There is little reason not to make high-quality content top priority as you plan your online marketing strategy. Google's webspam guru Matt Cutts and Bing's senior project manager Duane Forrester have both gone on record numerous times underscoring the significant role that content plays in determining search rankings. As far back as the SMX Advanced 2011 event, Forrester is credited with saying SEO ranking signals will always revolve around content in some capacity.
But if having one website with high-quality content is good, could having a second be even better? Yes—and no. First, let’s take a look at what is going on with search ranking changes and the growing significance of content.
Understanding Search Ranking Priorities
Across a year’s time, Google will change how it configures its search algorithm a staggering 500-600 times! Although a large majority of these changes are very minor tweaks, you will find that every couple of months, Google announces what it deems a “major” algorithmic change that has potential for a more significant impact on rankings. (If you want to track Google’s most noteworthy changes, check out this listing of major algorithmic changes compiled by marketing analytics company Moz.)
Google’s current focus has been on eliminating so-called “black hat” spam sites. The term “black hat” refers to SEO strategy that focuses entirely on search engines and not actual human audiences. Google targets a specific type of search engine rank manipulation with each update released.
Though they otherwise differ, all updates allow Google to reward websites that provide visitors with high-quality, relevant content.
As you put together your content, there are a few things to keep in mind. Keywords in the body of content, HTML length and word count are still significant factors under the latest major update. However, there is now somewhat less emphasis on keywords in H1 and H2 tags.
While the quantity of external links is less important than it used to be, the quantity, more importantly, the quality, of internal links and back links are still important. Videos, infographics and other images are still useful to include if relevant as they will help to build your site’s reputation for rich web content.
Expanding Content with a Second Website
There are right and wrong ways to have multiple sites by the same company. Some reasons for having a second website are straightforward and hold little risk of getting into any search ranking trouble primarily because the biggest hazard to rankings—duplicate content—is easily avoided. Some examples include a large company with several product niches or brands, each warranting its own website; a temporary or time-sensitive website built around a company’s special campaign, promotion or event; and companies targeting multiple international markets.
Given the growing significance Google is placing on a website’s authority, which goes hand-in-hand with high-quality content, you might consider building a second website sponsored by your company that is geared entirely toward building your brand as a knowledgeable resource in the topic areas most likely to draw prospective customers. You may even consider giving this second site a brand of its own, but have your company brand as a sponsor.
If you go this route, your second site should not contain any hard-sell tactics. In fact, it is best to limit any marketing language entirely or visitors will consider your new site a front and you will lose a great deal of credibility and traffic, even if the content you offer is unbiased and legitimately sourced. You should, however, link your company's brand as the sponsor of the valuable information you provide.
For example, as an informational site on children’s health, the KidsHealth website has a wealth of information for parents, as well as children, teens and educators. Its sponsor, Nemours, is a children's healthcare system, but branding is kept to an absolute minimum. The company has done an excellent job separating its brand from the KidsHealth brand in an effort to eliminate service marketing on its second site. Certainly, the brand information is there, but the site is clearly geared toward providing in-depth, high-quality information related to children’s health issues.
Likewise, with its site on cerebral palsy, Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers does a good job of staying primarily in the background, though it represents children suffering birth injuries. Note that just like KidsHealth, the site uses a .org domain. Unlike the firm's primary marketing website, this second site is dominated by high-quality content related to cerebral palsy in general and does not make a hard sell for the law firm’s services.
In both of the instances above, the sponsoring organizations are providing content-rich sites apart from their main websites, giving a boost to their authoritative voice, which will hopefully improve their search ranking and organic traffic for both sites.
Simple Rules to Follow
If you decide you want to launch a second resource site for your company, here are a few simple rules to keep in mind:
1. Limit duplicative content to 15 percent of your site. If your secondary site is geared toward being informative only, this should not be difficult. This 15 percent rule is also a good one to keep in mind when adding new pages to any website.
2. Tone down your branding. If you want to build credibility as a resource in your industry through a second site, limit your branding and marketing language. Link your brand as the sponsor, but do not set your company up as the solution to every problem mentioned on the site.
3. Stay unbiased with your content. Ensure your content site truly is content-oriented and that you use unbiased sources and high-quality content. Be sure to provide expert sources when deriving material.
4. Follow the SEO suggestions above. Google comes out with major changes to how it approaches its search rankings every couple of months. For all your websites, be sure you are current with updates as you prioritize and implement your SEO practices.
5. Be sure interlinking genuinely helps visitors. It is perfectly fine to link between your sites in legitimate ways that help your visitors gain more information. But, if you overly optimize anchor text, use anchor text that is unnatural or doesn’t fit the page’s flow, throw in unrelated links, or anything similar, not only will you confuse your human visitors, you run the risk of Google flagging it as webspam as well. You will blow the credibility of both your resource site and your company brand, and turn off users who are increasingly sensitive to manipulation and spam tactics.