Multi-Campus Websites vs. One Website

Church Plant Media has been serving multi-campus ministries almost as long as our business has been open. Since that time many things have changed with technology and the Internet. Over the years, even more has changed (and is always changing) with Google.

In our Domains vs. Subdomains help article we discuss how domains will almost always outperform subdomains in Google searches. However, Google maintains there is no preference given to domains over subdomains. So the real issue may have more to do with the volume of content that matches the Google search and less to do with the subdomain.

Since Google delivers search results based on how closely a website matches the intent of the searcher, the more authoritative content Google can find on a website, the bigger the opportunity that site has at appearing in a search result. So it may be more strategic to have content on a single domain and not spread out (or duplicated) over several subdomains.

Let’s put this into perspective with math. If a church has 4 campuses each with 125 people, and they all share 2 things from their campus website on social media, then their individual websites may get somewhere over 250 new visits. However, if you combine all 4 of those campus websites into a single site, you would immediately have over 1,000 new visits from the same amount of traffic! The exponential growth is off the charts!

Or to use a "brick-and-mortar" illustration; having multiple websites is like a small Strip Mall and maintaining a single website is like a Walmart Supercenter. With a Strip Mall, there is usually inconsistent foot traffic and random engagement, making it difficult to keep customers coming back without a significant marketing push to draw them in. But with a Walmart Supercenter, there is usually far more regularly reliable foot traffic and constant engagement because it is quite literally a one-stop-shop.

With all of that said, however, serving your people is far more important than serving Google. Multiple websites may be necessary to serve the needs of your people and community. Sometimes Jesus calls us to leave the 99 and go after the 1 (Matthew 18:10-14). So what is best for your ministry may not always be what is best for Google. Before considering if you should launch multiple websites, three questions can be asked to help make the decision.

  1. What will serve our people?
  2. What will serve our mission?
  3. What will serve our brand?

Churches may not always consider their "brand" per se, but it is a factor on Google.

Some Additional Food for Thought

Rand Fishkin, Founder of SparkToro (and Co-Founder and former Wizard of Moz) has presented many helpful Whiteboard Friday talks for Moz. During a few of his videos, he shared some anecdotal thoughts that also apply to multi-campus websites.

The following quote comes from the transcript of Subdomains vs. Subfolders, Rel Canonical vs. 301, and How to Structure Links for SEO - Whiteboard Friday.

What if you've got multiple websites all linking back to your main site, and you're wondering does that or would that help my SEO?… Basically, you have this understanding that more links is a good thing and that more link diversity is a good thing… What you're hoping is that this will amplify your ranking signals and amplify your opportunity. The opposite is true. In fact, what's happening is you're creating a barrier for the full link equity for brand, user and usage data signals, and any potential social signals. You're creating a barrier that's stopping some of those things from passing fully here… You're actually losing most of the link equity, the value, the ranking power that would be passed if only two or three of these links had linked directly over to your main site… by collecting all of the ranking signals on one sub and root domain, you create the best possible benefit… the concept of domain authority is that basically as a domain becomes more popular, as it inherits all of these ranking signals, could come from links, from visibility, from branding, user and usage data, all the kinds of signals that a domain inherits, it passes those on to all of its different pages. But it doesn't pass them on to other sites.

And the following quote is from the transcript of Should I Rebrand and Redirect My Site? Should I Consolidate Multiple Sites/Brands? - Whiteboard Friday.

Will you dilute marketing or branding efforts? Last point of positive consideration is dilution of marketing and branding efforts. Remember that you're going to be working on marketing. You're going to be working on branding. You're going to be working on growing traffic to these. When you split your efforts, unless you have two relatively large, separate teams, this is very, very hard to do at the same rate that it could be done if you combined those efforts… My answer is if the content overlap is strong and the audience overlap is strong, you can do both on one domain. You can see many, many examples of this across the web, Moz being a great example where we talk about startups and technology and sometimes venture capital and team building and broad marketing and paid search marketing and organic search marketing and just a ton of topics, but all serving the same audience and content. Because that overlap is strong, we can be an authority in all of these realms.

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