This SEO myth ranks up there with “all links should come from relevant sites”. The Relevant Link Myth is one of the most pernicious false ideas in search engine optimization. But it keeps good company with the 1-topic Website myth.
It’s hard to think of a more self-defeating approach to planning a robust Website than to advise people to only write about 1 topic. I’m sure the people who peddle this faux wisdom also spread fear and dismay about keyword cannibalization, which rounds out my top 3 list of Dumbest SEO Myths of the 21st Century.
If you’re going to believe in any of these myths, pick no more than 2 – and don’t pick the 2 that contradict each other. If you want to believe that Websites should be about 1 topic and that keyword cannibalization is real, you’re pretty much limiting yourself to writing a 1-page Website. There’s no way for you to avoid wandering into multiple topics if you write 2 or more pages of content, ensuring they never cross each other in the search results.
Search Engines Don’t Care about Such Nonsense
There are no search engine guidelines forbidding sites from covering multiple topics.
There are no search engine guidelines forbidding sites from listing 2 or more pages in their results.
If you’re not violating any rules, why would you think it’s “bad for SEO” to have more than 1 topic (or 100 topics) on a site?
If the search engine’s algorithms decide to list your site 2 or more times in the search results, why would you think it’s “bad for SEO”?
By the time you see a Website’s content appearing in search results, chances are very good that content has been vetted by many different algorithms. If the content can pass all those inspections it must be acceptable to the search engines.
Yes, some things slip through the cracks but the algorithms are not designed to enforce imaginary rules made up by paranoid Web marketers. If you cannot find a specific prohibition in the search engine guidelines, you should question the source of your information.
The strength of your convictions on these myths is founded upon endless repetition of unfounded nonsense.
It’s Easy to Find Many Examples of Sites Violating These Imaginary Rules
What do Wikipedia, CNN, YouTube, and Phys.Org all have in common?
Each site publishes content around thousands or millions of topics. And they rank for these topics.
The only excuse people offer for these kinds of counter-examples (and I could list thousands of them if I wished) is that “Google makes exceptions for big sites”.
Oh, well, then maybe the magic formula you’re seeking is to only publish big sites. That cures all ills.
The same sites listed above (and many thousands more) earn multiple listings in random queries like “chinese cities” and “california fires”. When you’re not researching queries for your blog or your ecommerce clients, you should easily find multiple listings per site in the random queries you type in.
Competition among heavily optimized sites for popular queries like “dog food recipes” has more to do with the diversity of results than you appreciate. Thousands of SEO specialists (and people who only believe they “know some SEO”) devote endless hours to squeezing their sites into these highly competitive queries. You’re not creating natural search results – you’re creating highly competitive results.
As a Reader, Would YOU Want Only 1 Topic On a Website?
Many of you know Ralph Tegtmeier (Fantomaster) by reputation if not personally. He’s got huge followings on his social media accounts. And he loves to share interesting articles from a variety of very good, high quality sites.
If I were creating a Web directory today of the Web’s most interesting, informative, and time-wasting sites, I’d start with Ralph’s shares. He’s shown us cool stories from Medievalists.Net, Axios, AtlasObscura, ScienceMag.Org, and dozens – perhaps hundreds more sites.
And I can easily name these sites because I’ve seen them so often in Ralph’s feeds. And yet though he sometimes reshares good content, he shares a huge variety of interesting articles. Many from a single site – over a period of months or years.
How many counter-examples do you have to see of Websites that create a great user experience and earn tons of traffic from search and social media by publishing multiple topics before you accept that, yes, this is an okay strategy for search engine optimization?
If You Use a Blog CMS, You’re Set Up for Multiple Topics
You don’t have to publish a funky multi-site network. Every blog Content Management System I’ve worked with allows you to create categories and tags (maybe calling them by other names).
Why would all these content management systems allow you to do that if that wasn’t the intention behind these systems?
It boggles the mind to see so many Web marketers sagely admonishing each other for “spreading their content too thin”.
Real bloggery is random.
The human mind is random. In fact, randomness builds our creativity and rejuvenates our thinking. A few people have the special gift of remaining focused on a single topic for long periods of time. Most of us don’t.
The Web is built around randomness. While it makes sense to bring structure to that randomness, you don’t need to wear virtual blinders when thinking about what to put on a Website.
The Case for Focusing On a Single Topic Must Be Rational
If you’re just getting started, or if you’re looking for a successful conversion strategy, there is a strong case to be made for focusing on a single topic, or maybe only a small collection of closely related topics.
But that’s not an SEO strategy. The search engines don’t care if your 10,000 pages of content are about 10,000 different topics. Every time some Web marketer insists he has the data to prove search engines DO care, Wikipedia gains 100 more top rankings in the search results.
Narrowing your focus allows you as a content creator to create a great dedicated resource that people will grow to trust, love, and recommend. When you execute that strategy well, people recognize the value of your effort.
The search engine algorithms don’t care. They’ll list the same Website in 1,000 different queries across 100 topics as long as the content meets their expectations for quality, relevance, and importance.
If you’re an affiliate marketer and you only have 1 merchant relationship, you’ll get more conversions by staying focused on that merchant’s product offerings.
Until you’re ready to do something else.
Boredom is not a good reason to launch a new Website. And I say that as someone who has created Websites out of boredom. Trust me, they’re not making any money. They felt like good ideas for an afternoon and then I burned out on those bursts of creativity and went back to paying the bills.
If you’re building an income portfolio you do need to stay focused. It’s a job, not a Sunday ride through the countryside. You should set a goal for a site and work toward that goal. If you make progress, keep going. If you can’t make progress, stop and think about whether you should go on.
Eventually you’ll reach a point where you need to stop rationalizing single topic focus to yourself. You’ll be ready to say, “Okay, I want this site to be more than it is. I want this site to do something else, too.”
OR you’ll be ready to say, “I’ve done all I want to with this site. Now I’m going to move on to something else.”
But if you’re still telling yourself you can’t diversify the topics on your site, you’re lying to yourself. And you’re NOT ready to diversify. You need to believe in what you’re doing, or you won’t do it well.
Diversification Is A Choice That Should Be Strategic
Chaotic randomness won’t do much for improving your search engine and social media marketing skills. But if you really want to create a robust site with diverse topics, then make a plan. Create a strategy for growth in both content and traffic.
I wouldn’t create 100 blog categories and tags upon launching that site. Create only what you need as you need it.
Don’t make promises you may not keep. The promise you will keep is the one to yourself: the loving promise you make when you invest yourself in a project with long-lasting energy and dedication.
Do something you believe in, not something you feel will make you a lot of money. Many people have abandoned good money-making ideas because they tried to do too much at once. The larger you make that site from the beginning – in terms of goals and planning – the harder it becomes to fulfill that promise.
And the farther away you are from the goal the more discouraged you’ll feel as you try to measure progress.
Maybe you want to build a site about repairing cars, renovating antique cars, and flipping cars. You don’t have to wear all three hats at once. Build the site out one stage at a time.
It’s Not Easier to Build 1 Site or 3
Some people will tell you it’s better to do everything on 1 Website because “it’s easier” or “it’s less work”. That’s not always the case.
As you add content to your site you’ll want to explore new ideas and do things that the original design doesn’t handle very well. Sooner or later you’ll run into a limitation of the original design that didn’t matter to you.
And then you’ll have to decide whether to redesign the old site or build a new site. I’ve done it both ways. Both ways turn into a lot of work.
The more content I add to a site the more difficult it becomes to redesign that site in the future. That’s because I experiment with new ways of doing things as time goes by. Most of us do. And eventually, if you look at the way ideas creep into your content habits, you’ll find you must change a lot of older content when you’re ready to upgrade a site.
That is the chief reason why I prefer to add subdomains to Xenite.Org, the personal science fiction and fantasy fan site I’ve managed since 1997. It’s just easier to do something different with a subdomain – and less expensive than registering a new domain name.
Each subdomain on Xenite is like its own Website – but they are also integral parts of the entire domain. Subdomains are not treated much differently than subfolders by the search engines. Another popular myth among Web marketers is that subdomains don’t work as well as subfolders – but in reality the search engines treat them the same.
Search engines don’t care about all these SEO anxieties.
People care about them.
It’s not the algorithms that make things hard for you. It’s all the rules and boundaries you accept that the search engines never made.
Should your Website have only 1 topic? Should it cover many topics?
That’s a question only you can answer. And the answer doesn’t come from search engine optimization. It doesn’t come from search engine guidelines.
Do what you want to do with your business, your site, and focus on that for as long as you can invest in the project with creativity, energy, and passion.
If you hit a dry spot where you’re not sure what to do, it’s okay to take a break. It’s even okay to start something new. You should not feel like you need to finish everything in a month.
Maybe you’re desperate for income, and we’ve all been there. But if you’re not investing in a 10-year SEO plan then you’re doing it wrong.
No matter how rushed you feel, you have more time to build your site, fix its SEO problems, and reap the rewards of good, hard work than you realize.
Any Website can thrive with 1,000 topics. What you need to decide is how many topics you thrive on, and stay focused on what fulfills you. Don’t do things “for the sake of SEO”.
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