Niche & Branded Websites – Good or Bad Idea?

Every day I talk with people about the online marketing initiatives that they are considering to help their websites and businesses, and it’s rare for a week to pass without hearing this question:

“Should we launch a new website with a more refined focus on our products and/or services?”

I hear it all the time because it’s a good question. And here’s my typical response:

“It depends.”

Before I can say whether or not it’s a good idea to employ such a strategy, I really need to get to the underlying reason for doing so.

One common reason is branding. You likely see it all the time, perhaps without really noticing. A car company may launch a “micro” or “branded” site focused on a particular vehicle model. A movie production company may purchase a specific domain to promote an upcoming release. An e-commerce merchant may launch separate websites in order to advertise trademarked brands or target a distinct type of audience.

When the sole purpose behind the development of a new website is to promote a particular brand, in some cases, the benefits may outweigh any potential drawbacks given the inclusive marketing efforts surrounding that brand.

Beyond branding, though, the answer that I receive most frequently when inquiring about the purpose behind such an initiative is increased search engine visibility.

People explain that they want to develop multiple websites with the intent of gaining more real estate throughout the organic search engine listings.

Here’s an example:

A supplier of car parts currently owns a website promoting all of his products. He is thinking of launching 20 new websites, each focusing on a particular category, such as Engines, Tires, Interior Accessories, etc. Beyond those 20 category sites, he is also considering the development of sub-category websites. For example, one which focuses on Goodyear tires as opposed to all tire brands offered.

As is the case with the development of any SEO strategy, whether it is for one or multiple websites, there are numerous variables to consider.

One variable is time. Do you have the time and the resources that will be required to properly maintain several different websites? A strategy often used to save time is to utilize the same platform for multiple websites, and include identical product descriptions across numerous web properties. While you may gain presence for various keywords and appeal to some users based on the domain name of your niche site, this strategy is unlikely to generate the type of results that you’re looking for.

Another variable to consider is the status of your current website. Would you be better served by putting all of your eggs in one basket, including site maintenance, content development, link building, etc? Depending on the established authority of your site in the eyes of the search engines, the answer is often “yes.”

What about best practices? Is the plan to essentially create mirror websites with the sole objective being increased visibility throughout the search engines? If so, it is an ill-advised tactic that likely won’t result in any gains.

There is no one answer to the question of whether or not niche and/or branded websites are a good idea as it is completely dependent on your objectives. Given the amount of time, resources and money that could be expended on such an initiative, it is crucial to weigh all of the factors at play based on those objectives before confidently moving forward in the right direction.