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My question is two-fold, but first, a short background. I have a client that is a regional franchise for a service company and each physical site has its own domain and the main "corporate" physical site has its own domain as well. They each, as independent owners, also have completely different looking websites. They have since decided to have all physical sites (including corporate) websites to have the same look. They have also realized that probably 90% of the website pages will have the exact same information on them. The other 10% will basically be staff bios, pictures of their individual physical sites, and maybe some events that are exclusive to their own physical site.

  1. From an SEO standpoint, does it make more sense to ditch all of the domains and just keep the single corporate site which holds all of the company wide info and then have the ability to show site exclusive content just as a function of normal site navigation? Or should each domain website look 90% identical, 10% exclusive and provide links either to all sites or only back to the corporate site? One point I'm considering is if corporate is in Town A and someone searches google for the search terms we've optimized, but they add a geo location of Town B (in which a franchise physical site exists) which is 30 miles from Town A, would we benefit from having multiple domains, each having it's own place page and it's address on each page of the site?

  2. Ok, hopefully #1 was relatively clear. If we opt for multiple domains with 90% same content and 10% exclusive, what is the best way to architect this so I don't actually have to build and, inevitably, update nearly the same site 10 times? I would think that keeping identical content on the corporate domain and exclusive content on each franchise domain would be, theoretically, the best route but I'm really not sure how to go about doing that. I'm using PHP5 and have written my own, very small framework.

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2 Answers 2

  1. Yes. See comments below.
  2. Any MVC pattern that includes a templated view, will get you to that 'skinnable' place. I'd suggest looking at the way WordPress ships its content, because it's using mod_rewrite to be optimally SEO friendly as far as URLs go. The way PHPBB provides pseudo-templates (pre-compiled and cached) is cool, as well. If performance becomes a serious issue, I'd highly recommend Blitz, otherwise something easier like Smarty.

More regarding SEO... I will note that you will really want every url to go to unique content, or you will end up suffering a relevancy penalty in the page analysis done by search engines. Really, I'd suggest consolidating everything and only linking to the other sites/domains where there is unique content offered, even if that's just comments. You want to pull as many things relevant as possible in one place, and keep it fresh as possible. Things like user comments/reviews/ratings help auto-freshen content and help re-invigorate keywords over time, provided you have an active user base.

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Good info, thanks. One thing that you mention that I'm not fully understanding is the relevance penalty. Within acme-corporate.com, all pages WILL have unique content and within acme-sitea.com all pages will also have unique content. However, acme-corporate.com/our-company will be identical to acme-sitea.com/our-company. Are you saying that search engines will recognize that acme-sitea.com is 90% identical to acme-corporate.com and penalize both domains (in my case, about 10 domains)? –  heath Dec 2 '10 at 22:50
    
Duplicate content is a bad idea. Meaning: you will eventually be not listed, or suffer a big ranking penalty. I say it's a bad approach to try and do what you're saying. You should keep the sub-content on separate sites, with links to them from the main corporate site. There's a lot of shady pretender "SEO" outfits with bad advice, so my recommendation is to go straight to a source such as Google for tangible advice. –  zanlok Dec 2 '10 at 23:01
    
Thanks, zanlok. Your duplicate content link cleared it up for me -- I wasn't aware of that penalty. I appreciate your time and will definitely take your advice and give the Google link a serious read. –  heath Dec 3 '10 at 7:13

The very basic rule is that each single one of your pages must have at least 50% unique content. You can do either your solution or disallow indexing of duplicate pages (using robots.txt or noindex in your meta tags).

You can use WordPress for managing multiple website - this is very convenient since WordPress and WordPress MU were merged. The way I imagine it would require a bit of hard-coding.

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