In the past, we’ve had clients who have had websites with a few different providers–either through a physician organization like AAOS, or a marketing service like Yellow Pages. When we launched the websites we created for these clients, they were being outranked in search engines by their old websites, which were still live.
Why would these old, very basic websites affect ranking for the new, optimized websites? The problem is, in keeping those old websites up and running, those practices created competition against themselves and ran into some problems with SEO.
The Problem With Multiple Websites
There are many reasons you might keep an old website up. Maybe it was free. Maybe it was already paid for through the remainder of the year. Maybe it was a microsite that you set up to feature a particular procedure. Maybe it was cheap, so you didn’t see the harm in continuing to pay for it.
And, more websites equal more chances to dominate search rankings, right? What’s the harm in keeping them up?
While we can certainly see the logic behind that thought process, in practice it often has the opposite effect. When there are multiple websites all belonging to the same practice, it dilutes your efforts. It makes it more difficult for search engines to determine which site should receive top ranking.
Your new website may be more informative, up-to-date, and have a modern design, but the problem is that it’s new. Your Yellow Pages or AAOS site may be old and outdated, but it’s been around for awhile. Search engines have had time to index it. Before your new site went live, search engines were directing people to that site when they searched for your practice. When a new site goes live, it can take time to build up that kind of authority so that search engines “understand” that the new site should take priority.
Because the new site is more up-to-date and more informative, it will in all likelihood outrank the old site eventually–even without taking further steps to build search value for the new site. The problem is, it will probably take longer to gain in ranking because you are competing against yourself by keeping your old websites around. (To learn more about how search engines determine ranking, see our blog post on this topic.)
What You Should Do Instead
If you can have your old websites taken down, that should be your first course of action. Whether the old site is free or you’ve already paid for it in advance, you’re diluting your practice’s investment in the new site by keeping the old site up. If you can’t, there are still ways to work around it.
Whether you keep the old website up or not, you should work to create signals to search engines to show that the new website should take priority. The best way to do this is to claim and fill out your local listings on as many listing sites as possible. Almost all of these services will give you the option to add in a link to your website. Completely fill out the listings with your practice name, address, and contact information, and be sure to add in a link to your new website. Also, make sure that any other websites that point to your old website, including social media profiles, hospital websites, and local listings are updated to link to your new website. Remove links to the old website whenever possible.
Unlike your old websites that create competition for your new website, these online listings can help to signal to search engines which website should take priority. Essentially, they help to sort out the confusion by creating association between your practice and the new website, rather than creating more competition.