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Today on Google's Official Webmaster blog they posted about running multiple sites with similar content, here.

After reading it and looking at the comments I noticed two things. First Google doesn't seem to respond to the great questions people have.

Secondly, this question from Autocrat struck a cord with me:

--- Interlinking mutually owned sites ---

Some people run multiple sites for the same niche, or for highly similar/related niches/terms. They then link between them, bolstering their apparent popularity as well as attempting to increase their relevancy for specific terms via link text.

Where I work they believe there is value in buying many domain names related to its products. They post unique content on each related domain except they reuse .pdf documents. They also include links to our main website and other landing sites.

They use Adword campaigns specific to each domain to bring paid traffic to the site with the hopes of driving customers to the main site.

They have done this for years and it takes a ton of time to keep these sites up. Also, it is tough to measure if we get value from them.

My questions are:

  • Is there really any benefits of having these external landing pages to the site? .
  • Would it be more valuable to move the landing page content to inside of the site?
  • Finally, is there any way to truly measure the value these sites are adding through increased Page Rank on our main site?
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2 Answers 2

up vote 4 down vote accepted

If the goal of the satellite sites is to drive traffic to the main site, which is about the same topic, then there's really no difference between these satellite sites and having landing pages on your main website. They do the same exact thing except now you have additional websites you have to maintain. If you're trying to establish a brand why confuse your users with other names or domains when they can know about your main website/brand right off the bat?

As far as PageRank goes, PR is domain independent is calculated on a per page basis. So whether those pages are on the same domain or not is irrelevant. Any links to your main site's home page, whether from an internal page or external page, will "pass" the same amount of PageRank. As far as affecting your main site's page ranking, I doubt those satellite sites have established themselves as important in their niche (it seems they exist only to receive paid traffic and aren't in-and-of themselves designed to be considered important to anyone but the users driven there by the advertising) and thus links from them won't carry any significant value. Definitely no more then if they were part of the main website.

I have the feeling someone is going to want to mention that links from external sites are worth more then links from internal pages. This is really only true when the external site has established itself in your niche (i.e. ranks well for the terms you wish to rank well for). Otherwise those links from the satellite sites aren't as value as them may seem. In order for them to reach that level you'd need to put a lot of time and effort into them, as mentioned in the blog post you refereed to above, and at that point they've gone way beyond landing page. At that point you'll want that content on your main website to increase its link popularity, etc.

My opinion: if you're having a hard time quantifying the usefulness of these sites then they can't be doing too good of a job of converting users (assuming you are tracking that). That doesn't mean they aren't working to some degree, but considering there are alternatives that can perform just as well but with less work, it may be a better use of resources to fold those sites into the main sites they are designed to funnel traffic to and have your advertising send people to landing pages on the site you ultimately want them to go in the first place. If you run multiple main sites, interlink between them. It's smart SEO and will help your users find what they are looking for anyway.

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Is there really any benefits of having these external landing pages to the site?

If you're building out unique content and building links to the external sites so they in turn become authoritative links that only you're main site has, then there likely is a benefit.

Would it be more valuable to move the landing page content to inside of the site?

This depends on your industry if you are splitting your links across multiple domains then it would likely be better to have all the links pointing to the main site. If you are in and industry where the only links are a handful of directories (or similar) and you can build these to all the sites, then funnel the aggregate value back to your main site then they could be a solid competitive advantage over your competitors.

Finally, is there any way to truly measure the value these sites are adding through increased Page Rank on our main site?

There is no real way to tell how much impact these are having on your rankings because there are too many variables, but a slightly un-scientific method would be to remove all links from one of the sites to your main site for a month or so and see how much your organic traffic drops. If it doesn't drop at all you can remove another one and so on, if it does drop you can look at how much your revenue dropped and then determine it there is a reasonable ROI based on the cost of maintaining the site. (Again there could be a lot of reasons your site drops so depending on the size of the change it may not be a valid test).

Here's some additional data from 2009 that suggests the number of unique linking domains is a better indicator of ranking potential then the sheer number of links: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/lessons-learned-building-an-index-of-the-www

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