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Merging 3 sites in same niche using 301 redirects. Your advice?

4:11 am on Feb 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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joined:Feb 15, 2013
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Hi there,

3 sites in the very same niche, let's say "blue widget"

Site 1:
bluewidgetonline.com (Just recently got out of a manual penalty. Still some good backlinks. OSE PA 51. Not ranking well, but still somewhere on page 2 in G. Lots of bad links disavowed.)

Site 2:
bluewidgets.org (Awesome backlinks, but not ranking at all. OSE PA 53. No penalty. Same design template as site 3, but diff content. Might this be the reason for not ranking?)

Site 3:
easywidget.net (Ranking page 1 #4 for its main kw, main money maker, OSE PA 59., solid backlinks)

Would it make sense to 301 redirect those sites?

Possible scenarios:
1. redirect site1 to site2, or vice versa, keep site 3 as is (not risking anything)
2. redirect site1 and site2 to a site3 subdirectory, i.e. easywidget.net/blue
3. redirect only site2 to a site3 subdirectory, i.e. easywidget.net/blue
4. redirect site 2 to site 1, keep site3 as is

- Ranking boost due to merge?
- Less maintenance managing
- Less linkbuilding spend
- ?

- G might not like the 301 redirects and drop the ranking sites completely. That shouldn't be the case though since all sites have a clean backlink profile.
- Less sites in the rankings, less visibility
- ?

What do you guys think? And maybe even recommend?
9:03 am on Feb 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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votes: 459

You've left out one part of the background.

Why do you have three sites in the first place? (That was meant as a straight question, not a criticism.) Other than SEO issues, what are the advantages to having more than one? If the sites didn't already exist, would you be creating one, two or three?
9:39 am on Feb 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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In 2005, Site3 went online. Then in 2006, Site1 followed. Both targeting a different angle in the same niche, like "blue widget tips" and "blue widgets online".

Both sites were ranking well for its keywords, not competing with each other, received plenty of organic "good" backlinks. Unfortunately I made the mistake over the years to submit articles to directories like isnare and ezzinearticles. Like so many, I then received a manual penalty in beginning of 2011.

Both sites penalized, and ranking nowhere.

I then started to remove "bad" links for Site3, but quickly realized that the backlink profile for Site1 was so "messed up" in terms of volume of bad links, that I created a replacement site: Site2. However, I never took Site1 offline, nor 301 forwarded it to avoid the transfer of the penalty to the "fresh site2". I also started to ask webmasters to replace the link to Site1 with the URL of Site2. About 75% of the links were changed till now.

Until end Nov. 2012 I managed to get the manual penalties lifted. For both, Site3 and, for Site1 unexpectedly as well.

However Site2 (the replacement for Site1) never really took off, even though it has the better link profile now that it's predecessor (Site1), after changing the links. It's ranking on Page 10 for its main keyword. The link profile is well balanced out, anchor text wise. The site however is only 3.5 months old though. Maybe Google has seen that suddenly links from one site got replaced in favor for another but couldn't spot a 301 to undermine that redirect?

Does this make sense?
11:36 am on Feb 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Matt Cutts has a video about merging multiple sites: [youtube.com...]
2:01 pm on Feb 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I've done similar, and the results have been satisfactory. One thing you have to watch out for is page canonicalisation issues. There will be a transition period when the new url is up, but the engines may not yet realise the old page is redirecting.