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I am working with a company that has two company identities, however they have used 1 root domain. In addition, the content for both sites are almost identical (working on separating and fixing this).

So example:
example.com - this is the main company.
lovely-company.example.com - this is a different company that needs to have a different identity to the end users and search engines.

The lovely-company.example.com example is performing now better than example.com due to more back links, traffic, each time the example.com is improved, the lovely-company.example.com is as well so example.com's ranking has depleted and lovely-company.example.com is thriving.

The plan is to separate the identities with two separate urls. So there will be a lovely-company.example.com and example.com. However, because the lovely-company.example.com has such as great ranking for eample.com and I can't keep the domain (as the backlinks to the lovely-company.example.com and audience expectations are related to the lovely-company.example.com company) what should I do with the subdomain?

I'm fearful if I point the subdomain that the SERPs will still deliver and the issue won't be resolved. However, if I do a 301, i'm not sure i'll have any better luck. But for sake of UX, we have to do one or the other.

My last thought was maybe on the example.com doing a robot.txt for all of the lovely-company.example.com pages (lots).

Any help would be appreciated. It's a mess! Thanks for reading.

  • I rather suspect that the branding signals have gotten screwed around backwards over the years and that no matter what you do there will be pain. You will likely still need the sub-domain and selectively redirect old pages to the right place until you can create new back link profiles. Pay special attention to branding signals such as in title tags, about and contact pages, company contact/address mark-up, product pages, and so on. Remove the confusion from these and sort out the links the best you can. This is not a short-term project. I hope your customer can see this! – closetnoc Apr 18 '15 at 0:00
  • Thanks for the message closetnoc. I agree entirely. What do you think about adding robot.txt to all of those walmart.coke.com pages via the coke.com site? Help or hurt more? – Theresa Apr 20 '15 at 12:56
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Not only will you need 301 redirects for about a year, you will also probably need a very simplistic static page with the link after you quit the automatically forwarding for about a year too. Just one sentence with the link to the new url.

  • Rather than creating a "very simplistic static page", you should just keep the 301 redirects in place. That would be easier and more effective. – MrWhite Jan 12 '17 at 19:12
  • @w3dk I have done this exact thing for a very large multinational. If you just 301 it there is no learning for the user. They simply think the site doesn't exist and keep trying to find what they are looking for. The 301 only works if you can move over the content to a similar structure that allows redirects based on the content pages. – blankip Jan 12 '17 at 19:40
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In this sort of situation there is no real best solution, only least problematic. In this instance the least problematic solution that I can see would be to keep the lovely-company.example.com domain for a period of 6-12 months but forwarding all pages using 301 redirects to lovely-company.example.com. This will give a chance for the organic links to rebuild to the new domain. Once that happens you can close down the lovely-company.example.com domain. While the ranking for example.com has gone down based on your question eliminating lovely-company.example.com shouldn't further affect example.com as Google considers the two as separate domains, if anything you may see overall organic linking to example.com improve from the reduction in confusion.

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