Dumb SEO Questions

(Entry was posted by Cassy Richardson on this post in the Dumb SEO Questions community on Facebook, Thursday, September 6, 2018).

Negative impacts of combining three businesses on one domain

There is a parent organization with one domain (high domain authority), and has two separate businesses (different products, market, customers..though slightly related), each with their own separate website.

I learned today that the client is thinking about combining everything on the main domain. I am not sure if it would be a sub-folder or sub-domain.

What are the possible negative impacts of combining three businesses on one domain, if organized appropriately? Wouldn`t it be better to keep them all separate since they are three separate businesses, but link to each other for a good user-experience?

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Selected answers from the Dumb SEO Questions G+ community.

  • Michael Martinez: There is no simple way to answer your question. From an SEO perspective, the search engine optimization must always support the business decision. That`s really true for all marketing perspectives. Whatever the company decides to do, you have to make it work somehow. So the technical risks come down to planning and implementation. What`s going away? What`s to be added or changed? How will the sites be combined? In my experience you have to look at each step of the migration and assess what is likely to happen based on what is planned. If something goes south you just have to find a way to fix it.
  • Cassy Richardson: Totally agree! This is super early on in the planning stages and I have tons of questions about the motivation behind this so I can help. All of that aside, an initial thought I am having is a subdomain vs a subfolder, if they want to go this route. Do you know or have an opinion on which is recommended if these businesses are different (but are a part of the parent organization - the main domain)? Would a subdomain help better distinguish entities/businesses from each other? The benefits of subdomains include better organization, an ability to capitalize on your brand’s domain authority while building upon its own, and creating a separate entity that is still on brand?
  • Cassy Richardson: Looking at this from solely an SEO perspective, knowing the decision is a business decision ultimately.
  • Michael Martinez: Cassy Richardson I have done it both ways. I usually prefer the URL that is shortest and easiest to remember. But if I need to do something with code or widgets on the sub-section that works better in a standalone Website, I am more inclined to use a subdomain. There is no technical advantage for subdomain or subfolder as far as the search algorithms are concerned. It comes down to what you do with the "host".
  • Perry Bernard: Agree with Michael Martinez, right now, the question is about whether it makes perfect business sense. If it does - then it becomes a project of assessing risk and maintaining as much value as possible, and then also creating a plan to build on the organic position with the new structure. BUT, if decision-makers are not aware of possible impact and they rely on specific organic position - then they need to know the risks before making final decisions on a merge plan.
  • Michael Stricker: Google does regard subdomains as separate entities. Even a tiny factor such as keyword domain can be lost across many URLs, amplifying the loss at scale. Maintenance is often required for each subdomains, and that can nullify any potential savings... separate dbs, certs, pmt systems, all distinct. Then, there’s the cost of migration. Analytics. Tagging. Link recovery. Redirects. What is the point? As Martinez points out, the parent brand had better provide a benefit, in brand awareness, affinity, loyalty, crossover marketing. Usually, it is simply a vanity move to impose the corporate ownership, which adds no value for users or operators, and actually has a cost. Even perfect 301 redirects take time to be recrawled and some SEO value may be shed with each one. Losses may be extremely difficult to recover, especially in competitive spaces. Mover, beware.

View original question in the Dumb SEO Questions community on Facebook, Thursday, September 6, 2018).

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