Many businesses operate on what I call the "one website theory." That is, they buy a single domain, add content on a regular basis, and try to drive as much traffic to that domain as possible.
To be sure, this is a tried-and-true strategy. In fact, compared to the more than 60% of all small businesses that don't even operate proper websites, buying one domain would be a vast improvement over waiting for the resurrection of the Yellow Pages.
But for many entrepreneurs, spreading their Web presence across more than one url makes more business sense.
One Size Does Not Fit All
I'm not a fan of the "one size fits all" strategy for many reasons. I've launched separate sites for my last two books, The New Small and The Age of the Platform. Also, I run a few other sites, including a separate WordPress "playground" site to experiment with different things.
Maintaining multiple domains works better for me for several reasons. First, each site is more focused. People who hear about one of my books (say, The Age of the Platform) probably want to find out more about that book. That is, they may not want to read about my other activities. Second, multiple domains can be good for SEO. I want people to see those sites when they Google the title of the book. Third, people will remember www.theageoftheplatform.com or www.thenewsmall.com much easier than www.philsimonsystems.com/books/theageoftheplatform. Finally, each site represents another Web property. Think of the board game Monopoly. Why limit yourself to just one house on Boardwalk?
But there are different reasons to own and manage more than one website. Consider what my friend Mark Cenicola recently did. Cenicola is the co-founder of Las Vegas-based BannerView.com, a company that hosts and designs websites for small businesses.
The company never paid much attention to optimizing its website for localized terms such as "Las Vegas Web Design." Why? Because Cenicola wanted his company to be seen as a national player. Fair enough, but BannerView.com by itself was unable to capture searches done by local businesses looking to launch a website. Why not buy lasvegaswebdesign.com?
Cenicola found that that domain name was, in fact, for sale and had a key selling point: It ranked high for the keyword phrase "Las Vegas Web Design" and other related terms specific to website design here in balmy Las Vegas.
After some negotiations with the site's former owner, Cenicola acquired the new domain name. Today, going to www.lasvegaswebdesign.com forwards to a Las Vegas-specific BannerView.com site. The results? BannerView achieved first place placement for terms related to website design and Las Vegas on all three major search engines: Google, Bing, and Yahoo.
The lesson here: To some extent, a company can have it both ways, being both national and local. In this case, BannerView made a very targeted effort to reach the top of search engines without compromising its national audience.
One website is certainly better than zero. After all, the Internet isn't going anywhere. But I'd argue that you should consider whether one website is enough for your business. (It's interesting to note that even Google itself is completely on board with this strategy: It's bidding to acquire "lol" and .YouTube domain names.)
Yes, your mileage may vary. But you might find that your sweet spot is three separate sites, each with a specific mission or targeted audience.
Have any experience with multiple domains? Let me know about it in the comments.