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I have a publisher who houses all their books on a main website. They have an imprint for a line of specialty books, and are proposing a new website for the imprint and its books to allow for unique branding and marketing efforts. However, they would like to maintain the books from the imprint on the main website as well, so books that fall within the imprint would exist on two different websites.

Is it a reasonable approach to have a second website for the imprint, or should I encourage them to keep everything on main website instead?

If having a second website is reasonable, here are my main concerns and questions:

  • Purchasing Options: The main website has a shopping cart and checkout process. Putting aside implementation time and cost for adding purchasing options to a second website, if someone is browsing a book on the imprint website and wants to purchase it, what's the ideal call here solely from a structural/organizational/SEO perspective: keep them on the imprint website, or redirect to the main website?

  • SEO: I'm concerned that two pages promoting the same book will fight each other for search engine ranking, and I'm struggling to wrap my head around what content to include on each website. If I include all available information on the main website, then I have no unique content left for the imprint website. But if I split the available content between both websites, then I feel like I'm weakening the main website. How should I approach content creation and usage here?

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From an SEO perspective, keeping everything on a single website is preferable to duplicating content. You're correct that having two separate websites promoting a single book means those two sites are competing; that you shouldn't have identical product details on two websites; and that leaving some information off the "main" website weakens its authority.

From a user experience perspective, having everything on a single site simplifies several things. One, if you're up front and clear that this is an "imprint of" the parent publisher, it removes any concerns a user may have if they go to an imprint website, want to buy the book, and have to go to a separate (and differently-branded) website; they may think they've either just been sent to a generic e-tailer (thus they can go to any book from any website online, so they may default to their usual preference for buying books) or they may have difficulty adjusting to the completely different top navigation and cart, and then difficulty finding other books specifically from the imprint they're interested in.

Structurally I would suggest example.com/imprint for each imprint. That URL would basically be a "homepage" for the imprint, which explains "this is an imprint of X publisher". You can then have imprint-specific navigation underneath a global navigation bar; you have one shopping cart for any imprint of the publisher; but it's also really easy for visitors to find similarly-themed books by visiting the imprint's homepage. You also eliminate any duplicate content concerns, and all of the content strengthens the publisher at example.com regardless of which imprint people are buying from. And finally, you give additional visibility: if a visitor may be interested in other topics from other imprints, you've also clearly indicated they're on basically a sub-section and there are lots of other books that can easily be found, increasing the potential for cross-sales.

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