This blog outlines the consolidation of two websites after a merger or acquisition but the principles are just as effective in other circumstances where one or more websites are being retired and redirected to a new one.
Click on one of the topics below to get whisked to that section of the article.
Do both websites (and by extension, the brands behind them) offer essentially the same products and services? Or do they have distinct variations, or only a partial overlap? Understanding this will help you decide your website merger options.
Your SEO team needs to present you with a content audit. At a foundational level, brief your team to be creative - start with these tasks and see where that leads them.
I have no hard and fast rules for running a content audit - encourage your team to think like a website visitor who doesn’t know either brand. Ask the team to put themselves in the shoes of your key buyer persona. This mindset should see your content audit evolve into a set of recommendations that are based on business growth, rather than a technical document that outlines what is easiest to do from a technical standpoint.
Do both websites each represent a widely known brand, or does one eclipse the other? For the purposes of this question, brand might refer to the parent company but it might also refer to the product names themselves. An excellent way of gauging brand value from a website perspective is to use Google Trends to compare how many people search for branded terms relative to each other. Ask your SEO team to pull together a landscape of such terms and present you with the data and their recommendations, to make sure that you get a balanced view. If your SEO team doesn't know what Google Trends is, fire them. There are big changes coming with this website merger, and they didn’t even bother to show up to the first day of SEO class.
What organic visibility is currently held by both websites? The metric you should be looking at here is organic traffic from search engines. Again, does one website eclipse the other?
While looking at the sitewide numbers will be very useful, you should also break the websites down into equivalent sections and compare them like-for-like by topic, product-type or service. The only real way to accurately get to grips with these numbers is to delve into Google Analytics. Your reputation is on the line with the merging of these two websites (you knew that, right?) so if you have any doubts about your marketing team’s capability with data analysis, you should probably get your hands dirty - use this beginner’s guide to Google Analytics if it’s your first time. Don’t let your SEO team simply rely on SEMrush, ahrefs or similar tools because, while they’re fantastic (we use them all the time), in this use case, where you have access to Analytics for both sites, their estimates of organic traffic aren’t accurate enough to help you make your decision.
Has your acquired site received a Google penalty, malware warning, or is it marred by some notoriously buggy or problematic legacy software? Is there an IT Director skipping out of the acquired building with a big smile on his face?
If there’s a problem here - it’s often a career defining moment. Spot the problem before the merger and you’ll be carried shoulder high from the next board meeting. Miss a hidden issue and it will soon be time to update your LinkedIn profile to “looking for interesting opportunities”.
Before the merger, be absolutely certain that your SEO team have access to Google Search Console to the newly acquired website. While you’re at it, ensure they’ve got Google Search Console access for your existing site - if they don’t, you need to show them the door.
Once they’ve logged into Google Search Console, they’ll get notified about any recent and outstanding penalties / malware. Note: there are unlikely to be any notifications about anything more than a month or two old. To look backwards in time, get your SEO team to check out three key metrics using Majestic - the backlink profile, the citation score and the trust score of the new site. Compare these metrics with your existing site and if there’s any radical differences, these checks should mitigate against the chance of you redirecting a poisonous backlink profile from the acquired site to your existing brand.
This stuff is absolutely critical so it may be worth getting a second opinion, particularly if you think your team or your agency are flying by the seat of their pants. This is not the time to be learning on the job.
As you move towards a website merger, you’ll need to ensure that your SEO / Web Dev / UX / Marketing teams have agreed between them who is accountable for these essential jobs:
Merging two or more enterprise websites isn’t something most companies do very often and, since no migration is ever the same, even if you have the in-house experience to do a lot of the technical stuff, it’s often forgotten by the time your team needs to use it again. Which means you have the unenviable task of appointing an SEO agency to help.
While you make a short list of agencies, check out these questions to ask before hiring an SEO agency. Tailoring these questions to be appropriate to your circumstances and sector will be key. When asking for evidence of an agency's skill and reliability, ask for relevant case studies around enterprise website mergers and migrations.
Here’s the key SEO archetypes you’ll run into as you’re building your short list.
Ideally, you want to find an SEO agency with a team who has the seniority and understanding of the strategic implications - they can help guide you to the right choice, PLUS a team that includes a good mix of rankers and tech SEOs. In a perfect world the agency you choose will also have a long track record of migrations, including recent (successful) experience at merging multiple websites across multiple territories and languages.
Noisy Little Monkey are legendarily good at this stuff but we’re not everyone’s cup of tea. However, since you’re still reading, there’s a reasonable chance that we’ll get on well together. Check out this merging two websites case study or get in touch if you want to short cut all the marketing BS.
Founder and Technical Director of Noisy Little Monkey, Jon blogs about SEO and digital marketing strategy.
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