One Big site or many sites?

Russian DollOne of the questions I came across  in 2004 that many of us do at one point or another is whether to expand your main large site, all eggs in one basket, or to branch off into lots of smaller sites.

The views SEO wise have actually changed from what I have read quite a bit over the last few years, I reached the point where my tattoo site was doing well but I wanted to add on a rate my tattoo area where users can upload their own images and vote on them. A good way for user submitted content and let the site grow.

The first Strategy
During 2004 there were a lot of us trying link networks to help generate backlinks and subsequently there was a lot of talk about sites disappearing from the serps overnight and as always a lot of scare stories, the consensus was not to put all your eggs in one basket in case your site disappeared from Google, so more than one site was the way to go.

I guess looking back it was one of many wrong moves on my part where you can get more caught up with rankings, hearsay, half stories and pleasing search engines rather than remembering to focus on what you want for your site and your content. For a while I ran the rate my tattoo on its own domain and it grew well until I came to the conclusion that it was always planned as an addition to my existing site and I felt weakened by always trying to send traffic to a few different domains for different parts that were all very much related.

The backtrack
ConfusedBy 2005 I had merged the rate my tattoo site back into my main site, thus strengthening it’s overall position and it then benefited from the overall natural backlinks and increased content and eventually become a much larger, stronger and much more successful website than the sum of its parts would have done individually. Content is king and all that.

The talk was then all about how one larger site is better! 
You can become an authority if you build one big website!

The conclusion
To be fair I wish I had stuck to my guns initially, rightly or wrongly I am much more in favour of one larger website which helps it gain it’s authority status if done well with a few main important areas inside it. There are a few exceptions now where I develop into smaller websites if I can offer related products or services which perhaps don’t fit in with the main theme or perhaps a mini site which being viral is easier to link to on its own domain as its look less commercial. For the most part I now prefer to build a larger site that can cover a topic well and in depth without worry about sending traffic from website to website.

Having one large website does lend itself to worry and what if’s, today I don’t use any spammy link building tactics, the sites are generally very naturally link worthy and that gives me the confidence to stay on one domain for a larger site, I have also worked hard over the last 2 years to increase traffic sources so that I am not reliant on Google but it’s hard when an engine like Google can send thousands and thousands of visitors to your site every day, no matter what I do, if that ever stops I will feel it, but I will survive.

About Scott Jones

Scott hails from the north east of Scotland and started earning online at the end of 2000 building websites for local businesses during which time he won an award from Lord Alan Sugar for Excellence in Enterprise. After having quite a bit of success with domaining Scott mainly runs educational evergreen websites which generate over 3 million visitors per month but is always on the lookout for a fresh thinking out of the box way to turn a buck. Follow on Twitter.

Comments

  1. I used to try my best to keep around 50 sites updated with product feeds etc…. taking care of every aspect as a one man band…. what a nightmare it was…

    Now I just take care of two of the most profitable ones and am making a really good job of them.

    Far better to have one or two great sites, than lots of half hearted ones.

    • The workload can mount up quickly can’t it, I was the same Brad, last year I had a good clear out and sold a lot of time consuming and poor paying small stuff to concentrate on the main one’s.

      • From what I have seen as well that if traffic does drop on your main “big” site, then it does come back afterwards. Sometimes nothing is needed and you just carry on updating daily as usual. I found once that I had some duplicate content and had to filter out some stuff with robots which also recovered from a traffic drop.

        I think as long as you have a quality site then you will be ok generally. A few road bumps happen but all smooths out again.

  2. The Phoenix says:

    I noticed that the main difference between a large site and a mini-site is that the last one doesn’t need to be updated to begin with.

  3. I have noticed a number of tattoo related sites for sale over at SitePoint recently, and I thought of you! Are you going to be picking any of them up?

    I earn almost all of my online revenue from my main site – I don’t think there is anything wrong with this so long as your income streams are diversified and you are not relying on one traffic source.

    – Martin Reed

    • I have seen some as well Martin, nothing really tasty that’s tempted me but always open to new purchases, I have a few tattoo sites covering the basics and I started one with Al that’s more social networking. The good thing about having one large site is you can then launch small sites boosting traffic to quickly see if they sink or swim 🙂

  4. I too have tried to run multiple sites only to have it go down in a blaze of fire.

    One thing that I have found multi-sites to be good for is determining what niches are more profitable and which I have an interest in maintaining. Sometimes it is good to start several sites and then dump the losers instead of hanging onto them because that’s all you have.

    • Very true, I’ve got a bunch of smaller sites and have found a couple that have performed much better than expected, so I’m currently working on a much bigger site based off of one of these niche sites.

  5. I’m leaning towards having a couple of ‘main’ sites with several non-maintenance mini-sites.

    Lately i’ve barely had the time to do anything with my online ventures due to other work and personal commitments.

    Certainly several of my sites have been consigned to non-maintenance mode.

  6. Good to see another perspective on this age-old question. Thanks!

    15 Minutes to Riches!’s last blog post..Information Overload Will Eat Your Brain

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