #1 and the e-commerce site #14. When searching for specific widgets, almost always the link goes to the authoritive site with the list of manufacturers and all of those links, in turn, drill down into a list of products that all go to the e-commerce site. In other words, searching for blue widget goes to a list of blue widget manufacturers and clicking on any of those links goes to a list of specific products from that manufacturer on the e-commerce site. The authoritive site almost always outranks the e-commerce site. Typically it is in the top 5 while the e-commerce site is in the 10 through 20 range.
Is this making sense?
I think, for any particular search, Google will tend to pick one result from the "interlinked website" and perhaps promoting it higher than it otherwise would appear (because it represents a whole cloud of related content) while depressing results from the other pages in the cloud (because they can presumably be found from the high-ranked page, and to give greater variety to the search results.)
Whether true or not, this seems consistent with what you are seeing.
Yes, it is making sense. We have two sites ourselves that are exactly like the websites you describe. Linking like that works out real well in most cases. Google likes to have authority sites outrank eCommerce sites anyways.
Do any general search (1-2 word) and 99% of the time you will not see an ecom site ranked number one. That is where the authority comes in.
I have three info sites set up exactly that way. Site 1 is Hodgepodge Widgets, site 2 is Green Widgets and site 3 is Purple Widgets. The main site is Hodgepodge Widgets (previously my ecommerce site, now another info site) and the second and third sites were spun off to be more specific info sites.
Sometimes Hodgepodge Widgets and one of the other sites will rank for the same keyword phrase. Typically, though, they all rank for the "main idea" of the specific website. Because of the content that I'm putting on them, it is completely normal to interlink back and forth whenever the unique content added is related.
Obviously, sites that link to the content are generally specific to "Green" or "Purple," which Google can see quite clearly. I've never hidden the fact that I own all three sites or that they are all related. It has never been a problem.
It basically boils down to targeting different audiences with differnt information.
One site Generic, the other specific and both cross linking. We did that because our main site became to large and difficult to navigate.