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I'm sure you started out like me. Most business runs on the principle of out doing your competitor. Who makes the most money? The one who has the best site? Or is it the one who has the best sites?
The question is, if you have a turd to sell, you launch your ecommerce site. Do you stop there at one? Is there some code of conduct here for ecommerce? What if I polish the turd a bit, offer up a different shopping experience on a different domain. Perhaps it's geared to a different demographic. So, you really shouldn't launch that second website, even though that would be giving you more earning potential? Or is this a matter of excluding Google bot from your other sites?
I'm not sure if this is a moral dilemma for me or what. I just can't quite grasp this concept of spam. What I read is people whining about competitors who have more sites than them. It seems to me, that ecommerce is about ratting on your competitors, filling out a spam report, and then send them away with some type of penalty. All this, because somebody else was perhaps a bit smarter than you. Spam to me is becoming such a horrible term.
So do all you experience ecommerce folks say to yourself, I'm fine with my one website. I will ignore the other earning possibilities. Perhaps you wouldn't even want to share what your strategy is. It seems to me, that it's all about manipulation. So, you get different whois on your domains, get them on different servers, blah blah blah. Basically tricking Google etc so that nobody can fill out a spam report against you because they don't know it's the same person. Is this the way the game is played? It just seems that if you are transparent, then you will have some cry babies saying your spamming the index because you show up for a few DIFFERENT but related keyword searches.
So, ecommerce is all about morals and honor? It's about one website for you, and one for me. May the best man or women win? Sheesh. Since when does the world work like this? Money brings out the worst in people. If people aren't looking for an edge then what? It seems like the internet is the only place where business is supposed to have morals. If you tip the scales, then you are spamming. If you are too aggressive, then you are spamming. Imagine is the real world if you said to McDonalds, oh, you can't open that store in that location, you have one in that city already.
I'm serious about this. I'm trying to break into ecommerce. I need to get past this. Perhaps you can offer insight, without getting yourself a penalty because you've been to honest about things...
If you think it would make good business sense to have more than one website to aim at different segments of the market, then build more than one website. Build, and build well.
Build because you're taking aim at a market segment, not just taking aim at a keyword. If you know what you're doing you can aim at new keywords with the sites you've already got. You'll build more brand equity along the way, too.
It seems to me, that it's all about manipulation.
Then you've been reading in the wrong places.
The difference between spamming and being smart is?
Like buckworks and Tangor said, the difference is quality. Spammers buy 5 different domain names and then set up the same (or slightly different) crappy content on them all. Then, they rampantly cross-link between their own sites to try to move their way up the search ladder. So when someone does a search, they click on the first link, decide, not for them. Click on the second link - same crap different name. And so on, and so on. Obviously, the search engine is not providing their user with quality results when that happens. Just from reading your post, sounds like you got a Google penalty/spam report...there's no law against having multiple sites, but Google does discourage cookie-cutter sites for this reason.
If you can do multiple unique, useful, and fresh takes - go for it.