photo credit: Kevin Steele
A friend recently asked me for a bit of advice regarding merging two corporate domains. Two organizations, with similar or complimentary lines of business are now one. What to do about the left-over websites. A quandary.
Below I’ve outlined 6 areas to consider, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I guess the only reasonable quick-answer is to first understand the business goal for the merged business. Once you understand that, you can begin to ask questions about the goals for the new website.
Let me create a fictional example to help illustrate the situation, then dive into the six points, and then I’ll outline a couple of things to think about for each of these points.
Obviously there are many more things to consider, but this is a blog post and not a downloadable eBook 🙂
Please leave your thoughts on what I’ve missed! I want to learn from you…now on to the example:
Ben’s Bikes (a local mountain bike retailer) has merged with Sammy’s ski and sports shop. Ben’s Bikes is a market leader in this region, with over 40% of the annual sales volume in new mountain bikes. They also have exclusive dealership agreements with a number of the premier mountain bike manufacturers in Europe. They have a very loyal and select clientele and are considered the ‘go-to’ shop for all regional mountain biking aficionados.
Sammy’s cycle shop is a general bicycle retailer. They don’t really specialize, but they do have a wide selection of mid-priced bikes in all categories (road, mountain, touring, cruising, kids, etc). They also have multiple locations in the local geographic region.
The businesses have merged and are operating as Ben & Sammy’s cycle therapy. They have a small internal team tasked to manage the website integration.
Now that we understand the landscape, we go back to the quandary of the website. Let’s get to some important questions:
photo credit: casey atchley
These are the visitors to your site; your potential or past customers. Questions you should be asking your team include:
- Who are you servicing and what are their goals for using your website? This is basic and should be asked before any website is designed (or redesigned).
- What’s the business purpose? Is your website there to book appointments, to take orders, or to provide a catalogue of information? Your new site will depend on how well you answer that questions, and how well your audience understands that purpose.
photo credit: marcbel
This is what your audience is looking for. Audiences conduct research and order online.
- Inventory — both sites likely have similar content, so which do you keep and which do you ditch? You can’t make content decisions until you’ve evaluated all the content assets.
- What about content unique to one business…is it still relevant in the new business landscape?
- Keep only content that supports the audience’s ability to fulfill the business goals of the site. Everything else is distraction.
photo credit: inju
Both sites have some search engine pagerank value. This is the value of
the page to a particular set of search keywords or search term. It determines how high the page appears in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) when a particular phrase or keywords are searched upon.
- Determine if pagerank is really important to your business needs, or not, and consider appropriate Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques in your merge process.
- 301 Redirects — if you’re creating a new domain, you’ll need to set these up to ensure that the search engines know that the previous businesses haven’t vanished, just merged. Setting them up can be a bit technical but is very important to ensure that visitors who’ve bookmarked the old business pages are appropriately redirected to the new site.
photo credit: perreira
Over the development of the two previous websites, you’ll find that there may be some communication touchpoints including RSS feeds, tag feeds or even
regular email newsletters. You’re going to have to consider migrating
all these to the new site.
- Now’s a good time to evaluate the integration of your entire communication process. Where does web fit? How about RSS feeds of particular content streams…or newsletters? This is where your marketing team will have some valuable input too…really!
- If you’ve had a website, you’ve likely been measuring traffic to that site. Well, since you’re merging sites, now is the perfect time to re-evaluate your website measurement strategy. Will you continue using the free utilities or consider purchasing a service contract with a service provider? What kind of reporting do you need? What kind of decisions are you going to be making based on what kind of data?
photo credit: robholland
Changing external linking
Both websites have been around for a while, and have a fair number of inbound links from other sites and online articles.
- These help build pagerank (Google Juice). Yes, they’ll automagically flow through when they hit the 301 redirects, but it’s also good to contact the sites directly and ask them to update their links. This is a great time to (re)establish communication with your website network…work the social side of the medium 🙂
photo credit: alq666
Promotion on your old sites
Regardless of all the work you do, your old websites will still be bookmarked or linked in old email etc. If, perchance, that someone does click on an old link, help them find your new location.
- Keep your old sites live for a year or two. Domain names are pretty cheap these days. After you’ve merged them into the new site, kill the old content on the old sites (to reduce the size of the sites you’ll need to maintain) and leave helpful messages on the appropriate landing pages. Use your analytics and server logs to determine heavily visited pages.
I’m not the expert…what do you think!
As I mentioned, this is not a book, just a blog post. So, there are many more things to consder in the merge process. I’ve listed a few above, but what do you think? What have I missed that I shouldn’t have? Leave your thoughts below.