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how bad is this?

gray / black hat SEO practise



9:02 am on Jul 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

a client of mine has a nice cms powered site, 5+ years old with content that scores quite well with the search engines. they get 75% of their new clients through the site and the nature of their business means they can only accept clients from outside of europe (they are based in europe), so the audience is truly international and their site is vital to their business.

they now want me to create an additional 20 1-page websites, each with a different domain name that basically consist of the template of their main site (same logo, navigation & sidebar) filled with different content. any links users will click, for example in the main navigation will lead to their principle site.

assuming they sell all kinds of widgets and their principle domain is widgets.com, the additional sites will have domains like red-widgets.com, large-widgets.com, etc. - aimed at more specific niches within their area of business.

i see this as a not very kosher SEO tactic that confuses the users. they are determined to go ahead with it since they "know a guy who does this with great benefits to his company". it seems they see this as a cheaper way to boost SEO, rather than optimising their existing content more, putting out press releases, etc.

how bad is this actually and what might the results be in the long term?


1:27 pm on Jul 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've been doing just that for many years without any comeback and it generates a good number of sales. I don't see it as black hat personally because I'm targeting key phrases with key content which gets lost in the sea of the main site. Having a more focused micro site enables me to target those areas better.

The downside is if you start this from scratch now allow many, many months before you see the benefits. There are simply too many long standing sites to compete against for a new comer so the process is much longer and slower than the old days.

The key point is you don't duplicate any content. My sites expanded more deeply on existing content and no wording is the same on any site. It makes the initial creation a lot slower but it's a lot safer.


1:42 pm on Jul 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Seems to me that what your client is trying to do is to manipulate the volume, quality and relevancy of links pointing to the main (mother) website and to try to gain some value for keyphrases within the domain names.

Having the same navigational system may hurt the effort only because of the large number of times he wishes to duplicate it. If it was three or four times it would be safer.

The question about whether this is greyhat, blackhat or whatever is answered when you wrote "...filled with different content...". By different, it cannot be just replicated, mix mashed same old stuff. it must be indisputably unique content, maybe all saying the same stuff but in substantially innovative ways.

So, in spite of the navigational system/linking structure being identical and probably overdone (20 domains) and because you are implying that the content will be different, it should pass the search engine as not being mirrored sites but you'll know and I'll know and the client will know that in fact it is.

Judgement by the court: grey hat. Good luck with it though and try to convince the client to let you recreate each domain using a unique template and here's a great opportunity to try out various manners to throw the links around.

Go to my blog and read up on "Keyphrase Dynamicability" and "Anchor Congruency".


2:17 pm on Jul 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

There is another plus to this. I wanted to test new designs for my main site so I created a lot of new ideas in the micro sites and watched the bounce rates, page views and time on site. From these templates I took the best bits and I managed to get the main site to below 15% for bounce rates and increased sales by 20% so that was a very nice plus ;-)


2:33 pm on Jul 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

thanks for your replies

the content will be 100% unique. the client has staff available to produce this and they know their business well.

i dont think the navigation itself will be seen as dupe content. incoming links are a bonus to boost PR, even though it will indeed take a long time before the external sites get PR IF they will get it at all.

the main reason is to generate more business, to cast a wider net.

seems like it wasnt that bad of an idea after all.