What Are The Top SEO Considerations For Merging Sites?

Today’s Ask An SEO question is about the all-too-familiar challenges of site integration and migration.

Migrations and consolidation can be daunting and intimidating but often necessary nonetheless.

They can also be of great benefit to your website if done right.

The question comes from Merrill in Portland who wrote in:

“I have two domains with the same narrow audience running WordPress, both of which have many years of history and steady traffic.

one that has about 2,000 views a month; 500 the other.

One site started as a podcast home (there are now over 700) and the other was a blog and a link to a store.

Since both sites are for the same audience, I don’t think it makes sense to continue with this split structure.

I’m thinking of creating a new domain and putting the content from both under the new domain and using an LMS like Kajabi to put my podcast, blog, email list, store, etc. under one roof and simplify management and “take credit” for traffic and pageviews combined.

I hope this improves my overall ranking. What are the top 3 items I should focus on as I consider this migration?

Great question, Meryl.

I’m going to take off my SEO hat for a minute and tell you that the number one thing you need to consider when doing this migration is your users.

Does this make sense to them?

From what I’ve written, it seems the average user will expect to see all of this content in one domain, so I’m going to make this my main driver.

On the SEO side, we can help you get the most ‘credit’ or ‘authority’ out of a variety of solutions, so it’s important to make sure we’re doing it for the right reasons: the users!

You mentioned a new third domain name.

I don’t know what your existing domain names are or if they make sense, but if they did I would consider keeping one.

Moving to a third domain won’t really hurt your SEO in the long run (it may take longer to start but it will be good in the long run) but it can come with unexpected problems.

If it’s a new domain, you’ll need to look up who owned it before and what kind of content was there.

It is possible that the domain has been used for spam in the past (or anything else that would jeopardize your business today).

No matter what domain you choose to host it all, there are a few things you need to keep in mind as you start your migration and consolidation.

1. Plan reorientation

This is where most sites fail in their migrations.

No matter how well planned, they always miss or configure some kind of redirect incorrectly.

It is important to ensure 1-to-1 redirects for all URLs and URL variants.

This may also mean updating the old redirects that are currently in place (depending on your technical setup).

It is very easy for things to fall through the cracks.

Many people use Screaming Frog’s crawl to get a list of URLs, but this may not take into account unlinked landing pages and the like, for example.

Always start by doing an export from the CMS.

2. Set content

Depending on which sites you’re migrating, you may have some similar content on both sites.

Now, duplicate content isn’t a “punishment” or a big deal the way many SEOs talk. But it is still not the best for users.

You’ll need to plan ahead for what content will be rewritten on or off, and which URLs the duplicate content will live on at once.

Chances are good that one of these URLs has more SEO mentions pointing to it than the other.

3. All technical issues

Once migrated, you’ll need to make sure all of this is updated correctly:

  • conventional signs
  • chart marks
  • Hreflang tags (including those on other websites)
  • Sitemaps
  • Paid links
  • Open the graph tags
  • Twitter Cards
  • CDN settings
  • Random javascript/images/etc. with static URLs
  • Analytics tags
  • Third-party ad servers, API keys, or other domain-specific tools.

I wouldn’t rely on redirects for search engine signals or code based stuff, because that adds delays and can slow things down.

4. Tell the search engines

While most will figure this out on their own based on the redirects, The Google And bing Each has a tool to help you speed this up a bit.

You should use those, but only once you’ve triple-checked everything else.

There are more things that go into the process of migrating or consolidating websites than people think.

Having specified many of them for clients over the years, I can tell you that the amount of work can be amazing – sometimes to the point that a team with a large site might reconsider its plan to change domains just for vanity reasons.

Hope this helps.

Remember, if you are stuck in any decision, forget about SEO and ask yourself what is best for the user.

It’s usually better for SEO too – it might take some extra work to code it in a proper way.

More resources:

  • Google shares tips for site migrations
  • Google shares how to rank better by combining pages
  • The ultimate SEO checklist

Ask an SEO is a weekly SEO advice column written by some of the industry’s top SEO experts, hand-selected by Search Engine Magazine. Do you have a question about search engine optimization? Fill out our form. You may see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!

Featured image: AI Studio / Shutterstock

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