Do you have multiple blogs and struggle to maintain them? Have you ever thought about rebranding and combining your websites under one brand? How would you begin? Could it have a negative impact on your SEO efforts?
These are interesting questions and consolidating multiple websites into one is not a strategy that should be taken lightly. It is also a journey that I just went on with Doreen Pendgracs (a published author, travel blogger, speaker and freelance writer).
Over the years, Doreen found herself with four separate websites. Not only was it time consuming to create content for each site, she also found herself torn between which site the content belonged on. Was it about chocolate, travel, writing, lifestyle or one of her books? Sometimes, the answer was yes to all.
So, how and why did Doreen and I decide that the best strategy would be to consolidate her sites? Come along with us as I show you how we made the decision. Hopefully, you’ll gain some insight by taking a look behind the scenes.
Background: How did we get here?
Doreen and I first met in September of 2011 when she left a comment on my blog. At the time, Doreen had three websites. WizardOfWords.com was a self-hosted, static HTML website. Doreen’s two other websites were both WordPress blogs. DoreenIsTheWizardOfWords was being hosted on BlogSpot.com and her site DiversionsWithDoreen.com site was hosted on WordPress.com. Both of her blogs were being hosted for free.
Doreen was struggling with not being able to update her HTML site. She was also frustrated at not being able to install some premium WordPress plugins on her BlogSpot.com and WordPress.com websites.
Together, we migrated her BlogSpot.com and WordPress.com sites to self-hosted WordPress installations. That gave Doreen the confidence to install WordPress (on her new hosting plan) and launch a third blog Chocolatour.net to promote her new book. (If you’re counting, this meant Doreen had one static website and three WordPress websites.)
Logistics: Why have separate websites?
Over the years, Doreen had responded to meet her needs. Want to promote your freelance writing and books? Create a website. Want to be a travel blogger? Create a website. Promoting a new book? That meant creating another website.
To be honest, that’s what many of us did then. Actually, people are still creating websites for different niches. It’s a strategy that can and does work for many people. However, if you’re trying to create a brand, is that the best strategy for you? Together, Doreen and I decided that it was time for her to consolidate her sites.
Before we talk about how we came to that decision, let’s take a look at the the four different websites that Doreen had:
- Chocolatour.net focused on chocolate events and her book Chocolatour: A Quest for the World’s Best Chocolate –Volume One.
- DiversionsWithDoreen.com was her travel blog.
- DoreenPendgracs.com was her writing and lifestyles blog.
- WizardOfWords.net was the website that Doreen directed publishers and editors to.
Each website was designed to meet the needs of a targeted niche audience and many of Doreen’s readers frequented all of her sites. Still, as early as April of 2012, we began questioning whether it would be best to continue splitting her time and effort to maintain four separate sites or if her best strategy would be to develop a cohesive brand and bring all of her sites together.
SEO implications: Will it be worth taking a traffic hit?
The idea of consolidating multiple websites/blogs into one should not be taken lightly. If your websites are about totally different topics and there is no overlap in your target audiences, you may not want to even consider it.
When does it make sense to consolidate? Let’s take a look at this Whiteboard Friday by Rand Fishkin:
For those of you who are familiar with my #FridayFinds series, there is no substitute for watching Rand Fishkin’s whiteboard video or reading his blog post Should I Rebrand and Redirect My Site? on Moz.com and reading what he has to say. (Note: Moz.com was originally SEOMoz.com.)
For those of you who are looking for the highlights, here are some points Rand Fishkin made that resonated with me:
- You WILL take a SEO hit.
- When SEOMoz.com made the move and rebranded as Moz.com, it was a short recovery time .
- In six months, MOZ.com was ranking higher for SEO related terms and phrases than it had when it was SEOmoz.com.
- You need to ask yourself these questions:
- “How memorable or amplifiable is your current brand?“
- “Have you tested brand preference with your target audience?“
- “How much audience and content overlap is there?“
- Do NOT consider “topical” focus/authority to make your decision.
- To quote Rand: ” . . if the content overlap is strong and the audience overlap is strong, you can do both on one domain.”
Strategy: Did consolidation make sense for Doreen?
As you can see, this was not a decision that either Doreen or I took lightly. We didn’t just jump into the decision. We approached it strategically.
Our answer to Rand Fishkin’s question on whether there was audience and content overlap was a resounding yes. On the other hand, our answer to Rand’s question on whether Doreen’s brand was memorable was a resounding no.
She had four different domain names and themes. Other than her name, there was little to tie her brand together. Sure, we linked the sites together when we could but looking at them individually, you would have no way of knowing that they were connected. Her sites were lacking brand recognition.
Branding: What was Doreen’s brand?
Over the years, Doreen had given her branding strategy a lot of thought. In her blog post Growing the Chocolatour brand, Doreen made the following two statements:
- “I’m doing what I love to do: sharing my passion, knowledge of and enthusiasm for the world of fine/artisanal chocolate with fellow chocolate lovers and travel enthusiasts.”
- “My primary focus is the research and writing of the best chocolate travel books on the planet.”
So, how could we encompass her brand? I could handle the logistics of merging her three WordPress sites into one. (We still have content on her static WizardOfWords website that needs to be incorporated.)
What I could not do was create her brand. For this, she hired graphic designer Jennifer Cook of Cats in the Bag design in Montreal, Canada.
Jennifer designed the chocolate globe logo and graphic that you see at the top of Chocolatour.net. You also see this banner on all of Doreen’s social media pages. Having a consistent memorable brand was critical to our overall strategy.
Note: After publishing this article, I received quite a few requests to write a follow-up post. You can find it here.
Over to You:
What are your thoughts? Have you considered consolidating multiple websites? Is it time for you to rebrand? (I’ll be the first to say that my site needs a refresh and a rebrand.) Do you like the new theme that we’re using on Chocolatour.net?
As always, I hope you found this article helpful. This is just the “tip of the iceberg” of what is involved in combining websites. Thankfully, there’s a wealth of information available on the Internet. Additionally, both Doreen and I have strong communities that we can tap into. I know that both Doreen and I will be interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas.