How many websites do you have? If you’re just starting out, it may be only one. But if you’ve been in business for a while, it could be one, or two, or ten. Many affiliates, authors, coaches, and solopreneurs have more than one website. Maybe they launched that second site for a second business. Maybe it was for an event. Maybe it was even for an offsite blog.
Some business owners want to spin off a new site every few months. They have a new idea for a new business angle: They want a new site. They decide to write a book: New site. They want to launch a membership program: New site.
Whatever the reasons, before they know it, they’ve got a whole collection of websites. Each website has a slightly different purpose. Each site may also have it’s own social media accounts, it’s own blog, it’s own mailing list. Each site also has it’s own to do list. It’s own overhead.
Adding a new website can sound like a good thing, but it also has some serious drawbacks. It splinters your focus, and doubles or triples your workload. Having more than one site can also make it darn near impossible to adjust your overarching business strategy.
One business owner I helped had so many sites that even long-term staff barely knew how many sites there were. They often didn’t know which sites had important content assets. And as a result of all those sites, the sales funnel passed through a maze of different sites and links. This made tracking a nightmare. It pretty much killed any hope of SEO rankings.
But that wasn’t the worst part. The real problem was that because the business owner had invested so much in those satellite sites, he didn’t want to let them go. The sites were barely profitable and represented a huge overhead, but he could never quite commit or get clear enough about his business mission to kill them, or to even consolidate them. So he just kept investing more and more in them just to keep them on life support.
The sites drained staff resources and kept him hazy and distracted from finding the true engine of his business – it’s true core competency. And his business was going down. He was caught on a hamster wheel of managing all those little sites. Meanwhile, they drained his bank account and distracted him from what he really needed to do for his business.
I have made this same mistake. There are so many opportunities online, sometimes you can feel like a kid in a candy store. It’s hard to pick just one thing. But focus is precious. In fact, I’d argue focus is even more precious than time.
The risk, of course, is that your focus will paint you into a corner. But this is why startup CEOs tend to chant “fail faster”. It means you shouldn’t sacrifice your focus. Keep using it, but find out what works or doesn’t work as fast as possible. That way you can redirect your focus on to the next thing that has the highest likelihood of becoming a success.
Of course, there are times when it is a good idea to launch a new site – when you do want a completely separate online presence. In those cases, it is worth the extra work to launch a new website.
To give you some guidelines on when to create a new site and when to just expand your existing website, we’ve developed this list of questions to ask yourself before you launch a new site. Hopefully these questions will help you make the right decision for your business.
1) Does this new project deserve its own business license?
If your new product or idea or business is different enough from your existing business to justify a new business license, you may have hit one of the few instances when it is a good idea to launch a new site. Needing a new business license or a DBA (Doing Business As) Certificate suggests enough of a different entity to justify a new site. This is a good question to ask yourself to determine if you’ve just got a new product or a truly new business.
2) Is this an entirely different business model?
This one is trickier. Even if it is a different business model (like a coaching program versus an affiliate content site) you may still have something that just deserves a new section on your existing website, not a new site of its own.
3) How much more work is this going to create?
Do you think you’re going to launch a new site and start creating double the content, do double the social media work and double your promotion work? If so, are you ready to double your staff? Are you ready to squeeze in double the working hours?
Some business owners are painfully unrealistic about how their staff can “just squeeze in a little more” or how they can “just add a few more hours of work over the weekend”. Often those “just a few hours more” don’t exist.
4) Where is this new site going to be in the next two years?
If often takes two years for new sites to become profitable. In fact, that’s the typical gestation period. Doubt it? Jay Baer took two years to see a profit for his blog, and he’s one of the most talented bloggers and content marketers in the industry.
So ask yourself: What will success look like for this new website? Do you have a break-even date? Do you have an idea of when even a little money will start coming in? Is it realistic?
5) Do you have the resources and time to put two years of work into this before you see a profit?
If not, at what point are you going to pull the plug?
NB: Answering this question is an excellent way to tell whether you’re launching a hobby or a business. It’s fine to have a hobby, but call it that. Don’t treat businesses like hobbies, or vice versa.
6) Is this new site for a completely different audience?
If you’ve got even one-third of your new audience overlapping with your old one, consider just adding a new section to your existing website.
There is an interesting way to frame all new business ventures: By their audience. Some experts say, “Find the right audience, and all your business problems are 50% solved.”
Finding the right business audience means more than just targeting a demographic. It would also mean narrowing a demographic down to psychographics (how people think), their income, their information consumption habits and the specific problems they face.
It’s no small order. But get your audience and you’re golden. Find the right audience first, and then figure out what to sell them. If you later find another thing to sell them, you may or may not want to launch a new business.
7) Are there technical reasons why this new site or project has to have its own website?
This doesn’t happen a lot, but there are instances where you might be tempted to create a new site rather than try to fuse it to an existing framework. This often happens when new owners are adding a blog to their site. They get tempted to just set up a free blog on another site and link it to their main site.
It’s a mistake. You should always set up a blog so it’s hosted on your site. It’s pretty much never a good idea to have a blog hosted on another site unless you are completely terrified of WordPress and have no skills whatsoever with it. Then it might be easiest to just set up an account on WordPress.org. But for the rest of you (95% of you), even those who have barely any WordPress skills: Your blog needs to be hosted on your site.
8) Does this have to be done?
Is launching this new site really the absolute best use of your time? Or are you spinning off a new project to entertain yourself and distract yourself? Are you doing this to avoid making tough choices about your core business?
9) Is there any possible way to make this fit into your existing business? Even in an ugly way?
This is the planning equivalent of an ugly first draft in writing. Even if it would be a Frankenstein-like business model, what would your Frankensite look like? How might your Frankenbiz run? Just trying this as a thought exercise often clarifies a decision.
Launching a new site is a huge commitment. It’s a bit like taking home a new puppy – cute, exciting – but with a lot of care and love and attention required after the initial thrill. Think carefully before you start launching sites willy-nilly. It’s one of the worst mistakes I see Internet entrepreneurs make.
Do you have more than one website? Is it working for you? How much extra work does it take to manage? Do you ever wish you had just stuck to one website? Tell us about it in the comments.