I see it a lot: entrepreneurs who have a primary website for their services, then a whole ‘nother website for a specific course or offer. Some folks even build an entirely different website just for their podcast show notes! And while there’s absolutely a benefit to having multiple sites to promote your business—and there are some circumstances that I recommend it!—it’s not a tactic that I recommend for a new entrepreneur. Here’s why:
Quick SEO advice: Please don’t start another website for your business.
SEO is like a flywheel; it takes a while to get started, but it gets some momentum, it can start to pick up speed on its own. And running multiple different sites (and trying to do SEO for all of them) probably feels like spinning plates.
You don’t need a new website for a different offer or audience, because you could compete against your own SEO
The first time I came across this issue was Terri Burke, a photographer in Lewisville, NC. Terri had 3 different types of photography: families & pets, small businesses, and photography classes.
Obviously, each of these audiences has different goals & pain points—families want photos for walls & Christmas cards, small businesses want them for websites & social media, aspiring photographers want posing tutorials & lightroom presents—so Terri had 3 different websites, one for each audience.
So I looked at what each website was ranking for. The family/pet photography was ranking #13 for “lewistown NC photographer” and the small business branding site was ranking #32 for the same keyword. That might seem great to have both sites ranking, but I saw this and thought, “They’re competing against each other!”
By splitting the sites, Terri was also splitting the content. Instead of having one big site, she had 2 sites with 1/2 the posts each. By consolidating the sites and creating 3 specific, clearly demarcated categories (families, pets, and businesses), she could let every post create a holistic overview of her craft. (Plus, I convinced her that the audiences might not be that different — the photographers who did all my business photography are the same team who take all my family photos. There’s definitely some potential for overlapping demand!)
Then we discussed whether or not to leave her photography trainings as a separate site or roll them under her photography services site. I suggested rolling it into one place, for two reasons:
- Terri sometimes does local photography classes, so establishing her location could help sell those classes, and
- The topic of the course is the same as the service. If she were teaching accounting, I’d tell her to split the sites, but since she’s teaching photography, I want potential students to be able to view her portfolio to believe she knows what she’s doing.
Do I need a new website for a course?
My friend Cami has two websites: camillefarey.com for her done-for-you web design services, and simplesiteblueprint.com, for her DIY Squarespace web design course. This delineation worked really well for Cami … until it didn’t.
Cami was primarily driving traffic to her course website through webinars, so she didn’t want people who were learning about her course to have to spell her name, or to get distracted by her services when she was only trying to sell her course. Having the course name as the primary factor worked really well for her.
But after a while, Cami wanted to start creating content to gain more organic search traffic, so she asked me, “Which site should I post my blogs on?”
So obvs I looked at their SEO profiles … Oof. Not an easy answer.
The domains were neck-and-neck: camillefarey.com had more relevant keywords, simplesiteblueprint.com had more backlinks, because people had been linking to that page more from podcast interviews & resources pages.
So we talked about what she wanted to blog about … if it was Squarespace-specific, post on SSB; if it was more about general web design & business, go for CF … and she’s started to post & get some traction on CamilleFarey.com
Was that the right advice? Probably not. SSB had more backlinks, so it would have picked up steam a bit faster … but if she ever shuts down SSB, she’ll always be Cami Farey.
What would I suggest instead? Don’t start a second website. Cami was splitting her SEO strength between two sites. She had some cross-linking so the sites are helping each other a little bit … but the differing links were diluting all her hard work.
If you have a specific course or offer you want to promote, instead of two websites, I suggest you create the sales page on your existing site, set it to full page (so it doesn’t have headers/sidebar/footer), and then direct your vanity domain directly to that URL.
That’s what I’ve done with attractandactivate.com — instead of creating a whole new website just for that course, I built the sales page at loveatfirstsearch.com/attract-activate. I can easily rattle off the simple domain on a podcast or put it in my email signature … but all the links & traffic coming to that page is still coming to LAFS, so I can gain all the benefits of having a separate site, without needing to maintain/promote two different websites.
How will a separate website for my new podcast impact my SEO?
I’ve got a secret: Podcasting is one of the more efficient (& fun) ways to get high-quality backlinks that will infinitely help your SEO.
A lot of people think that because podcasts are audio and can’t be crawled, they might not be as useful for SEO as a blog post … but they forget about the value of backlinks.
Every podcast you record helps the rest of the content on your website get found more easily. So creating a whole new website for your podcast? Kinda undermines all the work you’ve put into your website.
So is it ever a good idea to have multiple websites?
My client Nancy has 3 businesses:
- Principal at Ruzow Graphics, a small graphic design firm
- Founder at Creatives Roundtable, an online community for creative business owners
- Co-Founder at Fly Female Founders, an in-person networking & training group for women entrepreneurs in NYC
In this case, each of Nancy’s businesses has a different goal for a different audience. The in-person networking for Fly Female Founders wouldn’t be appealing for people in who aren’t in New York City. Her design clients might not be interested in her creative community building.
These aren’t just overlapping offers … they’re totally different businesses, with different of audiences. In this case, I highly recommend separating different businesses (but cross-linking the About pages so people get a fuller sense of who you are and what’s important to you).
One last question to ask yourself before you start a new website for your business:
Why do I think I need a new website? Is my current website living up to it’s potential? (Ok, that’s two questions, my bad.)
Tough love: Sometimes I see people starting new websites, not because they need one, but because they’re bored with the old one. And they think a new one will be easier!
If you’re nodding your head in recognition and shame … I feel ya. I’m an Enneagram 7 (“the Enthusiast”) so I’ve been known to leap into new projects because I feel tired or bored or uninspired. Shiny object syndrome is real, and I’ve got a stash of purchased-but-unused domains to prove it. (But I SWEAR I’ll find a way to use donthateyourmarketing.com!)
Hard truth: Every post you publish on your website has the potential to increase the search power of everything else, like a rising tide that lifts all boats. The more high quality you create, the easier it is for everything to improve. So if you’re getting burnt out on your current marketing plan, take a break … but don’t ignore all your hard work and burn it down, just because you’re tired of it.
So if your new website plan is for a related offer to what you already sell or who you already serve … consider building that on your existing websites, tweaking your sitemap plan, and sending your custom domain to a page of your site instead of building out a whole new entity.
And if you’ve got a brand new unrelated opportunity on your mind … make sure this is something that will either grow your business brand (like Maureen’s education thought leadership podcast, that can shine a spotlight on her school) or fulfill a personal passion. (Because sometimes we need to be creative without trying to monetize it. But that’s a post for another day.)
If you’re not sure if you need a second website? Pop into the Love At First Search facebook group and share your situation. You’ll get some tough questions & honest feedback to help make the right decision (before you spend hours and big bucks on a new site that isn’t helping your bottom line).