One of the greatest assets of having a strong SEO team here at SEER is the opportunity for us to constantly question and challenge each other, and at the same time, to constantly be questioned and be challenged. We all recognize that there is ample room for interpretation when it comes to SEO best practices, which is why we constantly read, debate, test, and retest theories to find out what works best for us. Last Friday, as we sat around the conference table for our weekly team meeting, the question came up as to which was better for developing and promoting a linkable asset: put it on the domain or on an external microsite??
The debate went on for the better part of our meeting, and the team was split pretty evenly, with half the team arguing on behalf of a microsite, and the other half supporting the primary domain; however, as much as we disagreed regarding best practices, no one side emerged as the clear victor. At that point, Wil and I decided that we would put our debate to video and leave it to the SEO community at large to decide!
We invite you to check out the debate below and we encourage you all to provide feedback, whether through voting on one side vs. the other or through the comments at the end of the post. Also, if you have suggestions for other controversial topics youd like to see us tackle on Throwdown Thursdays wed welcome those as well!
Wil: Hi everyone this is Wil Reynolds from SEER Interactive with Brett Snyder and this past Friday the 17 people that make up our SEO team sat in this room as we do every Friday we talked about topics that are happening in SEO to try and stay on top of our game. This past week was interesting more than others because when we talked about launching content either on a microsite or launching that content on an existing domain, half the team thought that one was a good idea and half the team thought the other was a good idea. Since we kind of battled it out, I figured it would be great to share it with you guys on exactly that all came to be and how it played out and we have 5 different topics that were going to discuss as to where this stuff should live, starting with
I like building my content on a microsite because I have more control over getting it done on time. What Ive seen is that, very often, it takes clients a little bit longer to get things done than they expected, and if I have more control over who produces it, over who gets me the content, and who populates the site, I feel that Im better positioned to get the results. What do you think?
Brett: One of the issues I have with results is that, all other things created equal, it really is irrelevant if you can get the resources you need from the client. If you dont need approval from the client, if you dont need it to go through compliance, to go through legal, to go through different elements that you cant control; all other things created equal, I think it really ties back to some of the other points, my biggest one being
I think that being able to emerge as the authority in a space, being able to tie your name and your brand to this exceptional resource that youve built for your industry is a huge asset that cant really be mimicked by something else. Its something where you can now say if youre looking for the authority on search, you can come and know that our domain is where to look for it as opposed to doing it on a new domain.
Wil: That is true, but there are a couple of things you can do that sometimes require you to not brand the site, and I guess it does come back to the goals of the campaign. But something that I love is getting links from your competitors. Think about it try, I want someone here to try really hard to get one of their competitors to link to them. In our space, in our industry, we do it all the time because were just not that competitive, but most of our clients arent willing to link to their competitors, but our clients are willing to link to really good content on the web. So building an unbranded microsite, we have seen our clients get links from their competitors to talk about this great piece of content.
The other thing is that I can get my anchor text a heckuva lot easier if I label something, or make a domain, exactly what the anchor text I want someone to use. So those are two of the pros of an unbranded microsite. Lets talk a little bit about
Speed is critical to getting these things done. Tom Critchlow said it best, its trying to get *stuff* done! What I find is that even with the best of intentions, as SEOs were on the hook to make sure that things get done and that results come. But yet, sometimes if we dont take it ourselves and build these sites ourselves, then well not always get what we wanted to get out of it.
Brett: Speed is a great asset of something but speed also cannot be used to manufacture things that had already been built to the site. You cant speedily build domain age, you cant speedily build the authority of the domain. You cant speedily build things that have to develop naturally. A natural link profile would be preferred over a spike and then a plateau. So that ties into what I see as some of the problems with speed and some of the benefits to having it on the domain as you dont have to create those things; you already have a head start compared to the speedy option.
HISTORY AND LONGEVITY!
I dont disagree on the speed aspect of it, but having it already on your site, having an established domain, having an established authority, established backlink profile, and established community, that allows you to offset some of the speed since you dont have to account for those in your development cycle.
Wil: And those are actually some really good points. I would definitely say that the history piece is something I cant deny. I would agree, having that domain authority already gives you that much more of a boost to the content that you build because you get to piggyback off of that.
The last thing that well talk about where we kind of split on is
One of the things you can do is that you can obviously 301 redirect this domain over at a later point after you have promoted it. We assume that people are less likely to link to things that look like they are commercial, so I feel that Im going to get more links for something thats totally not branded, and I can always 301 redirect it over later so I can push that link juice as I would like. Im also able to get my anchor text, which I mentioned before, all of which are going to help me, especially for head terms. What I really like about microsites for head terms is that I can name the microsite something with my anchor text, 301 redirect that over later, and I think Im going to get a little bit more link juice than you are if you do it on site.
Brett: I think theres no argument that if you have links pointing directly to your site, that are passing the value directly from point A to point B, that are not going through a proxy, for lack of a better phrase, they are preferred. Even 301 redirecting, we know that loses some value. Even canonical, we know it doesnt pass all the value and we know its not always recognized. There are a lot of variables involved in the link juice coming from an external site that you cant control. You cant necessarily control where the link juice is going to go; assuming you build and asset with maybe 3-4 top pages, you can point the different pages to different pages on your site, but if you build it on the domain you get a wide variety of links, you get them to a wide variety of deeper pages, and it helps to split up how the things are going to look in the overall backlink profile. Rather than having 90% of the links to you homepage, anchor text or not, 90% to your homepage and no deeper pages to redirect, by hosting it on the domain you can say hey we have the start of our resource, which has the resource 'homepage' on our domain, and then we have every one our pieces of content that received value in and of itself that can then flow back up through the rest of the site."
Wil: All good points. So I guess at the end of the day its up for you to decide. I think Brett and I have both laid out some pros and cons on each side so hopefully youll figure out exactly how it will fit for you. If you want, you can always vote on who you think is right for what I guess were going to call Throwdown Thursdays!
Take care, thanks so much for watching!
Have something to add to the debate? Feel free t add you thoughts to the comments below, or connect with Brett and Wil on Twitter.