Is it in your best interest to build 1 authority site that completely dominates an industry or 100 smaller niche oriented sites that satisfy content for smaller niche industries?
My answer is: it depends on your strengths and time frame, but I believe 1 big site will always yield more results long term and here is why.
NOTE: I should specify that by one site I mean a site that is taking on a whole industry trying to be the 1 stop authority on that industry. By a small site I mean a niche site that is usually 10 pages or less looking to capture very targeted keywords in an industry.
The power of compounding growth
One of the most important things to realize about a large site is that link equity doesn't get split up between different domains and assets, as if you were to take the multi-site approach. For instance the first month you may get like 10 backlinks. The next month lets say you now total 20 or so. The next month you may hit 40. Then 80. Then 160. Now you're at 320. You then hit 640. It just starts to snowball because with more links comes even more links. Sites spread exponentially as they start to grow. So you may think it sounds better to take the 100 sites approach if this is the case. Why not have 100 niche sites growing exponentially instead of just 1? To a degree that is true, but only if you can actually manage each site to be a quality site, and in most cases it is very hard to maintain quality with 100 sites on various topics - especially where there isn't much more room left to make it quality. You're never going to actually reach a stage where there is room for more people to link as you already have won the game small-term. It usually ends up where they are all 1/2 assed and never develop a community, brand, or any notability with people.
The power of community
Having a thriving community is pretty much key to any successful web site these days. Without a community you are lacking tons and tons of quality, relevant content created by users in that industry. With 1 large site it is usually very easy to get users to contribute as they recognize your site as the authority and find other like-minded individuals there. When you have the smaller site approach there is never really enough content to get users to feel like they want to be a part of it. Nobody wants to be a part of a site that only has a few articles and members, well at least in most cases.
The power of branding
It is much easier to brand one product successfully than 100 products successfully. By focusing on one site you are able to build up quality and allow users to come to know and love your brand. As they build up more trust with your brand you will start to reap all the benefits of a successful brand in areas such as getting it spread via word of mouth and acquisitions.
Only way to tackle big industries
A large site is pretty much the only way to take on a big industry such as insurance, mortgages or real estate. When Google is looking to rank sites for the search insurance you can be pretty sure they are looking to deliver a web site that covers EVERYTHING insurance related. They will never rank a small niche site because a niche site does not satisfies the searcher's needs. The searches kept it broad, and wants something broad. You may think you want to keep it small so you can rank for more targeted searches that convert much better. That's a fair point, but why limit yourself and stop there?
You're always growing larger with 1 site
The sky is the limit with a large site. On a lot of smaller niche sites you may finally rank well for pretty much all the niche searches. Okay, well you have some decent links and you dominate your small niche but where do you grow? There really isn't anywhere to go without having to try to rebuild your membrane which helped you grow so quickly in the beginning. It's sort of a catch 22. You were able to be build quickly because of your targeted niche, but it hurts you long term as you are now a slave to it. You could start building more sites on different categories in that niche and scale out that way, which is probably the best approach, but you are now looking at the sandbox and starting the whole link thing over again. If you had this niche site as just a few articles on a larger site to begin with, you are much more set up to leverage your already existing trust and links.
The SEO Considerations
With the current trust Google places on sites and the sandboxing it does, it really shows the future of where search is heading. Search engines are looking to put trusted, quality sites up there and will keep your site out for as long as they can until you are a dominate source of trusted information.
I think a lot of people are tempted to start many sites in a way to exploit this criteria and leverage time as their employee. I think this is okay but each niche will never be able reach full fruition because it is just that, a small niche. I also think people don't realize the importance of maintaining a quality community that works together in building up a brand. I am not against the 100 site idea as long as you have it dialed in very clear and are able to manage it just as you would one quality site. But I will say, CNET has over 2,000 employees and they have oh about 20 QUALITY web sites. That's like 1 site per 100 employees. Do you really think you can beat these guys with niche web sites all by yourself? 1 Big site I tell you, quality!
Filed under:Internet / Tech, Web, SEO