Merging websites is no easy task. We’ll run you through what merging websites / domains entails and the dos and don’ts of consolidating multiple websites to avoid any unpleasant surprises along the way.
Simply put, a website consolidation project takes place when a business or individual decides to combine two or more websites into a single property.
While you may think you have a good reason for consolidating your domains, we’ve found that there is probably more to it than first meets the eye and there are some basic considerations you want to make especially when dealing with high traffic websites. You definitely don’t want to lose all the work you’ve done in building all the traffic to your websites.
There are many reasons why you might want to undertake a domain consolidation. Whether it is worth actually proceeding with it requires looking at the data in detail. Some key reasons why you might want to go ahead with the domain consolidation include:
The nightmare scenario for a website consolidation project is a loss of traffic and conversions (revenue, signups…etc). When some basic considerations are overlooked, this can have a catastrophic impact on how your consolidation project turns out.
Before proceeding with a website consolidation project, you’ll need to check a couple of things to ensure the project doesn’t turn out to be a disaster.
You’ll need to analyse the data for each of the websites you’re considering consolidating. A detailed analysis will help you decide which domain should be the primary website – into which all the other websites will be consolidating. Selecting the wrong domain will mean you lose more rankings, traffic and, ultimately, conversions
For this, you’ll want to pull Google Search Console data for:
Anyone who has experience with Google Search Console will have run into the limitations of only being able to export the top 1,000 results – this can be a headache if you’re consolidating large websites, which might have 3,000 or even 10,000 keywords that are driving traffic.
This is where having an agency or skilled team of devs who can use an API to pull all the data needed comes in very handy. At Semetrical, we’ve run into domain consolidation projects that require that extra data, and we recommend you don’t take any shortcuts at the analysis phase. Get this part right and you’ll confidently go into the execution of the domain project.
You’ll also want to use Google Analytics for the conversion data, analysis of engagement metrics like bounce rate, pages per session and time spent on pages.
An in-depth analysis of the traffic and overlaps between domains will allow you to:
2. Decide on primary website (or domain)
Once you have the data from the analysis of each domain, you’ll need to decide which website you want as your primary domain. Done correctly, the analysis would have identified which website is driving the most traffic and from what keywords. It would have also identified where the keyword overlaps are and which websites are ranking best for those overlap keywords.
Each project will be different, but from our experience, there will always be a clear winner for which domain you want as your primary domain. There may be mitigating factors, e.g. the business has already chosen a website/domain based on the brand name they want to go with moving forward, in which case we’d still recommend doing the analysis so you understand how much traffic might be lost due to the decision made.
3. Decide on what content you will be combining
Once you have decided the primary website and have the data showing where the overlaps are, you’ll need to decide where a content refresh and the possibility of combining content will improve the content on the primary domain.
You might find that this might involve a lot of work. Hey, nobody said this was going to be easy! By refreshing the content there are two key benefits. First, the content will be fresh and up to date, which is becoming very important to Google as it pushes EAT (expertise, authority and trust) as an important part of rankings. Secondly, by combining the best of two articles that ranked and were driving traffic you should have an improved piece of content which actually gives you an improved chance of ranking better.
Not to mention, there might be backlinks from the content on the sites that are being consolidated into the primary website. We’ll get to more of this when discussing the importance of getting the 301 redirects implemented correctly.
4. Decide on what content you will be deleting
Your analysis on traffic would have identified pages that drove no traffic and no conversions. Most of the time these pages can be deleted. There may be instances where you might notice that the content on these pages could be vastly improved e.g. if the content is very thin or just not well written.
Cleaning up your website and removing low value content will actually benefit the website as a whole as the overall quality of content will improve. The search engines and their crawlers will notice this and it can lead to a substantial boost in SERP performance.
5. Map out the 301 redirects from domains being deleted to primary domain
In many ways, a domain consolidation project is like a migration (another service we pride ourselves in executing correctly here at Semetrical). We recommend having a thorough migration checklist for a domain consolidation project as there will be many of the same technical checks and actions you’ll need to take.
Even the websites that are being consolidated into the primary website would have most likely built some authority so you want to ensure you 301 redirect equivalent URLs (remember the analysis we carried out to identify overlaps).
There may even be the added bonus of backlinks that are pointing to some of the content on the websites being deleted. Ensuring these pages are redirected to the most relevant or closely related pages on the primary website can actually have a positive impact on rankings for the pages in question.
6. Measure results
It’s important that from the get go, results are measured. The initial analysis should mean we’ve gathered data on rankings, traffic, and a number of other key engagement metrics.
Once the consolidation project is executed, you want to keep an eye on the results and ensure that there are no major surprises. For example, if you see the keywords for a page that had refreshed content drop it may indicate that the 301 redirects you set up to the page are not working.
As can be seen, there is a lot more that goes into a website consolidation project than first meets the eye. Ensuring that you understand what the traffic loss could be will also help avoid any surprises.
There are many technical elements that you need to consider and get right , as well as an understanding of where the traffic loss and gain may come from, when you make the decision to consolidate websites.