Why microsites aren’t always ideal for SEO
Microsites have their uses, but columnist Janet Driscoll Miller argues that they can often create unnecessary headaches for search engine optimization professionals.
The question of whether or not to utilize microsites is an interesting topic of discussion for SEO.
On the one hand, microsites allow organizations to segment information and focus a site clearly on one topic. For instance, it’s not uncommon for an organization or association that hosts conferences to have a separate conference-focused website for registration and information aside from the main organization website (as Search Engine Land does with the SMX conference site). Or, if you own several car dealerships, you may want or need to have a separate website for each dealership location.
There are definitely times when having separate sites makes sense from a brand perspective. But there are also several reasons you may want to reconsider splitting your website into multiple microsites. Following are some potential SEO issues that can result from implementing microsites.
Since the original Google algorithm patent, inbound links have been an important ranking factor. So, how can they be affected by microsites?
Imagine you own a restaurant and have several locations. For example, we have a local restaurant in Charlottesville named Guadalajara with four locations. Each restaurant has the same menu. Do you need a separate website for each location, such as Guadalajara Pantops and Guadalajara Downtown?
In situations like these, I advise clients against using separate websites if possible because it can split and dilute the inbound link value. Just as the quantity and quality of links to an individual page is important, overall quantity and quality of links to the domain is also important.
If the sites are separated, they are working as two separate websites, essentially competing with one another in Google search results. If they are on one website, they are working together in Google search results.
With a single site, there are more inbound links pointed to the one domain, as opposed to splitting those links across multiple domains. In this scenario, ultimately the single site works better for SEO.
It’s tough to really know what Google’s perceived authority for a site on a particular subject is. But what we do know is that Google values and looks for content along a similar vein as part of determining authority.
For example, if I have a blog and write almost exclusively about cats, but then one day have a random post about traveling to Paris, it can be assumed that Google would likely see my website as an authority on cats before it would consider my site an authority on Paris.
In this case, the Paris content and the cat content are very different — not even related to one another. The audiences may even be different. So, if I were planning to add more Paris content, it might make sense to have two different blogs: one that is a travel blog about Paris and a separate one about cats. Each can become its own authority on its own subject.
But what if the topic is closely related? For example, let’s say that I have a blog that features posts about cat nutrition and dog nutrition. The site could be considered by Google authoritative as a resource for overall pet nutrition because these are similar topics. In a case like this one, I wouldn’t recommend necessarily splitting the site into two separate sites because the categories/topics are related and can still likely be an authority in Google’s view.