In most cases, yes, you should combine your websites into one main domain. This includes combining all separate top-level domains, as well as any sub domains.
That being said, each case is different, so you should do some good planning before under taking a major change like this.
Let’s say, for example, you have a separate website for every city you serve. Likely, this was done with the intention to rank one website in organic search results for queries like “Austin pool renovation” and another website to rank for “San Antonio pool renovation.”
What you or your marketing agency thought was a clever strategy, likely isn’t working as planned. And you are not currently, or never were getting the traction you planned from this strategy.
In fact, Google pretty clearly says not to create separate sites, or as they refer to them as “doorways”.
Here are some examples of doorways:
- Having multiple domain names or pages targeted at specific regions or cities that funnel users to one page
- Pages generated to funnel visitors into the actual usable or relevant portion of your site(s)
Verify, with data, whether or not your strategy is paying off.
Allyou’ll need to do is look at your Google Analytics and/or Google Search Console, and check whether or not you’re seeing the intended results. If you’re ranking well, and have been getting expected returns and improving, by all means, leave the sites as they.
If you are not seeing the results you’d expect, which is likely why you’re reading this, combine the sites into one main website.
In most cases, the strategy of separating websites for different local based searches, does not have a good return on investment. ROI can be subjective, but you should consider all of the costs associated with running these “satellite” sites.
Consider the costs of hosting, domain registration, labor costs to continually update the server and web software to keep it secure, and any other licensing costs. Also consider the time dealing with these things, and the opportunities lost to spend time making one site better.
Instead of having a website for every city or service you offer, combine them, and create one page for each city and service.
How do I get the best SEO boost when combining sites?
First step, start with a plan.
You’re going to move each domain one by one, and in some cases page by page or section by section. This can be tedious work, but the long-term benefits far outweigh the upfront labor.
The most important step to ensure your SEO efforts are not lost, is to have a 301 redirect list created and implemented.
A 301 redirect list is simply a list of URLs from the old site, matched up with new URLs on your main site. This is done to ensure that when either users or search engines visit an old page, they are immediately redirected to the relavent new page on the main site.
Every page that has a match needs a redirect. If there is no corresponding page on the main site, in most cases you’ll want to create a new page. If you want to drop a page, it isn’t necessary to redirect it if you do not need any longer. You can just allow those to return 404s, and forget about them.
You’ll need to make sure the old site is hosted and returning either 301s or 404s for some time to allow search engines to update. Any websites with inbound links to your site acquired over time should be notified with the new address where possible.
After setting up your redirects, they should be tested thoroughly, and the next step is to update any sitemaps you have on the main domain and submit the sitemaps to search engines.
You can resubmit your sitemap in Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools when all of your testing is complete.
Those are the three main concerns that will help transfer domain authority to your combined main site from your old sites: 301 redirects, link reclamation, and updated sitemaps.