Satellite Sites

By Dave Huckabay, Grabapple.com

If you’ve heard of satellite sites at all, you most likely associate it with some crude link wheel scheme, or with duplicate content. We’re going to be looking at something quite a bit different in this article.

Used properly, satellite sites can enable you to accomplish a number of things, without running afoul of search engine spam filters, or producing useless cloned websites that add nothing to the internet:

  • re-purpose / re-use old content and save some writing time or money
  • create valuable properties for linkbuilding
  • create targeted traffic funnels back to your main site
  • enable the use of less brandable EMDs (exact match domain names) for easier ranking
  • provide more complete coverage of your niche
  • create additional revenue streams
  • if your main site gets slapped, you have another property in the niche that you can turn your energies towards.

In addition to the above, when you build out a system like this, you can’t help but become a real subject matter expert. You’ll find that as you create your empire, the content comes easier and easier, and you can write some posts off the top of your head.

Why not Web 2.0?

At this point, some of you are already wondering why you don’t just put up a bunch of Squidoo lenses or similar. You can do that. In fact, for some of the site types I am going to be discussing it may be the best way to go for your niche. But if it is at all possible, I recommend using your own properties for this because:

  • Web 2.0 properties can be fickle in terms of their own policies. You may find that you have put a lot of time into someone else’s site – only to have them change their system, and give you a smaller piece of the pie.
  • They can get slapped by Google just like any other site
  • You have no control over your own content
  • Web 2.0 properties usually take a cut of whatever revenue your content generates
  • Sometimes your Web 2.0 property will outrank your main site, at least in the beginning. This may or may not be an issue depending on your point of view.

Having said the above, I recognize that there can be situations where it just makes more sense to use a Web 2.0 property. Maybe cash is hard to come by, or the particular “niche of a niche” you have in mind simply doesn’t justify a stand-alone site.

Planetary Systems

The example below will be based on a product, because product sales is what I do. If you have a different type of site, say advice or news, I think you’ll be able to use most of these techniques described in your niche as well. If you’re an Amazon affiliate, you’re gonna love this…

Brand Expansion

In this system, you create properties based on brands. The nice thing here is that each brand has its own products, special features manuals, warranties, etc. Check out the image below:

Please don’t take the diagram as meaning that the satellite sites all link back to the main site or vice versa. That’s not the case at all. Of course, that is one possible use for a satellite site – but not the only one. There’s no reason you can’t have a big treadmill site and a Bowflex treadmill site that stand completely independent of each other. The nice thing with that technique is that for a search for “Bowflex Treadmill” you could get two spots in the SERPS (Search Engine Results Page).

I am sure this will not be news to more experienced readers, but if you are running your Bowflex and your Horizon sites as AdSense sites, you do not want to link them together. More cautious marketers may not even link them back to the main site.

When you are building out a brand system like this one, take into account the full product line. For instance, I wouldn’t name my Bowflex site “Treadmill Central” or similar, for the simple reason that Bowflex makes a lot more than treadmills.

Maybe our little Bowflex site starts ranking pretty well. It would be nice to add in some weight benches and adjustable dumbbells to expand the site. In that case, “FitnessDemon” might make more sense.

Sub Niches

Every site of any size can be broken down into sub-niches. Most of the time yours will be reflected in your site categories, but sometimes they will be suggested by a specific post or even a reader’s comment. Our treadmill site could generate product sub-niches like these:

Here we can see just some of the available sub-niches for our site. Each of these can be a site of its own, with unique content. I myself would love to see the Treadmill Desk and High-End Treadmill sites. The best ones now have everything but a built-in hot tub.

Again, we see the opportunity for tightly themed sites that can rank on their own terms. In this case, I would not be surprised to see some of the satellite site outrank the main site for some more general terms. I also believe they would also be more likely to attract links than a general treadmill site.

Related products

Not everything about treadmills is a treadmill. People use all kinds of things with their treadmills, and these provide an opportunity to grow your network as well.

Here we see our treadmill site owner expanding into new and more loosely related areas. It will occur to you that these sites could also be used to bolster sites besides our treadmill site. Many of these niches could support general fitness related or health sites as well.

Monetization

Obviously, these sites need to pay for themselves, and I don’t just mean the hosting fees. You have to be compensated for the time and trouble it takes to set them up. So how do we go about it?
If your main site is monetized as an affiliate or e-commerce site, you can always do the same thing for these. AdSense is more problematic.

Regardless of how you monetize these sites, I do have a recommendation that will help to grow your income and the strength of your network over time with little effort:

  1. Make sure you have the appropriate channels set up so that you can track what income is being generated by these satellite sites.
  2. Without fail, use that money to expand the sites and promote them.
  3. In the beginning, you will want to seed your “satellite fund” if you can. It will get them up and earning more quickly.

The idea here is that these are not your main sites – so long as they generate enough cash to cover their own promotion and content creation, you are winning. The older they get, the larger they get, the more links they have, the more money they make, and the better backlinks they can provide.

E-commerce

I love this. I am already doing this for most of my e-commerce sites, and it works. The satellite sites aren’t bringing in a lot yet, but they more than pay for themselves, and the backlinks don’t hurt.

The nice thing here is that you will already have a deal set up with some suppliers, and you have an instant set of content to re-write and re-use. Your competition will generate content for you as well – in fact, Competition Is Good.

E-commerce sites have instant credibility as well, and easily pass a manual site review should Google come calling.

Affiliate Sites

Same thing – your deal is in place, so you can rinse and repeat.

Don’t be afraid to combine networks to fully cover your sub-niches, and go ahead and include products you don’t have a deal for. It won’t kill you to link out to someone else’s site. I promise. Your goal is to cover the niche.

When you do link out to someone else to give your visitor more information, use the largest most authoritative site you can find that is not your direct competition.

AdSense

Be careful. Don’t link your satellite sites to each other. Absolutely do not create a “ring” or other discernible pattern linking back to your main site.

In Conclusion

Once you have a site making money, double down! Use your satellite sites to increase your exposure in the SERPS, expand your customer base, and generate another income stream.

You already have the keyword research done, you know what it takes to rank, you are familiar with the subject matter – this is how you leverage the work you’ve already done to generate more money with less effort.

So what if HighEndtreadmills.com is only generating $75.00 per month? It takes up a spot in the SERPS, maybe gives you a relevant backlink, pays for itself – and if you plow the earnings back into it, it can become a nice little income stream all its own.
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Dave Huckabay has been operating e-commerce websites since 1996, and has sold millions of dollars worth of product online. Keyword Academy members have access to Dave’s experience through our private forum.

Did you find this article useful? For much more, including complete chapters on competition and content creation, along with product selection, sourcing, and pricing, take a look at The Grabapple Guide to E-commerce.

4 Comments »

  1. Rob Thomas

    Hey Dave

    This article was very helpful. I am definitely going to be setting up satellite sites once I have the funds. My plan is to buy aged domains to use as satellite sites for there instant authority.

    The question I have is how much time do you spend on promotion before moving on? I am sending 20 links to each page then waiting to see how they get on.

    Regards
    Rob Thomas

  2. Rob – Not much. Since my satellites are usually EMD on the product or a buying keyword, they rank pretty easily – albeit for a very narrow range of search terms. The last two I did went up with no links built at all, and generate a few sales here and there. It’s easy money.

  3. Rob Thomas

    Okay – When you buy EMDs I am guessing you do not use trademark terms?

    How do you find your KWs? I usually just use the title from Amazon then see what Google auto suggest bring up. I usually find that the Google keyword tool will show very little search traffic for a lot of product keywords only to find out when I rank the term it gets a lot more – do you find this or is it just me?

  4. Rob it’s not just you. The GKT is flawed. My main AdSense site is based on a term that is supposed to only get about 2400 searches per month and I get much more traffic than that.

    Product terms are also great for bringing in a lot of longtail searches: buy *, * on Sale, and so on. You might like this tool: http://keywordresearcher.org/