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I have a customer who has a place at the beach with restaurant, weddings area and the beach itself. He asked me from seo aspect if it will be better to have one domain with 3 minisites. Or 3 sites on 3 different domains?

If it should.be under one domain could it be harder to rank higher with the ministes, each on its own keyword? Or should it be easier, since the overall site is larger? Are there any other aspects to consider?

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Generally mini-sites commonly referred to microsites in the SEO scene have been hit pretty hard by Google in the past year or more. Many webmasters were creating websites in the 100's and 1000's at a time and making more sites to dominate the results, it got to the point where it needed to be addressed and Google introduced the Panda update which one of the updates included clamping down on thin content based micro sites. Another linked in factor was that people was using EMD (Exact Matching Domain).

But this is not to say your sites will be hit if you take quality steps to ensure that all text is unique and contains relevant and quality content, there are many 1 page sites that rank just fine and 1 page sites are on the increase at the moment.

Catering for your audience

In all honesty I stand by catering for the audience and believe in creating a renowned brand, for example if he divided his hotel into separate sections it will likely to confuse customers and make the brand weaker, if its a hotel and all under one name then it becomes more of a solid brand which in long term not only on the internet but in the real world too will become more reputable within the local area and as well as nationally.

Breaking down the niches may have fast results but long term branding with triumph any day over microsites, Google wants branding and less keyword focusing - Panda is only going to get harsher.

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I've been studying this issue myself lately. Bybe's advice regarding not confusing visitors and building your brand-identity is good. See this for more on that: Matt Cutts on Microsites

I don't think you'd be penalized however for just three sites linking to each other, especially if they contained different (non-duplicate) content and keywords. Backlinks between the three sites might help to increase your PageRank, if the links contained anchor text with relevant keywords. See this for more: Matt Cutts: Linking multiple sites

Since this is a local business (i.e., not a global retailer), having three sites might help you to market each one independently, while benefiting from cross-marketing. In other words, you can market the beach to beach-goers and then supply ads for discounts at the restaurant. Or market the restaurant to potential diners and include a brochure about weddings... Segmenting helps you build a customer base among those already looking, while cross-marketing gives you a warm introduction to other services/products.

So in short, it's really whether you want to segment and target your marketing efforts, or consolidate all three into one. In any case, I don't think SEO-wise you'd be negatively impacted with just three sites versus one. But there are significant considerations like having to build and manage separate sites.

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I will reply to only a single part of your question since I don't have the SEO experience the others seem to have.

Are there any other aspects to consider?

A few years ago I built a website for a local BBQ restaurant. After about a year they decided to do some shuffling and changed the BBQ restaurant to a Bar & Grill, bought a building in another city and made it a catering hall, and opened a food truck in another area. Since each part of his business was in different areas and was slightly different, but still selling similar products/services, this is what I did.

I modified the original BBQ restaurant content and added a separate discrete site navigation to each page that would take you to the respective page of the other part of the business. The idea behind this was that the Bar & Grill held the original design to not confuse customers due to the change. The Catering site was much cleaner and focused on formal events, but still had a couple similar design qualities as the Bar & Grill (i.e. - similar background and navigation). The food truck site was had a very similar design to the Bar & Grill but was better able to work on mobile devices.

We kept the original domain pointing to the Bar & Grill website since that is what they were known for and how we expected customers to search for them. We expect this because of our naming convention. For example, Robert's Bar & Grill, Robert's BBQ Mobile, and Robert's BBQ Catering & Banquet Hall. The legal name, using the fake example name, was Robert's BBQ but each of the others was a dba (doing business as) to try and separate each but keep them together.

I hope this helps and doesn't confuse!

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+1 Good example, and nicely done. Local establishments need to be thought about a little differently than regional/global enterprises. What you did here was on par with the segmenting and cross-marketing I was discussing. And keeping the tie-in between the names was good cross-branding. SEO is helpful to know, but having good business-sense is invaluable too, especially for local businesses. –  dan Jun 17 '13 at 7:59
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