It is impossible to accurately know how many websites exist on the World Wide Web today. However, Netcraft (a UK research company) released a report in February 2011 concluding that 612 million web domains have been accounted for already.
It is estimated that only one third (185 million) of those websites are active and two-thirds are inactive.
The reason for two-thirds of those sites being inactive in that many companies buy different variations of the spelling of their names, with different extensions such as .com, .ca, .info, .net etc. and many individuals also purchase speculative domains in the hopes of doing something with them in the future.
So, the first step in deciding how many websites you should have for your business is — Make sure that you have your own business domain name (URL, web address) that closely reflects the actual business name for your company. I always recommend getting the .com version if at all possible because .com is the extension that most people will go to, assuming that you have it. If you don’t have the .com, you will be relying more on Google and your marketing efforts to ensure that people are finding your correct web address.
If you have a Canadian based business, then getting the .ca is second best. Buying .net is ok but it will take a lot more marketing effort to get people to remember it. Buying more variations of spelling and extensions is really up to you on how much you want to invest to protect your brand and prevent others from piggy-backing on your business idea and marketing efforts.
Once you’ve purchased all your domains (and I’m guessing that you’ve bought more than one), the bigger question is how many websites do you need for your business and what do you do with all these web addresses?
First start with designing and developing one core website that is the hub and foundation for your business, brand, and services. Use the web address that you purchased that most closely reflects your business name and is easy for people to spell and remember. Build this core site to accomplish all your online business marketing goals. Don’t skimp out on designing and developing this core site to its best potential in the hopes of building many more “microsites” for your business. Google gives preference and prominence to sites that are well branded, informative, up-to-date and engaging versus ten different sites that are uninteresting and stagnant. Also, it’s much easier and more cost efficient to advertise and promote one single web address, vs. many different domains.
For all the other domains that you purchased, just point the URL to your main site and if anybody types them into their browser then they will be redirected to your main site which should have everything anybody needs on your company. More importantly it should have easy methods for clients to interact with your business, contact you via phone, email, online form, Live Chat, find your location, and possibly even order or purchase online.
So when would a company want to have more than one website or several microsites?
Before you even think about building more than one site, decide if you have the resources and funds to build more sites. New sites should not be an exact replica of your core site. They should have their own distinct purpose, design, and content and their own measurable goals. If they are mirror copies of your core site, Google will most likely penalize you and blacklist your websites, which would be counter-productive and difficult to recuperate from on the Search Engines. So if you’re going to create additional websites, do it properly and with sincere and useful purpose to the end-user.
Reasons you may want to have additional sites:
1. You have more than one location with different owners and variations of services
For example, if you have a core Franchise or Head Office with many Franchisees in different geographical locations; however, each Franchisee may have different service offerings that they specialize in or focus on, and each locations wants to be well optimized locally within your business industry or services that they offer, then this would be an appropriate opportunity to develop individual microsites for each store owner.
Print Three, one of Eden’s clients is a good example of a website that has one core site, www.printthree.com, for the organization and its franchisees, as well as individual micro-sites for each franchise location. Therefore, if somebody were searching for “print franchise Canada” on Google – www.printthree.com the corporate website comes up on the Google search. The corporate site itself describes all the services that Print Three provides as an organization, one can search for the nearest location and the search will drive you to an individual Print Three location – “microsite” with its own URL/web address. From a search perspective, if somebody is searching locally for “print shop Oakville”, the Print Three Oakville location will come up on Google (www.p3oakville.com). Or, if somebody were searching for “print shop downtown Toronto”, the downtown Toronto locations would show up on those searches – (www.print3gta.com, www.print3downtown.com, www.print3downtowntoronto.com, www.print3scotiaplaza.com). In essence, this is purposeful and meaningful to the end user; thus getting them directly to where they want to go and do business as quickly as possibly, bypassing the step of landing on the corporate site and doing a location search from there.
In this case the Print Three brand is dominating 4 out of 10 of the searches found on the first page of Google for a “print shop in downtown Toronto.” But keep in mind that each store is individually owned and operated and it is not just a matter of duplicating content to get these sites ranked as Google would see that as spam and would not rank mirror sites favorably.
2. You have a product, service or division within your business that requires its own branded / and or marketing focus.
If you have a product or service within your business that requires its own marketing attention and is possibly being drowned out in your corporate / main site due to all the services, products and features that you have to address in your main site, then it may be beneficial to design a site that is dedicated to promoting that one service or product that your business specializes in and is very focused in addressing the questions and needs of customers who would visit that site.
For example, one of Eden’s client’s Magical Pest Control has a core site (www.magicalpest.ca) that addresses all of their pest removal services. However, their Bed Bug Removal division required more attention due to the high demand of this service and the popularity of people searching for bed bug related issues online. As a result, we created a website dedicated to Bed Bug Removal services for Magical Pest Control so that customers who are interested in learning more about bed bugs or bed bug removal services can go directly to a site that strictly addresses their issues and concerns instead of getting lost in the clutter of other pest removal services. In this case, BedBugRemoval.ca has a higher chance of capturing and converting a lead interested in bed bug extermination services.
The following are examples where Eden Built other sites for ourselves as well:
1) To promote a specialized service that required more detailed focus and attention in order to get a clearer message across – we build www.edencrossmedia.com to better explain the need and value of personalized cross media marketing services.
2) We built a focused landing page www.edenwins.com to drive visitors who viewed our online videos about designing winning websites – driving them to a simple landing page where they can make a quick inquiry after they’ve viewed the video (and avoid any clutter that our core site may have). This landing page still links to our main site www.edenadvertising.com, but for those who prefer to get right to the point, the edenwins.com landing page does the job.
In summary, first and foremost, buy a domain that is as closely related to your business name as possible with the .com extension if possible. Second, develop one great site for your business that accomplishes all your online marketing goals. Don’t go cheap here. One great site can accomplish a lot more than 10 substandard sites. Only consider developing more sites if your core site is GREAT, but you need additional sites to market different locations, specialized products, brands or services, that may not be given enough focus or attention on your main site. Again, only take this next step if you’ve done everything you can with your core site and can afford to build and invest appropriately in these new sites.
So build one great site, evaluate if it’s accomplishing all your marketing needs and expand from there – either expand within the site itself, or determine if it needs its own website focus.