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Sattelite Sites SEO
SEO For Sattelite Sites
A lot of people have been clicking through to SEO Theory for the expression “satellite sites
SEO” and some variations on that. I have never really discussed this particular aspect of search
engine optimization and I am surprised people want to know more. It’s not really even discussed
on the usual SEO blogs and forums. So who are the people who want to know more about
satellite sites SEO?
You could, I suppose, be interested in optimizing Web sites about satellites. There is actually a
large market for information on satellites given that we have satellite TV, satellite Internet
access, satellite radio, and GPS satellite networks. Even cell phones work with satellites so the
average person (in America or western Europe, at least, not to mention Japan and several other
Asian countries) is very likely to make direct use of a satellite at least once per day.
However, I get the impression that my SEO satellite sites readers are looking for information on
how to set up and optimize small networks of Web sites. The satellite sites work for the primary
brand but they need to create their own brand strength. So let’s talk about satellite sites SEO and
see what kind of trouble that will cause.
Who should use satellite sites SEO?
The average online business model does not easily support a satellite sites network. Which is not
to say that you can’t just go create a group of Web sites and call them satellites. But a “satellite
site” is somehow closely associated with the main brand while advocating its own brand. A poor
business model for using satellite sites might be a company that manufactures garden hoses for
retail outlets. If you’re not selling directly to consumers you really only need one Web site.
But if your garden hose manufacturing operation serves multiple channels there might be
justifiable reason for creating several Web sites. Let’s assume you have a contractors’ channel, a
wholesale distributors’ channel, and a retail channel. It often makes good business sense to
distinguish between your channels so that customers find the right content. You want to
But how do you justify the burdern of operating three separate Web channels? You have to look
at the queries people use to find your products. If the retailers and distributors you sell to don’t
actually use queries to find you, but rather have to be told about your Web sites through your
sales force, you can dispense with search engine optimization and make your business-tobusiness sites more functional. Don’t invest a lot of time in on-site marketing if the marketing is
driven by off-site processes.
If you have a consumer marketing program that differs from your vendor and outlet marketing
then most likely your consumer channel will have a distinct query profile. You should set up a
separate site that serves that distinct query profile. Your Web design should address that market,
and you can free your Web developer from unnecessary burdens by breaking the consumer
channel out from vendor and contractor channels.
But when you create multiple channels you run the risk of blurring the primary brand value for
your corporate name. In a situation where a company builds multiple channels for products and
services on separate Web sites I would take the additional step of moving the corporate brand to
its own informational site. The corporate brand will be the heart of the channel network.
Build Distinct Channels
Whether you’re dividing your market into wholesale/retail sectors or geographical sectors, your
channel brands need to stand on their own. You don’t want to create a network just for the sake
of building a network of Web sites. Maintaining and updating a network requires more work than
maintaining and updating a single Web site. You want to avoid cookie-cutter Web design, which
only causes user confusion. The minimal value you’ll obtain from linking between domains
doesn’t justify the cost of creating a network.
And that is, I think, what people are hoping for: a boost in link value from within their own
network. You don’t have to reciprocate links, buy links, or otherwise “build” links if you have
your own network of trusted sites that the search engines constantly crawl and index. There is
some truth in that idea, but 10 worthless sites that no one else will link to is still 10 worthless
sites that no one else will link to.
You have to create value for the online visitor, not for the search engines. If you really do build
out multiple channels then cross-marketing your brands won’t always make sense. In some cases
it does. For example, let’s say your company operates an airline reservation site, a hotel
reservation site, a rental car site, and other travel-related sites. It makes perfect sense for your
channels to cross-promote each other because their content complements each other’s content.
Cross-promotion only works when it doesn’t cause confusion. Even if you only operate affiliate
link farm sites (which the search engines don’t really want to promote in their results) your
cross-promotion should make sense to the people you’re hoping will click on your affiliate links.
You should always be thinking in terms of creating content that people want to return to. There is
virtually enough competition in every established industry that people have a choice of networks
to choose from.
Make your network the most fun, the most valuable, the easiest to use, the most helpful. Give
people a reason to link to your sites instead of someone else’s. Give people a reason to keep
coming back to your network. Part of the process of building that kind of customer loyalty is
ensuring that your cross-promotion doesn’t become the objective of the network.
Successful Satellite Sites SEO
To succeed with satellite sites SEO you have to focus on the brands that you’re promoting and
the markets they serve. You cannot allow yourself to be caught up in a link building frenzy that
devalues your content and makes your network look like a spammy collection of worthless Web
sites. If every home page in your network is splattered with the same cross-promotional
advertising you’re doing it wrong. If every home page in your network uses the same
navigational link structures you’re doing it wrong.
Each site in your network has to have its own “About Us” page that offers a unique, distinctive
profile of the product or service division that the site represents. You should also include a
distinctive link back to the corporate profile site so that people can learn more about your
company. The corporate site should serve as the primary hub for your network. It can and should
offer unique information about each subsidiary site in the network.
Each site in your network should have its own unique “Contact us” page. You don’t want to be
deceptive and pretend there are different sales offices and distribution points. Rather, you want to
make sure that each contact page offers the exact information that people need to contact you
about that particular channel. Channel-oriented communication has to exist, and must be
supported, in order for this to work well.
On my personal network I do use a consolidated communication function and I can assure you it
causes confusion. I have not taken the time to distinguish the contact features but I should. So
my forum administrators sometimes see communications from people looking for advertising,
wanting to set up partnerships, and private communications to me or my partner from people
who want to ask us specific questions. In a business network, you really cannot afford that kind
of sloppy organization. Make sure each satellite site has its own contact information.
You want to avoid replicating information across your network, but some companies do reuse
legal notices, terms of service, trademark declarations, disclaimers, etc. That kind of content
distribution is usually okay. Don’t agonize over it. You want to focus on building value for each
With respect to search engine optimization your satellite network should be targeting different
query expressions. While it might seem valuable to control the front page of Google’s results for
a few keywords, a well-designed satellite network creates opportunities for you to explore in
long-tail optimization you usually don’t see even with large content mega sites. Mega site
optimization tends to focus on a few key topics. Satellite site optimization should focus on a few
key topics per Web site.
And that means you have to devote more time to keyword research, more time to building
content, more time to analyzing referral data. Your satellite network can capture distinct landing
page data, track unique customer profiles, and otherwise break down data that a mega site would
have to consolidate. But you don’t want to sacrifice the value of consolidating data in order to
serve multiple brands. You should use consistent metrics across your network so that you can
easily combine the numbers where you need to do so.
If you want to create a network-wide customer profile (which makes sense in some industries,
such as the travel industry model I used as an example above) then a unified login and cookie
structure is perfectly fine. Tracking customer sessions and transactions across brands should be
seamless and inobtrusive to your visitors. They’ll also appreciate seeing less advertising if you
allocate popup advertisements across your network (a practice I oppose, but you need to make
your own business decisions).
Avoid the temptation to use a single content management system for your network. While it
doesn’t matter if you host all your sites on the same IP address, sharing the same database does
offer some risk. For example, if one site goes down they’ll all go down. In fact, using a single
server for your entire network is also risky (but I do this for my personal network). You need to
carefully weigh the costs and benefits of consolidation versus distributed hosting. There is no
universal justification for either style of Web content hosting.
In the end, your goal for practicing satellite sites SEO should not be to promote a single Web site
through link boosting sites. Rather, it should be to expand your search visibility and profile in
ways where mega site efficiencies don’t make sense. You can get one site to rank for hundreds
of unrelated expressions (this blog ranks for all sorts of keywords that I have plucked out of
search engine referrals and written about).
The more you diversify your branding efforts, the more effort you should put into the
diversification process. If you don’t have the time and resources to build and support distinctive
brand profiles then satellite sites SEO is not for you. It should be a solution, not a problem. SEO
for satellite sites has to put the user’s convenience ahead of the Web site operator’s desire to rank
well in search engines because ultimately this all about pleasing the users.
You want your network to look professional and efficient in the search results. You don’t want it
to look cheap and spammy. Keep that in mind and you should do okay.