The Main Question is This (details follow below): Is it better to go with individual domain names for the various niches of a company's focus, or is it better to put it all under one domain?
I'm working on strategizing a new, rather large evolution of a site for one of my clients and am trying to figure out the best plan of attack from an SEO/SEM/Branding perspective. They are a rapidly growing personal wellness company that we are planning on implementing a new Wordpress Network for. The network is essentially to help them keep their site(s) and content well-organized as they prepare for growth over the next several years.
- Physical Location — the main studio they do classes, events, and workshops out of
- Training — they have a personalized training curriculum that students may get certified through
- The Icon — the individual who created the system and has a specific personal following and products independent of the training/studio
- Events — events for the physical location (which will be expanding into multiple locations soon) as well as retreats/events/workshops with The Icon
The plan regardless of what we choose for the url structure is that each of the above 4 niches are going to be separate sites within the WP Network. As they expand, it will help them keep the various content niches organized and separate from each other. The debate however, is whether to go with individual domain names for each of the 4 niches or if we go with a sub-folder installation:
primarydomain.com primarydomain.com/training/ primarydomain.com/the-icon/ primarydomain.com/events/
primarydomain.com primarydomaintraining.com theicon.com primarydomainevents.com
The Problem: Brand Protection
One of the biggest factors in this decision is a matter of brand protection. Traditionally speaking, I would've went with one domain to have a tremendous amount of content under one domain and reap the search engine benefits.
However, the name chosen for this brand has been independently chosen by another company (both around about the same length as each other and developed independent of one another) in a different part of the world and it is causing a rather bit of confusion right now in the digital space.
My thinking was that extracting the sites into separate domains would allow us to grab up brand name targetted keywords. That being said, the "training" site is going to change very little in coming years as it's just a matter of adjusting dates to show the "new" start dates... the rest of the content will basically remain stagnant which doesn't bode well for the search engines.
Design — Regardless of which way we go, the plan was to have the exact same design on all of the sites (primary navigation items change as you move into the sub-folders/sites). The only thing that might change if we go with individual domains, beyond the aforementioned nav items, would be a slight change in part of the text of the logo to reflect the change to the individual sites (and of course the domain url).
Cost — Having the same design eliminates however the "cost" factor that most articles put against microsites... everything is going to be looking the same. In addition, the "site" will be maintained the exact same regardless of what the "url" looks like.
Does anyone think the brand protection payoff (as far as Search Engine results are concerned) will be large enough to warrant having individual "domains" for the site?
I'm still learning towards sub-folders and massive loading the single domain within the search engines, but wanted to get some thoughts and feedback before we move into the deeper strategy aspects and finalizing a plan of action.