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Splitting a Section of a Site to its Own Domain

   
6:57 pm on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I have an established site (6 years or so) with maybe 70,000 page requests a day, mostly forum pages.

There is a shop on the site which is run by a third party. Proper shop not a drop ship - it is a collaboration between internet skills and the ability to run a shop. It's been there for about 18 months and is doing reasonably well but not brilliantly. The third party has a perfectly branded domain name that isn't being used, instead the address is example.com/shop/

It is in my interest that the shop does well. At the moment it is struggling to compete with the forum for relevant searches, and I'm toying with the idea of moving the shop to it's own domain, 301 redirecting the existing pages, and leaving all links in place in the navigation of the existing site.

Last time I tried moving a section to a new site like this it worked well, but that was back in 2003. Does it still work well from a Google search point of view?

What's your gut feeling when you read this? Can you see monsters here? Don't want to be in the game of golden goose slaughter so I'm keen on any opinions.
7:37 pm on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



If anything, I'd say the process has become better since 2003. I recently helped split one site into three, using two new domains and retaining one. Instead of months to see some Google action, it was only a few weeks.
8:01 pm on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Last time I tried moving a section to a new site like this it worked well, but that was back in 2003.

vordmeister, did you find that the new section ranked better after moving to a dedicated domain?

My gut feeling tells me it's easier to rank a site that is laser focused. At the moment the forum might dilute the shops ranking power and vice versa. You may even find the forum gains traffic after such a move.

Please keep us informed if you decide to take the plunge
8:41 pm on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Back in 2003 the reason was I felt the section deserved to be expanded but couldn't see how it could be done on the existing site. It maintained it's traffic after the move and increased in traffic over the years with the new sections far beyond the traffic of the original site. Will keep you posted on this one.

This one is a bit different - I can see more things the shop needs, but mainly the expansion will be more products. Main reasons for this move are credibility and branding.

It's encouraging that you've recently split a site Tedster - suggests it's not a completely crazy idea. How long did you keep links to the split sections in the original site's navigation (if at all)?
8:50 pm on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



The site I split should never have been just one site. Triple themes, triple targets, all cannibalizing each other - and lots of potential money on the table, too. The new 3-site split is working well, improved numbers every month and after 6 months total revenues are FAR beyond the original single site.

Just be technically precise - painfully particular in fact, especially with the URL structures.
9:01 pm on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)



moving the shop to it's own domain, 301 redirecting the existing pages, and leaving all links in place in the navigation of the existing site.


I've also done this several times and as tedster writes be precise with the URL structures, do it carefully and the new site will have a very good kick-start and should rank very quickly.
10:25 pm on Mar 15, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I've been running a flat structure with actual pages rather than PHP generated ones. By being precise are you talking about getting the 301 exactly right or taking the opportunity to alter the structure - ie group pages in folders by topic?
12:05 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



I mean getting the 301 exactly right (one hop only) and not having canonical errors on the new site right from launch.
1:00 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member



Don't forget about redirecting the images too, unless your traffic from image search is negligible.
1:06 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)



or taking the opportunity to alter the structure - ie group pages in folders by topic?


If I am understanding you correctly do not do this until after the Search Engines have absorbed the new domain running under the old URL structure.

If you move all the pertinent information and change the URL structure you will blow the thing apart and lose a lot of G'love.

Quite simply, move exactly all the applicable stuff sideways under the same URL structure, let the SEs absorb it and then wait 2-3 months before changing stuff and then do it gently, not a massive overnight change.
9:37 am on Mar 16, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Thanks for the advice. It feels like the benefits will probably outweigh the risks so long as I'm careful the redirect and don't mess around.

Might try the move before the summer which should give plenty of time for things to settle before the buying season kicks off again.
5:30 pm on Mar 18, 2011 (gmt 0)



Another item, watch your analytics carefully for traffic dips as you move your pages, you want to be able to stop things before they get out of hand.
5:37 pm on Mar 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



Man, I had a client a couple years back who desperately needed this and I really really really wanted to do it, but they wouldn't let me. (Now they're fairly tanked on all levels) So wish I could have given it a shot, as I am geeky enough to find this kind of challenge *fun*.
6:10 pm on Mar 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



Haven't got the go ahead yet but I reckon it's the way forward and I'll probably get the OK. Planning to wait for the Panda stuff to hit in the UK first - no point making changes while Google is busy thinking about other things.

The on-page stuff should rock compared to other shops - we've spent a lot of time including useful stuff on the product pages. The others tend to put up a title, a rubbish picture and a buy button.

I'm still worried about linking. I'm not planning changes to either site immediately after the move, so the shop will still be in the sitewide navigation. Not sure what effect that will have. Guess I'll find out, and it doesn't really matter as the shop isn't doing great in Google at the moment.
6:40 pm on Jul 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member



I was asked to report back on the results.

I made the move at the end of April. All pages were 301 redirected to their equivalents on the new site. No changes in content or structure with the move. Everything worked!

There was no drop in traffic for the shop section even for a day. Sadly there was no amazing increase either, but that takes time to build and I reckon a separate domain is a better starting point.
6:54 pm on Jul 3, 2011 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



Thanks very much for that report. Not even one day's drop! Things really are getting better in the are of moving domains.
 

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