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Strengthening Your ‘Home’ Domain With Sub-Sites, Part II

Yesterday I gave an introduction on opening new blogs to strengthen one’s ‘home domain’. These personal-niche blogs revolve around topics that you can easily write about: hobbies, health conditions, musical interests, video games, and so on.

The concept is that these “personiche” blogs require initial effort but don’t need to be frequently updated thereafter. As the months go by and you hammer away at more serious and time-intensive problogging jobs/projects, these blogs slowly get strong in terms of Google PageRank, traffic rank, and monetization power…and so does your whole domain.

The Benefits

With disciplined SEO and great content right off the bat, each of your new blogs can get Google PR 3 or 4 in the next PR update (5 is doable, but difficult to achieve when these blogs are merely ‘auxiliary’ rather than the backbone of your problogging). If my understanding is correct, the Alexa traffic ranking service lumps together traffic for all the subdomains, and every blog that contributes traffic to your home domain’s rank helps a lot.

Aside from using blog monetization systems that partly depend on your PR and traffic rank (e.g. Text Link Ads), your highly targeted blogs can have good Adsense CTRs (a discussion of what makes a good CTR can be found at Darren Rowse’s site).

After six months or so of opening a couple of new blogs, you might be looking at a home domain that has an increased traffic rank and gives you a steady stream of income from multiple sources, even if your efforts on each “personiche” blog have tapered off.

In my experience, monetization is not the be-all and end-all. When you link your good-PR blogs to new domains/projects, the PR juice can spur the growth of the latter. I believe Google regards links coming from the same domain with less weight than those from multiple domains, but still, it’s better than none. An example: my subdomain blogs helped me and my teammates place high in the Philippines’ first two SEO competitions. They also helped put a couple of new, start-from-scratch domains in the search engine results fast.

Last (and maybe the least important for the income-minded), having a diversity of blogs under your home domain (or home ‘portal’) makes you more human, more interesting in the eyes of your readers. This is great especially if you’re looking to build a strong online persona.

Personal Examples

For the past year or so, I’ve unwittingly carried out this technique on my own domain, which is also home to my two main sites. I won’t link the niche blogs here (that’d be too much self-promotion). Instead, here are the topics I chose:

Health — I’ve been suffering from asthma since childhood. I decided to share my experiences on an experimental blog; experimental, because I just wanted to see if a new rarely-updated blog can have good search engine referrals. I’ve written less than twenty posts for the blog, yet the earnings are more than enough to pay for the next few years’ hosting and domain expenses.

Hobbies — The moment I bought my first airplane miniature model, the first words that popped into my mind were, “Blog It!” I blog about every model I add to my collection, as well as my wish list. Less than a hundred unique hits per day, but the monetization is turning out to be decent (not wildly successful).

Books — I love fantasy, sci-fi, and history books. I picked one genre of the three, then created a blog. Funny thing is, I never got around to ‘formally launching’ it, much less writing content. But believe it or not, search engine referrals do trickle in (due to some SEO I did a few months ago), and visitors sometimes click on the ads. Rare clicks, but no doubt, once I get around to writing actual blog posts, the site can contribute some food on the table.

Video games — You see, I’m a huge fan of a 1998 space-sim game that never attracted mainstream fans but earned a small cult following. I created a blog that has more static pages than posts. The jury’s still out on this one; small cult following translates to few visitors, with only a few ad clicks.

Seven Steps

Last but not the least, here are seven steps you can follow when creating “personiche” blogs to strengthen your home domain.

1. Identify the topics you can write about with ease. It’s either you’ve mastered these topics already, or have the burning desire to explore and learn more about them.

2. Do some keyword research. Run some blog searches (e.g. Technorati, Google BlogSearch) for competitor sites or related posts, and see if the advertisements displayed on those pages are targeted enough.

3. Deploy the blog. My favorite choice is WordPress, which is very SEO-friendly in my opinion (do change the default permalinks, though!).

4. Do the preliminary SEO. Optimize the site by choosing a good blog title, adding meta information in the HTML code, configuring the WP permalinks, and so on. If you have existing blogs, add the new blog to your blogrolls.

5. Initial burst of content. Five posts over two weeks and a few more timestamped in advance (to be automatically published in the future) are a good start. Make sure these posts are keyword-rich and interesting, with your own writing tone and voice.

6. Further SEO. Armed with good content (and better with a good blog design/theme!), submit the blog and its feed to directories, build links from related sites, join a blog carnival, and so on. You can also write short articles on the blog’s topic with a link to your blog, and submit them to the many free article directories out there.

7. New content, now at your own pace. Have some free time in between your major problogging projects? Squeeze in some “personiche” posts.

Rinse and repeat.

Author: PhillipK

17 thoughts on “Strengthening Your ‘Home’ Domain With Sub-Sites, Part II

  1. Brett,

    get SmartFTP if you’re on Windows, goes much faster and offers for a free client more FTP options than DreamWeaver.

    Am I the only one who has his ready-made WP packages with plugins and even a totally exported clean DB? Actually I keep (and update) that folder even online so I only need to do a quick copy&paste and even my cron backup scripts are place and everything.

  2. I’ve seen this problem, but at all levels domain, subdomain and directory. I always chalked it up to a buggy theme. I do have themes on directories that display the thumbnail just fine so its not a universal thing.

    Fantastico is handy for the installs and sooo much faster, but I can never really tell what I’m getting (which WP version for example). Plus, I then have to upload the specific things myself. I use dreamweaver and the synchronization is then out of whack too.

    Fantastico would be fantastico if I could configure my default install.

  3. Yup, that’s it! The thumbnail won’t display but the theme appears to work. Glad you’re seeing the same thing. And I do have Fantastico but it won’t allow me to install into a sub-directory apparently. I don’t mind doing it manually though.

  4. @Kirk, hmmm, do you mean there’s entirely no space displayed for the new theme in the Presentation page? I’ve never encountered that problem yet. Most of the time, the space is there, but the thumbnail picture just doesn’t display, and I leave it at that 😉

    You’re welcome. Btw, you might want to avail yourself of a web host with Fantastico-enabled cPanel. Having Fantastico install WordPress (to the subdirectory/domain you want) will spoil you, as it’s very easy compared to the manual install.

    @Brett, ah, if only Second Life were popular here in the Philippines. I’m not even sure if it’s available here. Most Filipino MMORPGamers go agog over RF Online, Ragnarok Online, and WoW to an extent

    @Ifranky, now, that sounds like a great tactic. Seems like the reverse of my own, but logical (and I guess effective) nonetheless. My most recent sites seem to leave the Sandbox early, though (around 2 months), maybe because of the good-PR incoming links from the previously-opened subsites.

  5. Just a quirk I’m seeing. I understand some plugins need to be modified in order to run if the WordPress install exists in other than the root directory and I should be able to use the author’s directions to hack the necessary code alright but it seems that every theme I upload to the new install fails to show a thumbnail in my Admin’s Presentation page. The Default and the Classic themes do have their associated thumbnails showing. Is there some “absolute path” in a WP core file that I need to modify here? I know the themes are being uploaded correctly and I have no problem with my main install. Any ideas?

    Oh, and thanks for the info about changing the url. I wasn’t sure if you used a plugin for that or it was done on the server side.

    @Brett: Excellent tip and one which I thought of doing but wasn’t quite sure enough about it to try it so I played it safe with setting up another SQL DB. I’m still not quite comfortable with the more advanced server side/Wordpress stuff yet. I have a couple-three decades worth of past computer related experience but as with everything…there’s always more to learn and each situation is just enough different to get you in trouble.

  6. Philipp, re your last comment and check list, I always keep some domains with little or no content, but only a topic focus ready. This means the first 4-5 months I update them irregularly. Shortly before they reach 6 months and should get a first huge SERP traffic boost (read leave the Google Sandbox) I start hitting the keyboard.

  7. The real estate analogy is even more literal in SecondLife. I haven’t done much development there yet, but its definitely on my list of to do items. I think I will set up an office there soon.

  8. @Brett: True, getting all the metrics and SEO setup takes a lot of effort. To help minimize the work, I keep an “SEO checklist” text file on my Desktop, honed and refined by 1 year of launching sites 😉 I go to this file each time I open a new site; with all the steps and websites to visit/submit to already listed down, the burden on the brain is lessened.

    I am very interested in the real estate analogy you’ve used. This is what’s wonderful about carving one’s own mini-empire on the Web — you don’t have to conquer ‘land’ from anyone, nor do you have to purchase. With meticulous care and planning (sometimes even with none of these two!), one can ‘create’ land from nowhere, then cultivate this land until it becomes profitable — profitable, because it either gives you residual income or you can sell it for thousands of times its original value. Just like in real estate.

    @Kirk, glad you found the article helpful. You can opt to use subdirectory or subdomain URLs. The first would go like http://domain.com/subsite, which would be fine. Personally, I like using the latter, subdomains, for subsites separate from the main site. Just create a subdomain (subsite.domain.com) in your cPanel’s Subdomain Manager, then setup redirection to the subfolder in which you installed the WordPress subsite.

    Good luck! Keep us updated here on your new subsite 😀

  9. Sometimes I use individual databases and sometimes you can also just create a new table set within the existing.

    This is the default

    // You can have multiple installations in one database if you give each a unique prefix
    $table_prefix = ‘wp_’; // Only numbers, letters, and underscores please!

    // You can have multiple installations in one database if you give each a unique prefix
    $table_prefix = ‘wpdb2_’; // Only numbers, letters, and underscores please!

    would create a prefix in the tables that can run another wordpress blog on the same database.

    There is a version of WP that you can use to run a multi-blog environment. I haven’t tried it myself yet, but I probably will within the next couple of months.

    User management among other things would probably be easier, not to mention upgrades and plugin management and who knows what else!

  10. @Phillip:

    Thanks for the reply and tip. Right after I left my previous comment I went into my local Sandbox that I had installed awhile back and gave it a try just to see if I had understood you correctly. I had to go into phpMyAdmin and create a second WP database of course but then I created a new directory under my root and stuffed a new WordPress install into it and I had a brand new sub-site. Worked like a charm.

    Then I did the same thing online for a sub-site off my main blog and besides having to figure out how to create a new database (no DB creating privilages in my hosts phpMyAdmin, had to go through their SQL management) and assign the correct user, connections etc, it worked like a charm also.

    Just what I was looking for. Must have been Kismet or something. Thanks.

  11. Just load up wordpress under a new directory. Watch out if you have WordPress loaded on the primary domain and you happen to name a WordPress page with the same name as your new directory!

  12. @Phillip

    Just to make sure here… (newbie to sub-sites)

    I take it you don’t need to register new domain names for these sub-sites? The way I understand what you’re saying, the URL address is rather the name of the directory your sub-site resides in such as “sub-blog/main.blog.net”, “sub-blog” being your sub-site. So it’s just a matter of creating a new directory in your main site’s root and loading another WordPress install there.

    Do I have this right?

    The reason I ask is that, due to several requests, I’ve been planning on writing a series of posts called something like “WordPress for the Absolute Beginner” but I didn’t want to include this series on my personal blog and I really didn’t want to start another domain just for that. Your idea sounds like it would fit my needs perfectly.

  13. I guess another way to look at it from a real estate perspective is that there is no such thing as green space on the internet, just a void. So if you do not put something there its just nothing.

    In real estate, there are many benefits to leaving green space between developments. This still applies on the internet as far as page layout goes, but no one is going to cheer you on if you don’t fill a subdirectory or something.

    The other question that I run into is metrics, sitemaps, directory submissions etc. It does turn into a lot of work to get everything setup and tracked and submitted. That is probably the biggest negative, but you would have that issue as well if you just went out and picked up say, 55 separate domains, which I would argue is a less efficient utilization of web resources.

  14. 55 blogs on one domain! You are very diligent, Brett!

    We have the same mindset regarding blogs and subdomains. I’m leaning towards blogs-as-subdomains if their topics are considerably different from each other (e.g. asthma and video games). This is what I did with my home domain. The friends I asked seemed to consider subdomained sites separate from each other and the main domain (something like, “oh, they’re just hosted on that main domain”). On the other hand, creating subdirectories for related blogs (e.g. a pet dog main domain with separate blogs for each breed) seems more natural.

    Translated to your own domain, the idea of 55 blogs under subdirectories (am I right?) with a forum and a store with their own subdomains looks like a great set-up.

    Regarding SEO, I honestly didn’t find a difference between subdomained and subdirectoried blogs. As I’ve mentioned, my home domain almost purely uses subdomains. At the same time, I co-own another domain without content and without SEO for itself but hosting two subdirectoried blogs (PR5 each) which we entered in 2 SEO contests. The result: both domains have the same PR. Of course this is far from conclusive, but I tend to attribute the two domains’ PageRanks to the crosslinking between the subsites and the main sites.

  15. I completely buy your theory and have been using it for several months on multiple domains. Just curious but under this strategy what is your view on running multiple blogs through directories as opposed to or in addition to sub domains.

    I’m scaling up to run about 55 blogs on one primary domain. Then I will run a forum and a store on sub domains of that domain.

    I toyed with the notion of putting each blog into its own subdomain and spreading the juice that way, but they were related enough that it fit together on one domain.

    I’m looking at future sights where the group of blogs is less related as you describe and those I may push to sub domains for that reason, but when the blogs are related then thee seems to be potential benefit to keep them all on the same domain.

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