I’ve often given the advice that you shouldn’t have multiple websites.
The exception: when you should have separate websites
When does this advice that you should always have one site, and consolidate your other sites and projects into it not hold?
When the intended audience for the things are wholly distinct (bird watchers vs entrepreneurs) and the subject matter is wholly distinct.
There are also times when it’s really obvious, like when a project takes on a life of its own and really needs it’s own website because you are holding it back.
Breakout successes living under your business services site can become a point of confusion for users, or the business is being held back by the framing of:
- Thing you do
- Project you have
- Service you offer
And instead it should be:
- Thing you do
- link to Project you have
- Service you offer
- Project you started
When you should consolidate your sites
Spolier: mostly always besides the above.
This advice holds for your podcast
This is how it should look:
- your website
- about you
- your services
- your articles
- your podcast
Instead it looks like this:
- some podcast
- maybe your name as the host somewhere
- your website
- maybe a reference to the podcast somewhere
As a listener, I guess I should refer others to your podcast? What was it called again? Oh, I remember. Let me Google it. Hmm. Stitcher comes up first. My friend uses Apple Podcasts. Umm. Nevermind!
Even if your pod is good enough and your audience is detail oriented enough to figure it all out, you will still get less long term benefit from your podcast. When you stop podding, it’s like a cash-in-hand business, you just shutter the doors.
This advice holds for your personal site
Even your personal website should probably either 1. get very little to no attention or 2. redirect to your main business website about page.
Of course, if you have hobbies you blog about, like guitar, or karate, or your roller derby team, that are wholly unrelated to your work, it doesn’t matter where that stuff lives as long as it’s not taking up lots of pages on your main site.
- your website
- about you (personal site info)
- relevant work articles
- occasional personal site type articles
This also can work:
- your work website
- about you, with link to your personal site in your about under hobbies or similar
- your personal blog
- about you, with link to your work site in your about under work or similar
- articles on bird watching
- articles on karate
- articles on the bible
This advice holds for your products, courses, apps
Let’s say you have a software services business. You create a separate website for your two saas apps.
But the audience for all three websites is the same. In fact, all sites serve the same guiding mission.
By putting it all under one roof, you are just stacking credibility with those you are serving.
Successful projects can slingshot other projects. You can more efficiently and (CAN SPAM compliantly) cross market services and SaaS products as new ones are released.
It holds when your company starts seeing two distinct service groups
We have a previous client making this mistake right now.
They have two distinct use cases for an app – helping people change habits and helping people wake up on time. Splitting those into separate sites with new product names and separate app UIs is like taking the Philips head screwdriver part off the Swiss Army Knife.
It is a total overkill way to solve for the confusion wrought by having multiple use cases for a product. Which is not the same as having multiple distinct audiences. Want to wake up early people and want to change habits people talk to each other. A small business splitting into two distinct marketing strategies, websites, apps, product names, essentially means splitting a business in two. We force monopolies (once a century) to do that for anti-trust violations, we shouldn’t willingly do it to ourselves.
Now, if they have the data to back up the decision – if they know that selling the use case for waking up hurts conversions on selling the habits use case or vice versa. If they know the target users don’t share about the product’s different use cases to other people, and that users never switch from changing habits module to waking up early module or vice versa in the app, and that the cost of splitting the business, marketing, product in two and estimated bump in conversions for each would pay for itself, then I’d say “ok try it.” Cut one use case from your marketing and app altogether and see if the other one gets a major lift.
That is a low cost way to test the idea.
But you’re a personal brand. You don’t have that data. You don’t have unlimited resources and time and employees at your disposal where the inefficiencies of big mistakes can make or break whether you get to that next level.
It holds for research projects and other content assets.
Let’s say you have a content asset. It’s a useful tool that people like and link to. Don’t you want credit and those links going to your main site?
Imagine you’re Christine Moorman, the main organizer for an ongoing major research project, the CMO Survey. Let me link to Dr. Moorman’s personal business site. Oh, nevermind, there isn’t one.
You should consolidate cmosurvey.org into your personal business site unless it is a non-profit, will violate sponsorship agreements, has its own employees, or is a wholly independent organization from the work you do.
Aside: Christine Moorman is a tenured prof at Duke. But even then I would argue she should be the CMO consultant. She should own her own domain, and CMO Survey should live under it. Doing that elevates the perceived value of everything else she does. Imagine her CMO Survey project, editor-in-chief status at Journal of Marketing page, CV linking to past research, press interviews in AdAge, etc., alongside any new project or consulting effort she ever wants to embark on. It would be very hard for a new thing to be anything but a breakout success because people, users, Google all know that she is a major change maker in marketing research.
I’ve recently realized this advice holds for Inbound Found and Content Audience
I’m not sure why I thought this advice didn’t hold for Inbound Found and Content Audience. Maybe I just had to break off for a while to actually commit to a specific direction. But now we are reconsolidating Inbound Found and Content Audience websites, because it does.
It’s been 11 months since Ann and I came up with a 6 month plan for her to take over Inbound Found, our more generalized boutique agency and main source of income while I focused purely on getting the “content strategy for experts with audiences” thing off the ground here (Content Audience).
The gist, Inbound Found would just do websites for a specific market, I would do content strategy for experts with info products. There were a few flawed assumptions in the plan, namely:
- I had figured out the who and what of the what for who in the new direction
- Ann would enjoy learning to code and taking over web design for Inbound Found
- I would be okay giving up interesting design strategy work that came through IF
- The administrative burden of two things wouldn’t be that bad
- A pandemic wouldn’t make it even harder
And so the six month plan became a one year plan. Now we have more data and clarity.
Ann and I both know what kind of work we want to be doing, there can be synergy there if we’re serving the same target group, and we can fill in any gaps with systems and subcontractors.
The easiest way (we think) to solve for hard parts with organizing anything, pinning down targeting and messaging, connecting your goals to client/customer desired outcomes, is to split things up into multiple websites.
But the value of not doing that, of taking the time to figure out how those things should fit together, what guiding principles should exist so that you can focus down instead of splitting focus, effectively increasing the work for each thing, that’s how you get that traction, see progress, and are ultimately able to use that momentum as you evolve.
Or at least that is my current thinking there.