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Website planning and search strategy for company mergers

While the company website is likely to be the last thing on most people's minds during the merger process, it's important to get it right.

Logo redesigns
Blue Pixel Top Left
Charlie
Posted by Charlie
9 April 2018
   

Following a company or brand merger, a lot of elements of a business will be in flux – particularly if the acquisition process has been gradual. This is no less true online, where formerly separate businesses need to find a way to share the same online space.

The two most common scenarios that need to be addressed from a web perspective are:

  • Two (or more) companies offering slightly different services become one, and suddenly require a singular online portal to either provide information or sell all of them in one place.
  • Two (or more) companies merge in the background, but retain separate online identities, and need to find a way to co-exist without competing with each other.

Both of these scenarios require the same considerations – it's just the outcomes that will be different. Our own experience in guiding businesses through mergers and rebrands, as well as developing a post-acquisition marketing strategy, has seen us develop the following approach.

 

Considering all traffic sources

At the brand level, a lot of attention will be focused on the company's mission and values at this stage. However, at the web level, it's important to never lose sight of customers and users.

While a rebrand or merger is a unique opportunity to tell the world who you are, it's important to remember that it sort of doesn't matter who you are if no one can find you.

Identify all of the potential sources of traffic to your new website, or websites. This could include:

  • Potential and new customers – your new brand is the first they've seen of you
  • Existing and returning legacy customers – they've been with you for a while, and will need to see something familiar in your new setup
  • Your customers' end users – particularly important for professional services companies, for example
  • Your own employees

Will the new website adequately cater to all of these? If you're working across multiple sites, will different groups need to be directed to different places? It's important not to lose sight of these various stakeholders, as neglecting one could make a big impact on your traffic further down the line.

Website Brief Text CTA

 

Identifying SEO opportunities

Every existing website involved with the companies that will be merging needs in-depth SEO analysis to identify that they are performing well for.

A new website, particularly if a new company name means a new domain name, will face a challenge in search rankings compared to something longer-established. It's essential to make sure that strong search positions aren't lost in the transition, and understanding what keywords are being ranked for (and what isn't) is the first step.

Mergers may see a shake-up in services – something that one company offered as a major service, let's use web hosting as an example, may now be covered by a broader department of the newly merged company, such as IT support.

However, if the smaller company had great search rankings for their dedicated web hosting pages, it makes sense to retain these dedicated pages on a new site, rather than burying them in general IT support pages.

It's a simple example, but it highlights how a sales and branding-led approach can neglect something as essential as search rankings.

If multiple websites will continue to exist after a merger or acquisition, it's also important to make sure they're not competing for the same keywords. Particularly if they're using similar content, as we'll cover in the next section.

 

Avoiding content duplication

While Google doesn't necessarily penalise websites that have duplicate content, the search engine won't rank the same content twice.

This can cause a problem if a consolidation of similar services on one website leads to repetition in different areas of the site, or if a company has multiple websites that both cover the same topics – it can limit your visibility if only one page or one site is able to rank.

If multiple websites are being combined, it's important to make sure that similar-but-not-identical services from legacy brands are talked about in different ways, with different structures, perhaps targeting different keywords altogether.

Logo redesigns
A rebrand can be a key part of the merger process - click the image above to find out more about our experience in developing digital brands.

 

Domain redirects

Whether the newly-merged company will be changing its name or not, there will likely be changes to a new website's URLs. It could mean:

  • An all-new domain (i.e. oldcompany.co.uk becomes newcompany.co.uk)
  • Positioning sub-brands on subdomains (i.e. brand.co.uk becomes brand.parentcompany.co.uk)
  • Re-arranging internal pages to accommodate new services (i.e. company.co.uk/our-only-service becomes company.co.uk/our-old-service-and-a-new-related-service)

Or it could be a combination of all of these things.

Whatever the changes, it will mean that any existing links to a website, whether they're in social media posts, search engine results or bookmarks, may now be invalid, resulting in a 404 error page when clicked.

Redirecting old URLs to the most relevant corresponding page on a new domain is essential for ensuring continuity. Time should be taken to make sure the original page and new page are as close of a match as possible in terms of content, to reduce the risk of users leaving the site when they don't find what they expect to find.

 

PPC launch campaigns

Some mergers or acquisitions are accompanied by rebrands and major reveals, while others are quieter affairs. But even if the goal isn't to announce the change with any particular fanfare, PPC advertising through Google AdWords can be an important part of a post-launch strategy.

AdWords is the system of paid adverts that appear in Google search results. You can read up on the ins-and-outs in greater detail in our introduction to PPC guide, but one of the key factors is that you have much greater control over where your ads are placed.

Google AdWords users can specify the keywords their ads will appear for, the location of the searchers, the exact wording of the description, even the time of day that they'll appear.

This can be a powerful method for positioning a new website and company name alongside an old one, helping to join the dots for searchers. It's also a useful way to raise search visibility for a new domain in the immediate period after launch where search rankings may take a hit.

 

Our experience

Handling a rebrand is one thing - specialising in guiding digital and web teams through a merger or acquisition is something else altogether, and it's quite a unique niche within web design.

We've recently gone through this process with Sodexo Engage – the new brand of a professional services provider network that operated 15 websites across 12 different companies and sub-brands before merging.

Creating a singular website to replace 15 isn't your everyday web project – have a read of our case study on the full process here.

And if you have any questions for our team, or would like to discuss a similar project, please don't hesitate to get in touch with us!

Perfect Website Brief

   

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