(nearly) identical Wordpress sites hosted on different URLs
July 10, 2012 9:20 AM   Subscribe

Question about nearly-identical Wordpress sites hosted at different URLS and Google indexing/rankings.

Basically, a chain of stores (to be referred to as “ChainStore” from this point forward) have asked for 15 Wordpress-based sites to represent their store branches. The site templates will be identical and the only difference between the sites will be some aspects of the content, which will still be similar but specific to each store.

They ideally want each site to be hosted at a separate URL - www.chainstorelondon.com, www.chainstorebirmingham.com, etc.

My understanding is that Google might see 15 nearly identical sites hosted at 15 different URLS and think “SPAM!”, possibly knocking the sites way down in the Google rankings.

Therefore, I have suggested that they host all the sites on one URL, with each individual site on its own sub-URL – so, www.chainstore.com/london, www.chainstore.com/birmingham and so on.

However, ChainStore would still like to be able to include the simpler addresses in print and direct mail advertising – so, if we host all of the sites on one URL, but purchase the 15 totally separate urls additionally, and set each to redirect to the relevant sub-url, will this get around the problem of Google seeing 15 identical sites? Or not? Or are there any other issues in this plan, relating to search engines or not, that I haven’t thought of?

(I have suggested that very few people type in email addresses they see in print advertising, and that people who WOULD type in the address probably won’t be put off by a slash, but they’re pretty adamant)
posted by cilantro to Technology (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've never done it in this exact situation, but one thing I'd definitely do is generate a Google Sitemap and make sure it lists the store locations in the proper hierarchy. Then when people google the business, they should get the top level page with a list of store locations below it.

posted by beyond_pink at 9:53 AM on July 10, 2012

You can 301 redirect your domains to the subpage with no real issue, but for linkbuilding/online marketing efforts, you should use the subpage address. With a 301 redirect, Google will no longer view them as 15 separate sites, and push most of the authority that might be built up to the subpage on the main site.

I think you'll still run into duplicate content issues based on what you've indicated about the subpages, but that's a bigger issue to be tackled. I'd really want to rethink the entire content strategy to begin with.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 10:23 AM on July 10, 2012

I'd go with multisite hosting and subdomain (yes, this is a verb) 'em using a single WordPress install.


This way, you have central admin across them all, but can run subdomain-specific users and workflow. Also, they'll share themes and plugins.

Subdomains are worth more google juice than paths under a URL, AFAIU.
posted by davemee at 10:25 AM on July 10, 2012

I've done this with the Wordpress Multisite configuration and the lovely glorious MU Domain Mapping plugin.

Makes it very easy to configure, set up and maintain.

You'll be able to access these sites via both branch.chainstore.com and chainstorebranch.com, which is plenty user-friendly. The .com is very user-friendly and the appropriate url should help for people doing targeted searches.

I'd like to see some writing about whether one is more Google-friendly than the other, as I've found that appropriate URLs are still very helpful.
posted by Magnakai at 10:43 AM on July 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure from a customer standpoint which is easier to remember. I *suspect* subdomains are easy enough - london.chainstore.dom - and perhaps give yourself wiggle room and allow someone to do chainstore.dom/london and get pushed there. You'll also need to accommodate (or maybe include) the ability to do www.london.chainstore.dom - as some folks psychologically are latched onto the idea that "www" begins all web addresses.

WordPress MU is indeed your pal here, though now it's just called WordPress Multisite, and depending on your hosting arrangement you'll need to accommodate the needs it has.

I actually don't think you're going to run into real problems with Google. The sites *can* be very similar, because they're all part of the chain - but the differences in some content (addresses, contact info, hours, etc) I feel like make up for it. That's just my gut.
posted by artlung at 11:35 AM on July 10, 2012

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