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Is one large site worth more than 55 small sites?

     
1:37 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I currently have 55 sites, each with a variety of traffic. The largest has about 5 million monthly pageviews, but the others are much smaller. They're all in the US.

Combined, I have about 30 million monthly pageviews.

My question is, would there be a financial advantage if I merged all of these sites in to one domain, so that a single domain has 30 million pageviews?

If I did it this way then the process would be to park each domain to the primary and then set the "canonical" to the primary domain, but I wouldn't force a 301 redirect... so old links would work just like always, but new ones would go to the primary domain.

I'm not sure if this is relevant, but the 55 current sites are all .COM and the potentially primary domain is a 4-letter .NET that was originally registered in 2001, but I bought it and transferred it to my account a few months ago. The .COM domains include a demographic-specific keyword, but if I move them then keyword.com would automatically redirect to abcd.net/keyword.

I would save some money on marketing, branding a single domain across a larger demographic rather than each of them individually. But I'm mainly trying to determine if I would generate more or less revenue with this change.
3:21 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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park each domain to the primary and then set the "canonical" to the primary domain, but I wouldn't force a 301 redirect... so old links would work just like always, but new ones would go to the primary domain.
Sounds to me like a recipe for disaster. If you can’t bring yourself to pull 55 plugs, isn’t it better to leave things as they are?

Besides, “csdude56” doesn’t have quite the same zip.
4:27 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My question is, would there be a financial advantage if I merged all of these sites in to one domain, so that a single domain has 30 million pageviews?

That won't happen.

The metrics for each are separate. Perhaps a few can be combined and continue, but when you change anything (such as a destination) all kinds of heck will ensue.

You can't actually believe all the existing will culminate into one?

Traffic will be lost left and right, yet, IN THE END, you just might ended up with a REALLY GOOD USABLE site.

IF the 55 sites have anything remotely in common.

What you will REALLY ACHIEVE is fewer headaches, playing games, consolidating your efforts and kicking all those expenses (host costs, you will continue to pay registrations for the domains forever!), and having to put on 55 different hats each time you service a site with content.

What is readily apparent is a dilution of csdude55 ... 55 times. "All About Eve" has nothing on you! :) (joke, look it up ... it's a film)

Spread too thin, particularly if you are a less than 5 shop.

But the real question remains that IF you can actually consolidate all into one, did you spend the last x years playing split personality (sites) for nothing?

Or as lucy24 suggest, keep paying to host/dns fees as long as there's an income and don't rock the boat.

Why?

Every major change we've heard about/discussed at WW has never EXCEEDED the original that was in place before that change. There is no G love in that kind of change. Just keep that in mind.

There is one other consideration ...

Those of the 55 that under perform ... kick them to the curb, recover your time and effort (keep the domain name, never give it up) and change 55-1 ... or 35!

One thing that will benefit the web is sites that don't do well shutting down. (No ugly intended!)

1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 -1 won't make a difference, but it is a start.

This really boils down to REFINE your product. Your Time. Your Effort. Your Assets/Cost. And if you have to ask, pretty sure you already know the answer, just need a kick in the pants to get started. Been there, done that, have the t-shirt ... and the memory of that wake up call. Grateful it continues to haunt me whenever I outgrow britches again.

OP ... the financial advantage is to manage your costs, your resources, and your biz. Do that and you will have won. You won't keep 30m traffic, but the traffic you DO keep will be better, and to the point. REGROUP and RESTART.
4:43 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Okay... looking at the thread title before I leave ... answer is YES. ONE GOOD SITE is better than a bunch of smaller sites.

Caveat: IF IT MAKES SENSE.
5:57 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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You can't actually believe all the existing will culminate into one?

Technically speaking, each of the sites are already identical to abcd.net/keyword. What I originally did was park the domains to abcd.net, and then wrote all of the scripts to read the domain name as a variable. So when you go to keyword.com, you're already getting the results from abcd.net/keyword (which is really a Rewrite of abcd.net/?var=keyword), you just don't know it.

So on my end this would be a relatively easy change, I would simply change the scripts so that all navigation links would lead to abcd.net/keyword instead of keyword.com. And then I would modify the rel="canonical" appropriately. It would take all of 5 minutes on my end.

And the end user should barely notice... when they type in keyword.com everything would be the same, but when they click on a navigation link they would go to abcd.net/keyword. Everything would look the same, just the address bar would change.

(Or I could set a 301 redirect easily enough, if that's important)

I would still need to keep all 55 domains, so I wouldn't save the registration fees or anything... at least, not for several years. Literally the only thing I can think of that I would save on would be marketing costs. But it would make it easier to add new demographics, where I'm currently limited by the availability of the appropriate domain name.

They key is in whether it would result in a higher RPM, lower RPM, or no change. If it would be higher then it's a no-brainer, but if it would be lower then I would have to seriously reconsider. If there would be no change... I dunno.
6:04 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Okay. Horse laugh on me. 55 scripts, not 55 sites.

Never mind. Change the code to one site and go for broke.
6:06 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I suppose that means it is one site split 55 times and some of those pieces do better than others?
7:31 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Imagine this... let's say I have CSDudeTV.com, CSDudeRadio.com, CSDudeComputer.com, CSDudeLaptop.com, and CSDudePhone.com. And when you go to them, they all bring up Device.net, but on the backend the script reads the domain, determines whether the keyword is tv, radio, computer, laptop, or phone, and then queries MySQL to show data relevant to that keyword.

So the user thinks that they're on CSDudeTV.com, but they're REALLY seeing Device.net/tv. But I've been marketing CSDudeTV.com for years and it's doing great, while the others are just so-so.

The debate I'm having is whether to stop hiding it and make all links show that you're on Device.net/whatever, and then market Device.net?

I doubt that it has any real impact on users, although it may have an impact on search engines... but it may be a positive impact since the one domain now has more traffic?

But money is the real question. With a huge drop in revenue over the last few years, I honestly couldn't afford it if this caused even a temporary drop in revenue.

** Note, those are all fake addresses
9:46 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Diversification of risks is key in this business.
For one niche area I had 5 websites working on their own and they made let say 10 USD a day, I decided to 5 into one single site, result: total earning instead of 50USD became 15. Reason: traffic was different.
Clean up your portfolio even if you have to keep only 20 at the end but don't merge in one.
Imagine McDonald would have only one 'restaurant' only in the city.
10:54 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Never change a running system
The whole project (also in your other thread about acquiring a domain name) looks to me like putting all your eggs into one basket.
Keep the demographic specific sites running (idependently) so if one of those loses traffic or earnings, it is not as big a failure as when the big site suffers.
Also you might be able to sell parts of your network
But keep the current structure, if it works.
The newly obtained .net you can use generally marketing purposes that would cover the whole network.
11:22 am on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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These are regional sites, if I remember correctly? One risk might be that people could prefer visiting their region's site as opposed to a generic domain.
2:14 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Diversification of risks is key in this business.

There is something I like to call the "Diversification Fallacy". Diversification comes from finance and economics in general, and more specifically from portfolio theory. Underlying to diversification is that there is some systemic growth occurring with the assets that one is trying to diversify. The goal of diversification is to reduce any risk that is specific to any one asset within a portfolio. The way this is achieved is by selecting assets for which the returns are negatively correlated. That is, on one day asset "A" returns are up and on the same day asset "B" returns are down, on the following day this is reversed, and this cycle continues randomly over time. The fluctuations in returns cancel each other out to some degree, leaving the investor with the returns with mostly the systemic growth.

Diversification comes at a cost, in the form of management and maintenance of the assets. It also requires the mix of assets be readjusted over time. If one is fortunate and one of the assets in the portfolio suddenly sees exponential growth then one is no longer optimally diversified. One may need to add assets, or holdings in already owned assets.

Basically, simply owning a bunch of stocks chosen blindly, or owning many websites does not provide diversification. If all the websites are in one niche it seems unlikely that the returns on those websites would be negatively correlated, to the contrary correlation between them is likely strong.

BUT, But, but! my mother always told me "Don't put all you eggs in one basket" (with wagging finger). She's wrong.
You go to the store and buy a dozen eggs, so to hedge your risk you bring two smaller baskets (instead of one large one). You place 6 eggs in each and begin your walk home. Unfortunately, while walking you trip on your shoe lace and fall to the ground breaking 6 of the twelve eggs. Did having two basket reduce your risk? No. It changed nothing. Now, had you addressed the specific risk of damage from falling, instead of blindly diversifying you carrying implements, you could have purchased a padded egg carton that held the eggs firmly and snuggly padded them. With that one container you would likely have arrived home with a dozen intact eggs.

A portfolio of websites is likely more akin to the egg-basket analogy then portfolio theory, because it would be nearly impossible to select websites based on the correlation of their returns and then it would be even more difficult to re-adjust that optimal selection over time. It would likely be better to address specific risks head on and find risk mitigation tactics instead (like the padded egg-carton). Doing this across multiple websites instead of a single site would likely prove far more costly over time.

A small side note...
Typically when I read statements such as this one made by @Sissi
For one niche area I had 5 websites working on their own...

I don't know whether the following applies to @Sissi given the additional information that I omitted in quote, about not making money, but my following comments are about this type of statement in general. I interpret such a statement as, I built a website for a given niche, it made me good money. So, I built another, and I still made money, and so on... This makes sense, you find a niche that makes you money then you want to take advantage of it as much as possible. Who wouldn't? But this isn't diversification it is in fact anti-diversification. It is an attempt to capture as much of the returns from the niche as possible by exposing yourself to that niche as much as possible. It can work, it can be very profitable, but it comes at with high risk.

Now after poo-pooing all over diversification, let me answer the OP's question.
I would be very reluctant to make changes, as others have pointed out Google is extremely fickle. What you are proposing could have devastating consequences. The risks are high. I think moving to a single website makes sense (see my rant above) but you would need to make the move gradually, one site a time over the span of years.
2:48 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@nickmns
My 'diversification' within a niche is used as an umbrella against SEO updates and other terminator algorithms and it worked well for the last 15 years.

@csdude55
I had the same challenge a couple of years ago, and I'm not talking about 55 websites only. I took the wise decision to further develop ALL the websites in adding more functions and of course contents.

Another reason as to the why I decided to further develop the existing sites, it's because niche is always limited in time and even if you are a trend setter for niche keywords , you will be soon joined by 'followers' who copy your approach and endanger even your SEO ranking. Just in order to ahead of competitors.

At the end it's a complex subject which determines your business model.
9:16 pm on Mar 1, 2019 (gmt 0)

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After a private and some examples, what we have is a tiger and cssdude55 holding the tail. The problem going forward is going to be PR, not seo or traffic or anything else.

It has been built, they have come, and if the intent is to consolidate, then built THAT and then (some time in the future) gradually fold in the least active and work up from there. Keep the domains (must to do redirects for as long as it takes ... usually forever) and build the MAIN DOMAIN from here on out.

Basically, this is a domain collection of "near" names and covering them all. Most folks just buy the names and park them to prevent competition!
12:58 am on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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If it ain't broke, don't fix it. A motto that has served me well most of my life.
1:28 am on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I have owned a number of sites (not quite 55) for 10+ years and have always found that any reconfiguration of structure, domain, canonisation, etc. will cost traffic and money, at least in the short to medium term.

If there's a compelling need for the content to be merged and consolidated, then yes, it should be done. If you're doing it to consolidate traffic in the hope of increasing revenue, I'd say it's very risky.

So I'm in the ain't-broke-don't-fix-it club too.
3:39 am on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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If you're doing it to consolidate traffic in the hope of increasing revenue, I'd say it's very risky.

This is more or less the case. After moving to a separate ad network from Adsense the company revenue has gone up, but we're still in very dangerous waters and just barely staying afloat.

Which is a hard pill to swallow! As far as traffic goes, last year was our second highest in 16 years! But revenue was almost 1/4 of what it was just a few years ago. It seems to be a combination of mobile ads being worth far less than desktop, and and at the same time the value of our desktop ads are going down.

So I'm trying to find ways to increase both pages per session and the RPM. I was hoping that you guys would say that combining traffic to a single domain would make the RPM go up because it would be a relatively easy thing to do on my end :-(
3:49 am on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Not going to happen. All sites, all venues, are experiencing saturation. There's too many "billboards" out there and the advertisers are low-balling everything. All of this is done at machine level in micro seconds and the bidding is done by computers... there's no "flex" left in the paradigm, so all levels are moving to zero.

In your case management of expense is you next most imperative effort ... and if that means consolidation and parking and such, you might achieve a partial correction.

Nothing happy to say ... just reality.
4:36 am on Mar 2, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Cancel the negative by me above ... while all that is true one can work around it by being industrious, seeking out the sides, and keeping it fresh and vibrant. You don't quit, but you can lose heart once in a while and take a nap. When you wake up you start over again. Just know the odds are you will keep working at it forever! And that's not a bad that, just means you will be working at it from here on out.
3:47 am on Mar 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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My original business model, back when, was a hub and spoke model of a number of highly specific niche sites funnelling traffic to an eCom centre. Timing being what it was, AdSense on each replaced the need for an eCom foundation so that site 'to bind them' never got built, leaving me with a ring of smaller sites. And each time I've reevaluated staying many or combining to one I run into much the same concerns already mentioned:
* site architecture and navigation becomes much much more complex and difficult.
* changing what works requires great reasons for doing so.
* SEs would drop the old and have to reevaluate the new with uncertain results over an indefinite period.
* it is easier to achieve several different domains shown in a query result than several from one.
* when selling ad space offering a network of domains can sound greater than a single site even if the numbers are the same. Marketing, eh?

While each niche is different, as is each site, the numbers, as tangor mentions, are a problem. There are more sites competing for an AdSense pie that has been undergoing critical change these past several years. The more one relies on third party networks the chancier it becomes - increasingly those are delivering the bottom ad revenue value. The larger, more affluent, advertisers are white listing display publishers or at least requiring certain site values not shared with publishers who are left wondering what happened to the big money clicks.

Most webdevs' mindset of Google search and AdSense is years out of date.
Most webdevs' business/marketing/revenue model is years out of date.
3:53 am on Mar 3, 2019 (gmt 0)

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btw just to clarify: when I said “recipe for disaster” at the beginning, I was referring specifically to the canonical-without-redirect idea in OP. Either redirect outright, or leave things as they are.
12:57 pm on Mar 4, 2019 (gmt 0)

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Based on my experience in a quite similar scenario I'd definitely keep the 55 sites. Google's site level "score" might suddenly drop, like what happened for many health/finance related sites last year. Better to have a few small sites hit by that, rather than the whole combined site. For Bing/Yahoo, being much less volatile for me, I've found that merging sites make sense and the combined traffic pretty much equals the sum of all traffic from the small ones.