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1 site or a netowrk of sites



5:45 pm on May 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I am involved in a site that gets about 70k web page displays a month and some of our pages have a PR of 2. The site is a user based store site where people sell or auction off their goods. There have been requests from several hundred visitors over the last few months to increase the number of stores on the site. Instead of adding more stores to the one site the thought of creating a network of sites has been discussed.

The thought is that we would create a main network site that would:
- highlight a different site each week
- would feature a lot of the stores from a all of the networked sites on a weekly basis
- a store listing on all of the different sites.
- a main chat area on the main site
- each individual site would have their own separate chat
- the main network site would have a list of all the auctions inclusive of all networks data
- the individual sites would only show their specific auction content
- each individual site would have a link back to the network site.

OK, here is my SEO question. All sites will be either sharing an IP or within the same range of IP addresses, however they will all have unique names (ex: network1.com, network2.com, etc). Is it better for search engine placement to have 1 site or multiple sites? Will it hurt the current sites placement by adding all these additional networked sites? Would it be better just to have on large a$$ site?

thanks in advance.