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Deleting content and then moving it to another site

     
10:04 pm on Aug 29, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hello,

I will be purchasing a website in the same niche as one of my sites. This is a site ran by an expert in the field and I'm basically making the purchase purely for the content, which I plan to move to my own domain on the same subject.

For 95% of the content it will be a simple matter of doing a 301 redirect. For the remaining 5% though, there is a small problem. Namely, this 5% was also posted by the author on another, much older site that he owns. For one reason or another, his other site is the one that ranks for this article in Google, while the version of this article on the website I am purchasing from him is "omitted" in the results and treated as irrelevant.

The problem is, this author is highly averse to anything tech-related. It's going to be very difficult to have him do any 301 redirects of the content to the site that I'm buying (not to mention this would mean two 301 redirects, which I don't feel confident enough in doing - who knows what Google will think). Deleting the content using the Webmaster tool would probably be a difficult endavor.

My question: will simply asking the author to delete that 5% of articles from the other site, and then waiting until it disappear from google, be enough for me to feel confident to just 301 it from the domain I'm purchasing to my own site? Anyone have experience with a similar issue?
2:58 am on Aug 31, 2015 (gmt 0)

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hasek747... It's likely that what's in Google's visible index is only the tip of the iceberg with regard to what Google remembers. I don't know how Google looks at this kind of transaction.

While it does make sense that eliminating existing signs of duplication on the web would help by removing the duplication filter, using Google's webmaster tools to remove those urls from the old site is the wrong way to do this, for a great many reasons. Someone knowledgeable really would have to go into that site, remove the content, and fix up the navigation so it doesn't link to missing articles.

The older site most probably had more authoritative backlinks than the site that you're purchasing. Some of those authority signals will definitely be lost without 301 redirects from the author's older site... and some might be lost after the consolidating the sites, simply because the articles would now be in the context of a different site. The reputation of the author might also be a factor. Is his name on the articles, and will it be associated with them when they're moved to your site?

Also, keep in mind that you're not competing against just the other copy of the article. Are other sites ranking for the same queries, and how strong are they?

Definitely check external backlinks on both of the sites before redirection. Do your best some of the old links changed to the new locations on your domain. Perhaps the author, if he knows some of the people in the field, might be willing to make those requests as part of the deal. You have to be careful, of course, how this is done.
3:39 am on Aug 31, 2015 (gmt 0)

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I think in this situation asking the owner of the older site to place <link rel=canonical href=http://the-site-your-moving-the-content-to.ext/the-page> on the page(s) is your best friend.

You can send him the rel=canonical code. Ask him to simply paste it to the html <head> of the page(s) on the site and be done with it. If you need to could even copy the html source of the page(s) from the older site, add the canonical yourself and send it to him all done and in place so all he has to do is upload the new version of the page. That way there's no need for any internal linking to be changed. He doesn't lose the content or visitors who find the site another way. You get the benefit of transferring the ranking factors without a redirect being installed/maintained.
5:22 am on Aug 31, 2015 (gmt 0)

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TMS, great solution!

I have seen situations where implementing the rel="canonical" might be a difficult... say on something like a very old version of Dreamweaver, or on some IIS CMSs, where there isn't access to the <head> section.

But otherwise, for the reasons described, the rel="canonical" would be the method of choice this content situation.
6:02 am on Aug 31, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hi, and thank you very much for replying.

The problematic articles in question aren't many - perhaps 10 or 15. So assuming I have a choice, which of the following two options would be better:

[Option 1]

- Manually delete the content from his site, completely
- Make sure it is gone from the navigation
- Removing the URL's via the Search Concole

[Option 2]

Send the author the rel=canonical code to add to the pages in question (luckily, his site is pure HTML/CSS, oldschool style, so this might be quite easy actually).

Won't I get into trouble with option 2 by suddenly having 301 redirects from one of the author's sites, and rel=canonicals from another of his sites? It's completely legitimate in this case and there is no manipulation intent on my side involved, however it still feels a little risky to me. Am I overreacting?

Robert, to answer your questions:

1) Yes, his name is on the articles, as well as a copyright note. Once I purchase the website though his name will no longer have to be included by me on my own site.
2) There are other sites ranking for the same queries. However, my site is significantly stronger than all of the competition (in terms of content, age, site design quality, and backlinks) and I am very confident I will outrank them without even trying. I just need to make sure that the content is treated on my site as the "original."

Also thank you for the reminder to check the backlinks on both of the sites before redirection. I've of course already done that even before contacting the owner about buying the site, but I'll be extra careful and check again. I have another question here:

- The website I'm planning to buy is also pretty old (2004 or so) and as such the front page has a lot of links from the old "Link Exchanges" pages, which I'd rather were not associated with my main site. These links however are only to the home page, NOT to the articles on the domain which I am going to be 301 redirecting to my own site. (I do not plan to make a redirect of the home page, only the articles I'm interested in.) Do you think this is a problem? I'm thinking that before I do any redirects I should remove the reciprocating links from the purchased website (delete the whole "links" section on the site), wait a while, and then do the 301 redirect of the articles in question. Do you think the reciprocal links on the homepage might somehow affect me anyway? If it helps, the site had a huge Search Engine traffic drop in september/october 2011, losing 90% of traffic, then slowly started recovering on May 2014 and is now back to its traffic levels from pre 2011. (This is according to SEMRush.)

Last, please note that most of the articles I'm buying are not "word heavy". Think more research-driven articles (physics), and the articles are a detailed breakdown of the results with the author's commentary. If I were to make up an example to illustrate what I mean:

say my website is a detailed review /guides /troubleshooting /comparisons resource for some cellphones. The website I'm planning to purchase belongs to a phycisist who just so happens to like cellphones, and he decided to get the most popular cellphone models and put them through various physics tests: cooling their temperatures to see how long the battery lasts at what temperature, throwing them on the ground and actually measuring how much kinetic energy was released on impact, using specialized tools to measure exactly how much pressure is required before the screen cracks, etc. Basically the articles are no more than a rundown of his testing methods, the detailed results in graphs/tables, and his own thoughts. So mostly I am paying for research here, not necessarily content in the common meaning of the term.
8:18 am on Aug 31, 2015 (gmt 0)

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The link exchanges you mention are troublesome, as it may look like you're moving or redirecting that content (from both sites, actually), to avoid the effects of either Penguin or of a manual penalty... To be discussed.

Coincidentally, I had originally included in my first post, following my comment about Google's long memory, a paragraph about the kind of things I believe that Google does remember. The paragraph made the opening of the post too long, though, so ironically, I dropped it, but here it is...

>>It has been discussed with regard to content from a penalized site that Google may remember that content and apply a penalty to a new domain. This content you're discussing, of course, is not penalized... and Google isn't known for rewarding historical originality, so you may be OK.<<

Now that it turns out that it's either been penalized or hit algorithmically, so yes, it's likely that you've got a very tricky situation. (This may be, btw, why the article you like wasn't ranking on that site. I haven't seen the site, so this is just a possibility).

These links however are only to the home page, NOT to the articles on the domain which I am going to be 301 redirecting to my own site. (I do not plan to make a redirect of the home page, only the articles I'm interested in.) Do you think this is a problem?

Potentially, yes... and I can't think of anything good to say about it. Internally in your site, I'm guessing that the effects of Penguin probably flow like link juice does or like PageRank propagates, dropping off as your nav splits and gets deeper from the landing point of the link. So, they'd be flowing from the home page.

If you split the articles off from the home page, you've still got the question of whether Google remembers that there once was tainted link juice going to the article pages, and whether it's keep score on those algo issues.

Your instincts about dropping your reciprocal links are good, and ditto about waiting... and your thoughts about the home page being split away are logical thoughts. I just don't know whether those article pages are tainted by Google's sense of justice (and I don't know how else to put it). A 301 will redirect a penalty or link based algo violations, so if that link taint from the home page migrated through the site, and cutting off the home page doesn't take care of it, then you've got link juice rot flowing through your site nav, putting a label of sorts on each of the pages. I don't know, though, that this is happening; and I am in fact looking at worst case scenario for the sake of discussion.

Have you checked whether there's a manual penalty, or whether it's Penguin, which is algorithmic (and in some ways perhaps worse because of Google's desire not to make the update dates clear)?

It's late for me here, and I'd planned to get to bed early, because I have a very full next week. I think you understand most of the link problem considerations, and that your instincts are good. The only really safe way, though, IMO, may be to clear up the linking situation completely, disavow if that's necessary, clean up your act, etc.

If it's an algorithmic situation, you may have a long wait. I'm thinking that...
(a) Google wanted to make this algorithm memorable...
(b) Google is taking forever to straighten it out...
(b) straightening it out quickly may be impossible, as you've got layers of bad stuff that need to unwind like entropy (if it 's even theoretically possible that entropy could unwind). In this case, there's been layer upon layer of compounded confusion and crappy links.

I know I'm leave a lot out in the interest of time.

I can't say right now whether I'd go for Option 1 or Option 2, except to say that I would NOT remove the URLs via the Search Console. That's a separate discussion, but I think long term effects of that would be a disaster. Maybe you could use robots noindex meta in the old sites, but ultimately you'd want to drop it. I'd have to think about the alternatives.

The canonical tag has its own idiosyncrasies, btw, that ought to be discussed.

I myself would keep the author's byline on your pages. Not sure whether he should link to the moved pages if you use the canonical. I have a respect for authors, and I think that Google is developing an awareness, and I would be careful of trying to sweep history under the rugs. I think I'd go the other way, and acknowledge his contribution to your site. In addition to all else these days, you've got him as a named entity, with knowledge graph issues coming if not there already. And I do think, if he really is a known authority, that his name, marked up properly, will be valuable as something like topical PageRank and other "socially" related ranking signals roll out, assuming this hasn't done so to some degree already.

The articles sound fine, but I don't know how Google looks at such transactions. I think they'd respect it more if you keep his name, and gave him an author page. Too bad he swapped links and maybe tainted the situation.
9:08 am on Aug 31, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Robert!

Won't I get into trouble with option 2 by suddenly having 301 redirects from one of the author's sites, and rel=canonicals from another of his sites? It's completely legitimate in this case and there is no manipulation intent on my side involved, however it still feels a little risky to me. Am I overreacting?

No, it shouldn't be an issue any more than a stacked (or even direct) redirect would and I don't see why either of those would be an issue either, except for the technical challenges of getting them implemented by the site owner -- Canonical is just a "poor man's" or "not a better way to do it" redirect, and in this case, from what I've read I really don't see a better alternative.

And, what Robert said: no removal tool.

Note: I don't think you're overreacting, just hearing the FUD Song we all hear sometimes these days.

These links however are only to the home page, NOT to the articles on the domain which I am going to be 301 redirecting to my own site. (I do not plan to make a redirect of the home page, only the articles I'm interested in.)

What Robert said -- I think personally, I'd go a step further than only *not* redirect the old home-page like you're already planning. I'd likely serve a 410 header on it (and throw on a robots noindex,nofollow for good measure, even though it's overkill) to remove it from the results and disconnect the links from it to the articles at the same time, but without actually removing the home page from the site so any type-in traffic could still find the information.

Note: In a recent hangout JohnMu talked about Google *not* counting or using links on a page with anything other than a 200 header for anything, so the noindex,nofollow should be "just an extra", but I'd put it on in case they decide to change their mind or we didn't quite get the whole story (not that that's ever happened before) and for any other search engine that doesn't do things the same way.

Note 2: The way I would likely do it with a 410 header and noindex,nofollow on the home page *will* lose more (all) of the inbound link weight (both good and bad) any of the pages you're moving got from the home page, but I think with the reciprocal links and all the other "stuff" associated with the home page, I'd go with the "safer of the options" by only transferring (301ing) the content and links to the content pages to a new/different domain.
9:14 am on Aug 31, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Robert, thank you very much for such a detailed response, this is invaluable to me.

I still need to digest all of what you said, but my initial thought is that I should do the following (considering that it's the research I'm mostly after):

1) Take the research the author has done, and plot the results using my own software, basically to have "new" graphs.
2) Hire a writer to completely re-write all of the actual content (the words) in the articles. Not just re-write, but do everything entirely from scratch, on my own terms and with my own interpretations of the data.
3) Completely delete the entire content of the bought domain. No redirects, no canonicals. Completely erase the website.
4) Acknowledge the author as the original researcher on my own website.
5) Have the author remove the few "duplicate" articles from his other domain.

I think the above might be a valid option (if you have any thoughts on it, please do let me know). In the meantime I will go over what you wrote above once or twice to see if I can come up with another solution.

Thank you again, good sir.

EDIT:Thank you TMS for your input, too; will have to consider that as well.
6:35 am on Sept 1, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Might be best to check the content when moving it any way since it may be a few years old.

As long as there are some changes there should be a penalty.

I have had a separate issue when I was trying to delete content from Google search rankings and updating the page just made it show up more (I had to resort to the URL removal tool on Google Webmaster apps.)

Also I managed to make my own site disappear from the search rankings just by trying to update the site template, when I changed it back it went back to normal.
7:08 pm on Sept 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Guys, question. What do you think about yet another solution. This time I am thinking more in terms of avoiding a potential "penalty transfer" when a 301 redirect is done from the bought domain to my own website.

Regarding the content I'm planning to move to my own domain: how about I just delete it from the bought domain, but leave the pages up and include a text link informing readers that "This article has been moved to another place - please >>see here<<" and I would of course link to the new location of the article on my own site. The link would be nofollow. The articles in question have direct links to them from multiple sites and I would hate for the people who click those links not to find the content they were looking for.

Would this solution work to avoid transferring a potential penalty over to my main site? How certain should I be about it?

(I just finalized the purchase of this website and installed my own Piwik analytics and soon realized that the site is literally getting 30-40 visitors an hour round the clock from direct links that the articles have built up over the years. It would be a HUGE waste to have all of this years-worth of work disappear only because I was trying to avoid a penalty...)
10:14 pm on Sept 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Question.

There are two sites. One you bought with all the content.
The other is still owned by the creator and not part of the deal.

Are you going to buy the second site, too? If not, how are you going to control that content? And why would the Creator do anything to help you?

Clear that part up first. Then look at all the rest.
10:29 pm on Sept 5, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Hi Tangor,

1) No, I am not buying that other site - it's in a somewhat different niche (if the site I bought is about Apples, the other site is about Fruit Salads).

2) That content has already been deleted from the other site and its no longer present there, so this is taken care of.
3:35 am on Sept 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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You bought it, right?

You are putting it on a different site, right?

You know there might be problems, right?

You're talking about rewriting it, right?

Then what the heck do you need 301s for?

You bought it, you own it, you're going to rewrite it...

What did you buy, BTW.

With all the above, all G will see it new content.

Am I missing something? Or are we talking about having cake and eat it, too?

Or did you just buy the domain name and not the content?

If I am confused re: intent, you can bet G will be as well on a level or two.

If you bought, rewrite it, it's yours, brand new.

Regardless of the years I have spent with this I freely admit to being the bottom 3% as my only concern is MY SITE, not links from sites I have purchased (mostly to KILL them as competition and insert whatever useful content there is in MY SITES). Dang little 301 involved in that. Keeps my site clean, the comp is gone... Just a different way of doing business, I guess. Over the years I have discovered that some of that "link juice" is tainted and that, kiddies, is unwanted.
8:53 am on Sept 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Tangor,

First, I bought a full domain with the content. Now, to explain:

At the moment the 301 is no longer an issue. The thread started out with me wondering about 301 redirects and similar. But after I read what the other commenters had to say, I completely dropped the 301 idea and moved to the "re-write the content, keep the research, put it all on my site, and get rid of the competition by deleting the bought website"

This was the plan, but then I bought the domain and realized from the website analytics (the owner did not have analytics installed so I could not get that info before purchasing, neither did I care at the time as I was only interested in the content, not exact traffic) that the research pages are getting a lot of traffic from various links that have popped up to the domain's content over the years. So now I started thinking:

"It would be a shame to just delete his content completely as all of those visitors who come to this site looking for this research information are going to find an empty website."

From there I got to: "Hmmm, why not do as I planned and re-write the content + put it on my site, but instead of just flat out deleting the content from their website as if it never existed I might put up a note for the readers (not a 301, just text in the body of the page) informing them that this page / content no longer exists, but if they would like something very similar and more detailed then they should check out MyWebsite.com/Page-With-Re-written-Article".

Not all articles would require this though since not all articles from the bought website have links pointing to them that bring traffic - we're talking 10 or so articles out of around 200 total on the site. So my current question is:

Could putting up such notices with links to the re-written articles on my website, on the pages involved (~10), result in some sort of potential penalty of the site in question being "leaked" to my own site, assuming I make these links "nofollow"?

Hope I explained it better now and sorry for confusing you.
10:09 am on Sept 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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hasek747 - Again, rushed late night note. This is pretty much thinking out loud, so please regard it as that.

I think this last version of your plan is the best articulation of it, and I had felt good about your first description of the plan, before it had evolved to where you've gotten it now, which I feel is progress. It's about as thoughtful as this kind of transaction gets. .

From there I got to: "Hmmm, why not do as I planned and re-write the content + put it on my site, but instead of just flat out deleting the content from their website as if it never existed I might put up a note for the readers (not a 301, just text in the body of the page) informing them that this page / content no longer exists, but if they would like something very similar and more detailed then they should check out MyWebsite.com/Page-With-Re-written-Article".

Regarding nofollow links, Google via Matt Cutts has said a number of times 'Googlebot doesn't follow nofollows, even for discovery', and in spite of nofollows being shown in WMT backlinks "for reference", I tend to believe that the nofollow links won't hurt you... but I would establish other traffic sources as well.

I think you would need truly to rewrite the articles, and I trust from the way you've described it that you understand the considerations. The page containing the nofollow link would have to explain in an intellectually acceptable way that you've taken this research further, perhaps explain the changes in methodology, and then present the link. Linking for traffic with a nofollow would, I think, meet all of Google's sniff tests.

In terms of intellectual respectability, somewhere I think you've got to make some comparison with the work that preceded you, and this can get touchy if the guy's a competitor and you've bought him out. But you need to weigh the issues with regard to academic practice of building on previous research vs suppressing it. The question may be as much about perception as it is about Google.

"It would be a shame to just delete his content completely as all of those visitors who come to this site looking for this research information are going to find an empty website."

If you do preserve some old content... and I would consider doing so, enough of it at least that that progression of ideas becomes clear, then content between the link source page on the old site and on your target site would need to be different enough that there is a progression, and no dupe issues for the user. Even if you noindex the old page, I think for the user that a progression of ideas would be helpful.

Also, you may eventually decide to clean up the link exchange issues on that site, and potentially end up owning more than one property in your niche that would be seen by Google. If you do, make great efforts to keep them different, not just in terms of content, but perhaps in terms of purpose. It would be good strategy to keep a hosting separation which might provide additional algorithmic protection... or, you can make the sites obviously different, in which case one might even link to the other.

Also, you need to determine whether there's a chance that any of that traffic you're seeing does come from search, as opposed simply to links and bookmarks. If so, you may not want to noindex the original page... but you would still want to nofollow the link. Perhaps even run tests to make sure your target page isn't seen as spun content of the source page... ie, assuming you do it this way.

One other issue is the whole issue of whether data can be considered content, both in copyright terms and in terms of preventing others from reusing those facts... in other words, how vulnerable to scraping will you be in the future. In this regard, take a look at the thread below, which provides a fairly decent overview of the subject, albeit mixed in with some anti-Google vitriol that perhaps distorts the issue of copyright....

Developing new website - what's the point if Google will scrape your data?
Aug 2015
https://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4762663.htm [webmasterworld.com]

I like the way you're approaching this. Please keep us posted as things develop.
4:19 pm on Sept 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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Thank you for the detailed reply Robert, as always.

In terms of intellectual respectability, somewhere I think got to make some comparison with the work that preceded you, and this can get touchy if the guy's a competitor and you've bought him out.


The person I bought the domain from is a 65 year old gentleman, with whom I spoke over the phone and described exactly, step by step, everything that I wrote here in this thread, before the transaction went through via escrow. Not only is he not feeling competitive as far as I can say, but he literally just told me the following after the transaction took place (and I saved this e-mail to my hard drive, just so I never forget it):

---------
Thank You. I have had offers for THEDOMAIN.com before, but I was not very impressed with the want-to-be-buyers. You on the other hand, run very good content and it was that hard work that you have done, that allowed me to finally give it up. SO, CONGRATULATIONS, HARD WORK ALWAYS PROSPERS.
---------

Additionally I've already shown him the direction I've taken with re-writing his content and interpreting his data, and what he said was basically to the tune of "wish I have thought of that myself earlier, great work." So overall I am completely comfortable that the previous owner of this domain is not going to be the cause of any problems for me, and he is in fact being extremely helpful at the moment and offering to help out with interpreting his research for free. So this is one avenue that I think I don't have to worry about.

But you need to weigh the issues with regard to academic practice of building on previous research vs suppressing it.


The re-written articles (I've decided to re-write them myself rather than hiring a writer) mention the original researcher, including a link to his website. They also mention that the interpretations are all my own and not those of the original researcher. As to the research itself I did not alter it, just represent it much better (his results were listed in dozens of HTML tables that were difficult to read, and I just turned that into interactive javascript Highcharts that are much easier to digest and make it easy to compare the data). I think we should be fine here, too.

If you do preserve some old content... and I would consider doing so, enough of it at least that that progression of ideas becomes clear, then content between the link source page on the old site and on your target site would need to be different enough that there is a progression, and no dupe issues for the user.


The research results have been left unchanged (only plotted on the highcharts chart rather than being placed in tables). Regarding the content, it was 100% written from scratch by me, to the point where you would never be able to consider it a re-write - my version is considerably more detailed and elaborate.

Even if you noindex the old page, I think for the user that a progression of ideas would be helpful.


Ultimately, it's only the users I care about in this scenario. I'm not interested at all in getting any "value" from Google for this transaction. I'm only trying to avoid a potential penalty trickle-through. As such, perhaps I should even consider a complete .htaccess block of the specific pages that will include my link (blocking Googlebot and Bingbot only). I don't want the search engines to have anything to do with this transaction, just want to make sure I'm not punished for something imaginary. So perhaps this is a great solution - there is no need for Google or any search engine to be made aware about the change of the content. Maybe I'm complicating things unnecessarilly, but I'm actually liking this idea more the more I think about it. Readers would be made aware of the article on my site, and search engines would just see a 403.

Also, you may eventually decided to clean up the link exchange issues on that site, and potentially own more than one property in your niche.


Yes definitely. I already own 8 properties in this niche. The newly acquired domain is unfortunately way too hectic in nature and carries all of the "bad qualities" of a pre 2000 website - zero purpose or direction, just a bunch of highly interesting articles (mixed with some not so interesting, I might add).

Basically in my particular niche, there are maybe 20-30 fairly big forums for people highly interested in the main activity related to my niche. Whenever users of almost all of these forums want to recommend some piece of information to someone else, it almost always follows this pattern:

- If the recommendation is for a beginner on the subject who is looking to purchase their first/second product, my website would be the recommended one.
- If the recommendation is for someone highly advanced, a geek who's looking for ANY new info to feed his interest, the website I just purchased would be the one that is recommended.

So my goal was simple: combine the two into one - now I have a "for geeks" section on the site and I think it's a fantastic addition to the whole. As such, I don't plan on growing the acquired website on its own; would be way too much work (the site is 100% HTML, has no purpose, a large portion of the content is completely outdated) and not enough potential for earnings on its own (geeks in this niche tend to build their own products, rather than buy them). Still though, I am going to keep the site up and hope that whatever content there is on it and which I do not plan on moving to my main site will attract some attention - I'll see later on if I should do anything more with that or not.

Thanks again Robert, and would love to hear your opinion if you have one, as always.
7:40 pm on Sept 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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@hasek747

Thanks for the more complete explanation. And Robert, your insights are extremely beneficial on this subject.

With the described intent and actions already taken, looks like a great conversion of data from one site to another is about to take place (and not all can say that).

Let us know how this all shakes out in a few months.
9:38 pm on Sept 6, 2015 (gmt 0)

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joined:July 19, 2013
posts:113
votes: 35


Thanks Tangor, will do! Gonna save this thread and come back to it when the time comes.