Is One Web Site Enough? Yes…and No

Most small business owners know that a Web site is an important marketing tool. So it might seem to follow that if it’s smart to have one site, two – or three, or more – is even better.

That depends, says Marcia Yudkin, marketing consultant and author of Poor Richard’s Web Site Marketing Makeover  (Top Floor, 2001, $29.95). If you’re serving one target audience, a single site is the way to go, she says. That holds true even if you have several different products and services, as long as they’re of interest to that same group.

But if you have discrete interest groups within the larger target audience – such as scuba divers and elementary school teachers who are all looking for travel deals – “then it may make sense to have two Web sites.”

Divide and Conquer

Nate McKelvey’s experience bears that out. As CEO of Jets.com, based in Quincy, Mass., McKelvey had first established LegFind.com to help charter plane operators – his primary target audience – buy and sell excess charter time. The site was a success and is used regularly by several hundred charter operators.

But soon after launching his business, McKelvey started getting inquiries from consumers about how they could search for available charter flights. So the next year he set up a second site, Jets.com, where consumers can post their trip itinerary, and charter operators can bid to provide their transportation.

“They are such different audiences,” McKelvey says, that separate sites were necessary. But he points out that they promote mutual growth: “More trips on one site creates activity on the other.”

Another entrepreneur who has expanded from one Web site to several is Frank Rumbauskas, Jr., author of Never Cold Call Again (Wiley, 2006, $16.95). After writing his book, Rumbauskas developed NeverColdCall.com as a one-stop where visitors could buy it and other sales-related products. But he judged that spinning off the various products onto different sites would promote more sales. “Giving purchasers too many options at once can cause them not to buy at all, lowering overall sales,” he explains.

He set up a “tiered product line.” Potential customers are presented with one product at the main Web site. From there, they can click through to another site where they learn about a related product, and so on.

Besides keeping buyers focused on the purchase, another reason for having more than one site is search engine rankings, Rumbauskas says. “Multiple sites equal multiple search engine listings,” which can result in more traffic. But he cautions small business owners against simply copying content from one site into another. “They do have to be different to be included in Google,” he says.

While managing multiple sites can be time-consuming, it isn’t necessarily more expensive, Rumbauskas continues. He created NeverColdCall.com using Microsoft FrontPage, which he says is fairly easy to learn, and a Web template he bought online. The only other ongoing expense is the cost of hosting the site, which he estimates at $10 a month per site.

After developing a solid customer base, Rumbauskas then set up two online discussion forums – again using separate Web sites – where buyers can discuss his products and techniques. It’s another tool to keep your customers coming back for more information, he says, and builds their loyalty.

Spreading Yourself Too Thin

The potential flipside of using more than one site is a weakened brand. David J. Hart, a Miami business immigration attorney, set up his main Web site, ImmigrateUSA.com, in 1998. It performed well, but in 2006 he decided to create separate sites to appeal to the various information needs, and native languages, of his target audience.

But after a few months Hart decided “it made a lot more sense to send everyone to one site,” and consolidated all of them back into ImmigrateUSA.com. “Having more than one site was confusing and we wanted to be identified with ImmmigrateUSA.com,” Hart says. Besides, he says, one hub site is more manageable.

Whether your business warrants more than one Web site hinges on how many different target audiences you’re serving, and whether their information needs are also different. But if you’re trying to develop a brand or reputation centered on one type of product or service, staying single is the better option.

Marcia Layton Turner is a frequent contributor to StartupNation.com.

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