This question still roams around the web and we had an old article that was in need of an update. Business owners want to know whether they should distribute their products and services among microsites, or, if they should just have one big site containing it all. Aside from focusing on the user-experience, let’s walk through an SEO argument for each.
Microsites vs. One Large, Authoritative Site
Microsites: for this example, I’ll loosely define microsites as multiple websites created by the same owner based on the same niche. Microsites can include as little as three websites or as many as thousands of websites.
- Having keyword rich domain names.
- Almost immediate rankings (due to specific keyword(s)/phrase in domain and targeted copy in site).
- URL links acquired have more value due to keywords in the domain. This also helps with rankings be achieved easier and faster.
- Potential duplicate content issues if content is similar (just different keywords) across multiple domains.
- Multiple domain registration fees.
- A lot of unique content generation needed per website.
- Possible limitation of ranking for any additional keywords not present in domain name.
- A lot of site maintenance.
- More in-depth site architecture, internal linking and page optimization.
- Higher chances of having a section including frequently updated content (like a blog or news/article section).
- More links pointing to one site or pages on one site, increasing authority.
- Easier to rank for multiple keywords/keyword phrases.
- One domain registration fee plus consolidated site maintenance.
- Less risk of duplicate content issues or being marked as “spammy” by search engines.
- Little risk of site effectiveness being depleted due to ranking algorithm changes. (For example, if search engines stopped giving value to keywords in domain names… then what?!)
- Harder to acquire desired rankings.
- Link building is more difficult without keywords in domain name. [update: see comment section for thoughts on why I initially put link building is more difficult. To better reflect my thoughts, not having a keyword(s) in the root domain in an overall "con" for an SEO campaign. It's not necessary; but would be great if it "made sense" to include.]
- Content creation needed to generate traffic and links.
Which is best?
I will almost always say building one authoritative website is better than having microsites. Not only do I believe that it’s better for search engines, but more importantly, it’s usually better for the user. As always, there isn’t one answer that fits all businesses and business models.