If your company is merging two corporate identities, it’s critical to treat your domains with care. Without a thorough, measured plan to audit and redirect legacy content, you could confuse the customers you were expecting to delight. Getting it right, however, can unlock significant benefits for your merging brands.
What Happens When Domains Merge
Whether it’s through takeover, buyout or acquisition, company mergers require a complex overhaul of their entire financial, legal and IT infrastructures. Delivering a consistent customer experience is crucial. The goal should be to merge domains seamlessly, preserve domain authority and page rank, and develop a more robust information architecture without disruption.
The Options for Merging Domains
What happens when a popular software startup with a strong following gets acquired by a tech giant? (Think Google acquiring Fitbit or Microsoft acquiring GitHub.) The smaller partner may not match the larger’s domain authority and server inventory, but it may well bring an engaged, focused and influential community with it. The logical step is to absorb the lesser-ranking domain. That means redirecting all content to the target domain to avoid user confusion from a brand perspective.
Alternatively, when two companies of equal footing merge, it may be necessary to create a new identity entirely. In this case, content from both legacy domains must be redirected or migrated to a new domain. Without redirecting URLs, you’ll lose all domain authority and search rank, and the new domain would be starting from scratch. In the worst-case scenario, as Chevron and Texaco discovered during their merger, a cybersquatter might already have anticipated the new domain and acquired ownership. Don’t forget to purchase desired domains that reflect your combined trademarks before the merger hits the headlines.
Best Practice for Merging Domains
Exhaustive planning is essential. Inventory every URL from each company to visualize and build the new information architecture. This should cover:
- Core content pages, such as product and service pages, contact pages and the about page. To pass on the full SEO authority of legacy pages, use 301 directs.
- High performing content, such as blogs with lots of backlinks. Use online tools or Google Analytics to identify and redirect the content URLs with the best engagement, lowest bounce rate and most social shares.
Remember that migrating to a site with fewer pages but more valuable content will rank higher than a sprawling, bloated estate of low-performing or outdated content. If it doesn’t meet the benchmarks, a merger is an excellent opportunity to dump or archive inferior content.
Common Mistakes When Merging Domains
A lack of planning and standardization is typically the recipe for catastrophe during a merger. There must be a clear, agreed policy and process for redirecting URLs or archiving pages. Other causes of disruption and poor user experience include:
- Changing URLs without setting up a redirect. This will cause the URL to show up as a broken link, with all the SEO equity lost.
- Not monitoring pages for 404 errors or broken links.
- Allowing duplicate pages to exist, which damages SEO rank. Use canonical URLs to tell search engines where the master page is.
- Using an HTML redirect instead of an architecturally cleaner 301 or 302 redirect.
- Migrating blog content into subdomains rather than subpages. Google reads subdomains as separate entities, so any SEO authority would be lost.
- Closing down legacy domains without a substantial archive. Don’t be too hasty to sunset your original website data and content. You should also hold onto any domain URLs that are trademarked to prevent squatters from moving in.
What Are the Best Practices for Redirects During a Migration?
However tempting and time-saving it might appear to redirect all pages on one website to the destination domain’s homepage, bear in mind this will sacrifice domain authority and create a frustrating user experience. Instead, redirect pages with high-performing content to their closest counterpart on the destination page.
Create a complete map of all listed URLs to migrate and use the following types of redirects:
- 301 directs for permanent page migration that passes on full SEO authority.
- 302 directs for seasonal content or campaigns.
In some cases, you may not want to merge all content to one new domain. For example, you may have separate business areas (corporate/consumer) or distinct territories (North America/Europe) covered by the same group. In this case, it is worth setting up unique URLs to segment traffic.
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