Our Head of SEO Tom Williams explains how to avoid damaging your traffic, and key projects to this process.
If you’re planning on merging your website/brand with another, it’s imperative the brand’s online and organic presence doesn’t suffer.
Before merging domains, it’s important to check both domains for manual and algorithm penalties. A backlink analysis project on all domains to be merged will ensure that any backlinks against Google’s link scheme guidelines will be disavowed and won’t then damage your brand’s online reputation.
Make sure you investigate the penalty history of both domains before you merge – otherwise you could find yourself caught in a struggle that could have been avoided.
Before migrating, it’s important to devise a detailed URL mapping document. This will cover any changes in URL and make sure all previous URLs are redirected to the new version, via a 301.
When implementing 301 redirects, you must make sure you redirect old pages to relevant new pages. Otherwise if anyone visits an old page and is redirected to an irrelevant page to the one they were visiting, this will increase bounce rates, resulting in a loss of engagement and equally, profit.
You want your users to continue receiving a streamlined experience with as little interruption as possible.
Leverage Google Analytics to determine the most viewed pages over a twelve-month period, and plan your navigation in line with this. User engagement tools such as Crazy Egg can also identify key areas of pages where users engage.
Make sure the internal linking structure is set up to ensure the highest number of internal links point to the most relevant pages. A page with 100 internal links is likely to perform better than a page with two internal links. This is due to the PageRank strength that will be going to those pages.
Note: it’s normal for technical issues to hinder the merging and migration process. See our previous blog post on these issues and the actions you can take to solve them.
Risk of Traffic Loss
Yes – rankings can fluctuate as a result of site migration. What you need to avoid is a sudden sharp fall in ranking positions, or even a continuous downwards spiral. This will cause a loss in traffic which in turn causes a decline in revenue.
But what causes this?
Merging from one domain to another naturally incurs a loss of domain strength, for a number of reasons:
- The new domain is usually weaker than the current domain, due to the number of backlinks. A domain with a low number of backlinks is always weaker than a domain with a high number, because its authority means it will likely rank above a competitor.
- Bot crawling and indexation can take a number of days, even weeks depending on the size of the website. Search engine bots will be going through a process to remove old, redirecting URLs from their index whilst adding new URLs.
To solve this? Ensure your URL mapping document is ironclad. Try and stick to the same or similar website structure when you migrate and merge, because changes to architecture can prove difficult to bounce back from, and pose a potential risk for organic visibility and brand traffic preservation.
Paid Search Integration
This is vital for making sure elements such as keyword rankings, Shopping feeds and Quality score suffer the mildest blows during the merging process.
In short – integrating with Paid Search will ensure your migration has minimal impact on your sales when your merged site launches.
When it comes to keyword rankings, it is important to identify your priority keywords and landing pages ready in advance of your migration.
Organic keyword rankings can fluctuate following migration, so make sure you have a fully-prepared forecast of what it will cost for these keywords to be constantly on in your AdWords account.
Note: You will need to secure budget in advance, as with any site change you will see ranking fluctuations and it’s important to manage the stakeholders’ understanding of what budgets will be needed to keep the traffic and conversions through Paid Search. This will then form your emergency campaign in AdWords. Set up a separate campaign with the relevant ad groups, keywords and creatives, and have this ready to put live once you understand the organic impact of the site migration.
Speaking of keywords…
Throughout the migration and merging process, you’ll gather a pretty clear idea of which pages are going to remain, and which pages will need creation. This means you’ll have a structured plan of which content will be moving over and the gaps that need to be filled – hence a chance to optimise and create content that is keyword-rich and relevant to your brand offerings.
It’s imperative to conduct further keyword research as your merged brand develops. You don’t want to miss vital opportunities to improve rankings!
If you want to find out more about how to manage site migrations and merge your brand successfully, download our free eBook today.
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