Can One Website Meet the Needs of Multiple Niche Target Markets?

by Sherryl Perry on December 1, 2010

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I was recently approached by a gentleman who was interested in having a website built for him. As we started our initial consultation, I commented that his domain name was somewhat generic for the product that he was building the site for. Upon further discovery, I learned that the site name was intended to cover a broad market that he had long term plans of reaching. One of his goals was to segment his market by the different ways people like to learn. He had no idea how to accomplish this. (Which is why he had come to me in the first place.) So, what did we plan?

Different Target Customers = Different Landing Pages

Some of you may have read the article that I posted about segmenting your website using targeted landing pages with content designed to reach different customer segments. In the example that I used, there were two distinct customer markets. Each market had different needs. Therefore, I wanted to tailor the content around the different benefits to each of the niches. For example, a benefit to the “professional” photographer was to add a new service to an existing business. A benefit to the “amateur” photographer was to easily start a new business. What if you need to create more than a simple landing page? How can you set up a section of your site dedicated to a specific niche or dedicated to your blog?

Sub-Domains & Sub-Directories

There are two easy ways to segment a website. One is to use sub-domains and the other is to use sub-directories. Let’s pretend for a moment that I wanted to take this site and start blogging for large corporations. (I don’t.) I wouldn’t want to reserve a new domain name and build another site. One of my goals would be to drive more traffic to this site not dilute my traffic. My two choices would be:

Simple! The next step is to create a “home” page in the sub-domain (or sub-directory) for people to “land” on when I direct them there. For those of you who have a separate blog and are thinking of incorporating it into your main website, this technique would work for you. (Instead of the word “Corporate”, you could use the word “blog”.)

Hope this gets you thinking about your website. Do all your potential customers have the same needs/wants or would you be better off segmenting your site to better meet the needs of your customers? Are you already using sub-domains or sub-directories on a website?

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Carlo St. Juste Jr., L.Ac
Twitter:
July 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Thanks Sherryl, been contemplating about this for the last few months and now I have a better idea in terms of what direction I want to go. I think sub-domains are great, as I have one currently for my blog. Enjoy the day!
Carlo St. Juste Jr., L.Ac recently posted..Why Ginger Is On The Top Of My Herb ListMy Profile

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
July 1, 2012 at 5:28 pm

Carlo, One thing to keep in mind is that search engines consider sub-domains to be separate entities. Therefore, “links to the sub-domain wouldn’t be counted in total domain inbound links, whereas links to a sub-directory would be counted in total domain inbound links.” (Thanks to Tia Peterson for pointing this out in an earlier comment that she left.)

If total traffic isn’t a high priority (for example your intention isn’t to build a site to sell or you don’t hope to attract advertisers), that’s probably not an issue but it’s definitely a factor to be aware of.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Do you Brand Yourself, Your Company, or Your Product on Social Media Sites?My Profile

Lilia
Twitter:
September 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Thank you for the post, it it is very informative.

Unfortunately, there is a popup social media sharing widget that appears on top of the text, not on the edge of the page as is customary and prevents reading the complete text of the blog.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
September 17, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Lilla,
Thank you for letting me know about my “Sharebar” plugin. There’s an issue with my theme and Internet Explorer 8. I just tried a fix for it. If you’re reading this, would you be so kind as to check my blog again to see if my widget is still on the text? Thanks so much.
Sherryl
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John Knights June 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm

This sounds very similar to the other post you made about your female client who wears different hats.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
June 28, 2011 at 4:37 pm

It’s the same logic John! My Blog Hub/Spoke post was my attempt to explain how to apply this strategy to my client’s site. I was actually doodling when I came up with the concept and it made sense to her. Of all my clients, her situation is probably the most complex I’ve dealt with so far when it came to developing an overall business strategy that we can adapt long term.

I’m glad you mentioned this! It gives me the opportunity to attach the link to that post in case someone else wants to read more on this.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..If Your Website Was a Wheel – Is Your Blog the Hub or a Spoke?My Profile

John Knights June 29, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I thought so. It makes sense now to me. Thanks!

Do you have a sample site for any of your clients, so we can see how it actually looks like?

steven February 28, 2011 at 6:18 pm

hi Serryl, thanks for your precious points on segmenting a website. For now I am trying to establish myself in the norton coupons niche. Later on I will definitely expand to another niche.

Thea January 24, 2011 at 6:23 am

Great tip Sherry! I’m new to your site, but this is very helpful. I was conflicted with whether or not I should create different websites for graphic design, web design, marketing and such, because I’d have different approaches (and features) for churches, musicians, artists, photographers and more! This is a great idea on how to serve all clients, while still directing all traffic to one source.

Thanks so much 🙂

~Thea

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 24, 2011 at 1:28 pm

You are welcome Thea. I’m glad that you you found my post helpful. It took me a while to learn about this but it makes so much sense. Not only are you driving traffic to one source, you’re keeping your brand intact and it’s actually a time saver in terms of maintaining your site under one domain name.

I’m not sure if you checked out my related post http://keepupwiththeweb.com/are-people-clicking-on-your-pay-per-click-ads-and-leaving/ but that article was the precursor to this one. It has specific examples that show landing pages for 2 different PPC campaigns that targeted different bundled packages to fit the needs of different customers. Reading that article may provide you with even more insight.
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Richard January 4, 2011 at 8:19 am

I agree with you about sub-domains. I get quite a few people who have bought lots of URLs and want to use each one to target a different keyword.

However, to me, doing such a thing makes a site look far smaller, disjointed, and thus less established. This is especially important in a shop, where people have to have a lot of trust to hand over payment.

Sub-domain keywords seem to be treated almost as well by Google as the main domain, and they don’t have this downside as they are all part of the same site.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
January 4, 2011 at 10:14 am

I agree with you Richard. It’s so much more efficient to use a sub-domain or sub-directory too. Your branding remains the same and you’re simply tweaking content. There’s also the opportunity that someone on your site will check out something else that you’re offering which gives you the opportunity to up-sell.
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TJ McDowell December 28, 2010 at 9:06 am

Have you guys all read the book Positioning: The Battle For The Mind ? I hadn’t really thought of it this way until I read your post, but it almost seems like the second website is like a line extension (ie adding a product using the same name as an existing product line). My website is set up with the same scenario as you mentioned above, and now I’m wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to have created a completely separate website for the 2nd audience. I think I’ll have to ride this one out now since so many links are pointing back to the blog in its current location.

For me, the reason I didn’t make a separate website to start off with was just a matter of cost – one extra domain name and an extra hosting package. I was trying to save a few bucks. I guess I’m exactly the same as the marketing departments who try to save money by extending (and watering down) a product line. Live and learn, right?

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 28, 2010 at 4:07 pm

When you use a sub-domain or a sub-directory, you aren’t increasing your costs. You’re using your main domain. It’s just a way of segmenting your site.

Tia’s comment above “one really important difference between the two is that search engines consider sub-domains to be separate entities. Links to the sub-domain wouldn’t be counted in total domain inbound links, whereas links to a sub-directory would be counted in total domain inbound links.” makes a really good point and should be kept in mind.

I have not read the book Positioning: The Battle For The Mind. Thanks for the suggestion!
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What’s Your Best Customer Service StoryMy Profile

John McNally December 26, 2010 at 3:43 pm

This is very, very interesting Sherryl.

I want different landing pages like Murray, as I have a wide variety of niches all inside my one blog. I need different subscriber opt-in boxes for each niche, and at the moment I have taken off my Aweber opt-in box, as I couldn’t work out how to do it.

Sub-directories seem to be best for my blog, but aren’t they the same as ‘category’ pages?

John

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 27, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Sub-directories are a great way to organize a website. You can create an index.html page within each sub-directory to act as a landing page. This in affect acts as a mini-website. You can target an entire directory to a specific niche market.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..What’s Your Best Customer Service StoryMy Profile

James December 21, 2010 at 2:31 am

Hi Sherryl!, I have a question for you. If we create a sub-directory will it also help us to deliver traffic from our domain directory?

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 27, 2010 at 4:38 pm

I’m not sure I understand your question James. One of the main advantages to using sub-directories it to directed a targeted segment of your website visitors directly to a section that is tailored to them.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Tia,
After I replied to you, I realized that when you leave comments, you’re sending (anyone who clicks on the link in your name) to the iwantlocalnow.com website. This means you’re driving traffic to their website and not yours.

You really should start linking directly to your imagebytia.com website. This will promote your business and not the directory site. Any questions, just let me know.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 14, 2010 at 2:45 pm

Hi Tia,
Your “real” domain name is imagebytia.com and you’re the owner. It’s what you use when you host your website.

The domain name iwantlocal.com is a website that is owned by someone else. When someone visits imagebytia.iwantlocal.com, they’re visiting a sub-directory called “imagebytia” that has been created specifically for you by the person that maintains the iwantlocal.com website.

Hope that clears it up. 🙂
Sherryl Perry recently posted..The “2011 Internet Business Ideas Book” – a Collaborative Effort of 12 BloggersMy Profile

Murlu December 10, 2010 at 7:56 pm

I’ve been playing around with this a bit lately, I’ve setup two entry pages:

A. About me – this one’s obvious
B. Welcome – highlights the best posts on my blog

You figure – if someone visits your blog for the first time than sending them to a front page will be a bit of an overload since they wouldn’t know where to start. Having a welcome page or sending them right to who you are can have a calming effect and get them to tab open a ton of posts 😀
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 10, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Hi Murray,
You piqued my interest. So, I had to go to your home page to see which page you were using -“A” or “B”. I went to the welcome page with highlights of your best posts. Very nice! My guess is that you would get a better click-through rate on that page than your about me. Do you have any stats yet?

Joel December 8, 2010 at 5:12 am

Sherryl, I have already seen multiple websites using same method. One great example is “Top ten reviews” which is great and successful website with so many niches covered. Great for SEO/Link Building but risky at same time if you’re using blackhat strategies.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 8, 2010 at 10:39 am

Joel, I wasn’t familiar with the “Top ten reviews” site. Thanks for the tip! 🙂
Sherryl Perry recently posted..The “2011 Internet Business Ideas Book” – a Collaborative Effort of 12 BloggersMy Profile

Lee December 7, 2010 at 5:32 pm

I have wrestled with whether to start a new site. It takes a lot of work just to maintain the one I have. My “to do” list is lengthy with projects yet to be done to bring the site up to what experts say it should have as features. So, creating a new site doesn’t make sense at this point. Perhaps what I need is a sub directory as you describe here. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 7, 2010 at 5:45 pm

You’re welcome. Good luck with your site. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 7, 2010 at 8:40 am

Peter, Do you have any thoughts re Tia’s comment: “Links to the sub-domain wouldn’t be counted in total domain inbound links, whereas links to a sub-directory would be counted in total domain inbound links.”?

Peter J December 6, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Good tip, in the future i plan to introduce sub domains to my website for when i do decide to branch out into more niche’s. I’m not a big fan of sub-directories as they make it harder for visitors to find your page, and they wouldn’t do as well in google.
Thanks for the post 😀

Susan December 6, 2010 at 11:43 am

I think one website can successfully meet the needs of multiple niche target markets. Most sites use sub-categories for this. Sub-domains are often used for corporate blogs, or they are used as well by serious organization, such as universities, etc. For entertainment sites and corporate sites of small businesses sub-categories are more common.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 8, 2010 at 10:35 am

Susan, There are still a lot of sites out there that are not built using blogging software like Wordpress. For them, I don’t believe sub-categories are an option. Another advantage of a sub-domain or sub-directory is that your site is organized cleanly which makes it simple to keep your niche markets separate. Thanks for joining the conversation!

Keith Davis
Twitter:
December 5, 2010 at 7:19 am

Hi Sherryl
When creating static websites I used to decide on the keywords for each page and treat each page as a landing page.
Trouble is the “home” page is always the highest ranked page so that page has to be optimised for your main keywords.

Does the sub-domain / sub-directory model have the same problem i.e. the home page is always the highest ranked page?

Good thing about a blog is that every post can be optimised for different keywords.
Keith Davis recently posted..Look for the Shining EyesMy Profile

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 5, 2010 at 9:05 am

Keith,
I did a quick Google search to see if I could find a consensus on this but there are lots of varying opinions from the SEO gurus.

Is the “home” page always the highest ranked page? If you have a landing page for a specific PPC ad campaign (sub-directory, sub-domain or root) and are driving a significant amount of traffic to that page, couldn’t you achieve a higher page ranking on that page than on your home page? I think so. I think if you have good keyword rich content and incoming links, you can achieve higher page rank on an internal page.

I would be interested in hearing what you and others have to say about this. It’s an interesting question.Thanks!

Catherine Lockey
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 9:37 pm

You’re right on about sub domains and landing pages Sherryl and I recommend the same to my clients.

As you probably know, my blog is on its own domain. At the time I did this, I knew nothing of subdomains! LOL Anyway, I had to build this new URL’s SEO street credibility from scratch and that was a lottttt of work. In the end, my decision to do this helped my business grow because my blog URL uses the word “marketing” in it. At one time, my demographic had placed me in the design only category. Today the they understand my business provides marketing and design. I now use my blog URL as my primary business URL in directories, chamber listings, social media etc.. But, a happy story like mine is not in the norm. In most cases a separate URL for blogs or landing pages is a SEO wrecking ball.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 5, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Great advice Catherine. In your case, you worked hard and built up your new domain. You’re one of the lucky ones. “SEO wrecking ball:… I like the mental image! 🙂

Cochrane December 2, 2010 at 8:56 pm

I am thinking about building a few different website for our business… I have a flash based one now, and I think I need to build a regular HTML one, perhaps a bit more targeted to a single niche (not that our market is that big, but it may help!)

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm

Good luck building your new site. Are you familiar with CMS (Content Management Systems) software like WordPress? Any thoughts of blogging?

Catarina Alexon
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Really good article Sherryl! If I ever need to create a sub domain or sub category I will contact you for sure!!

keyuri joshi
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm

This is brilliant! Maximizing a site and being cost effective at the same time. I do have a wide array of sub niches… each with it’s unique needs. With google analytics, I can see which ones are working well and which ones I can now market separately. Thanks Sherryl.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 1:21 pm

Thank you Keyuri. It was actually a comment that you left about wanting to use landing pages to target a niche within your niche that prompted me to write this post!

John December 2, 2010 at 11:15 am

Sherryl – Great tips on segmenting a website. I am definitely already using sub-directories on my website. I think all my potential customers have the same needs and wants but some of them just have different ways of looking for what they need.

I mainly create sub-directories in order to target a different keyword that people are using to find what I’m offering. I am kind of clueless when it comes to creating a sub-domain, even though it pretty much sounds like the same process.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 11:32 am

John, Sounds like you understand your potential customers well. Accommodating how they search is a great reason for using sub-directories. As for sub-domains, you can create those through the cPanel on your website hosting account.

Rob Berman December 2, 2010 at 10:52 am

Sherryl:

I have read about the distinctions between the two as well. Tia raises a good point. My question is about the blog and web site being separate. How would it work on a web site if the blog had a different URL? Is it a click on web site and it links to blog?

Thanks,

Rob
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 11:21 am

Rob, I believe your blog should be a part of your website and not a different URL. It will increase your traffic to your main domain name which will help with your Google page ranking. It also helps to build your brand.

If you have a separate blog and move it to a sub-directory of your website, you can use a “301 redirect” to point your existing blog to your new blog address.That way, you won’t lose existing readers.

Susan Oakes
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 12:14 am

Another great post Sherryl and I am looking at doing something similar with my site.

One question for you is when you created the different landing pages did they have the same look and feel witht he design?
Susan Oakes recently posted..It Is The Thought That Counts In MarketingMy Profile

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 11:26 am

Thanks Susan. I keep the look and feel of the landing pages the same as my home page – consistent with my brand. I customize the content by using different images and keywords. I make sure that my page titles and header tags use keywords targeted to that niche market.

Dennis Salvatier
Twitter:
December 1, 2010 at 6:13 pm

Julie and I are in the same boat. Thank you for this timely post. This will help my client like you have no idea.
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 11:11 am

Great! It’s a simple solution and very effective. Glad it helped!

Patricia Weber December 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Seems like it would also save some money just using subdirectories since you have to register every domain name.

Thanks for pointing out this distinction. I am using both but now I’ll rethink things.

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 2, 2010 at 11:09 am

I’m glad Tia pointed that out too. I suspected there had to be an advantage of using one over the other but I had not found the answer yet.

Tia December 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Hi Sherryl – The part that you wrote about diluting traffic is key! This is also a good solution if there will be a number of shared resources like images. Lastly, it’s a really good solution if you want to carry over any branding or positioning associated with a domain.

One really important difference between the two is that search engines consider sub-domains to be separate entities. Links to the sub-domain wouldn’t be counted in total domain inbound links, whereas links to a sub-directory would be counted in total domain inbound links.

Not that much of that matters in small business marketing, but it’s food for thought, concerning SEO.

Cheers!
Tia

Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 1, 2010 at 4:59 pm

That’s an excellent point Tia. Thank you. I’ve searched before to find the advantages and disadvantages of using one over the other and I did not know that from an SEO point of view, the sub-directory would be better. I learn something new every day!

Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
December 1, 2010 at 2:30 pm

Awesome Sherryl and very timely for me. I have a client with the same issues as yours and your post so clearly identifies the problems and solutions for such a situation. Thanks SO much!
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Sherryl Perry
Twitter:
December 1, 2010 at 3:02 pm

You’re welcome Julie! It’s always nice to hear that someone can use the info I blog about.

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