When companies acquire a new web property, they often integrate the content with little regard for preserving the site’s performance in the search engines. Even worse, they may simply disregard content based on branding guidelines, technical restrictions, or other reasons that cause that page to go away.
Developing an SEO site acquisition strategy would ensure that their audience can continue to access the information they have come to expect, and that those web pages that drive a lot of traffic, purchases, or other metrics, are transitioned in a way where the metrics are not affected; or, in some cases, can even be improved upon.
Your Site Acquisition Strategy should include these steps:
- Develop a keyword strategy (if it doesn’t already exist) to identify and prioritize the keywords that best match the acquired site’s content.
- Perform a current state analysis to understand the acquired site’s current performance in the search engines (ranking, traffic, etc.)
- A content mapping strategy to identify content overlap and content deficiencies within the acquired site and the site for which integration is planned.
- A redirect strategy to complete the short-term integration while maintaining page authority and to maximize performance.
With the content mapping, there are a number of scenarios you will want to explore, including:
- A keyword that ranks well (top 5) for both the acquired site and the main site
- A keyword that ranks well (top 5) for the acquired site but has little or no supporting content on the main site
- A keyword that ranks well (top 5) for the main site but has little or no supporting content on the acquired site
- A keyword that does not rank well for either site
Scenario 1: Your keyword ranks well for both sites
This is your low-hanging fruit, in that you’ll want to map this keyword to a URL on the main site. Take the opportunity to analyze each page to determine if there are content gaps that can be addressed to bolster the performance of the page either in rankings or in its ability to convert.
Scenario 2: Your keyword ranks well for the acquired site
In this case, you’ll want to integrate content from the acquired site into the main site to ensure that the needs of the searcher are met. Care should be taken to understand the internal link structure or thematic hub that this page is part of and to address that during content integration into the main site.
Scenario 3: If your keyword ranks well on main site
This scenario does not necessarily need to be addressed. Take the opportunity to analyze each page to determine if there are content gaps that can be addressed to bolster the performance of the page either in rankings or in conversion.
Scenario 4: If your keyword does not rank well on either site
This scenario should be flagged and addressed by ongoing search optimization efforts with short-term coverage via paid search.
Deploying a redirect strategy
Finally, you’ll want to deploy a sound redirect strategy to ensure you are getting the most out of the acquisition. Improper configuration can result in lost traction in the search engines and unethical implementation can result in getting banned altogether.
For SEO, 301 redirects are the only acceptable way to redirect URLs. In the case of moved pages, search engines will index only the new URL and will transfer link authority from the old URL to the new one so that search engine rankings are not affected. The same behavior occurs when additional domains are set to point to the main domain through a 301 redirect.
During site integration, a 301 redirect should be used to map each page on the acquired site to the corresponding page on the main site. This can be a monumental task depending on the size and complexity of integration, but it is the only way to ensure that the main site gets lasting link authority and traffic from the acquired site. You do not want to simply apply a blanket redirect that brings searchers from any page on the acquired site to the home page of the main site. This will serve only to frustrate searchers in that they now have to begin their search anew on your site.
Additionally, during integration, you will want to deploy a custom 404 (file not found) to cover any potential gaps. Get as close to searcher intent with this as possible, which means building your 404 files along product or service lines so if someone searches for a specific product page that is no longer there, you can serve a 404 file that displays that general content.
Ensuring that you make the most of your acquisitions is no small task and requires a fair amount of planning. In short, you want to:
1. Develop a set of keywords to best match the intersection of the acquired site’s content and your business goals and objectives.
2. Determine what keywords and pages are currently performing well in the search engines.
3. Map keywords to content across both sites.
4. Identify and fill any gaps in content.
5. Deploy page-to-page 301 redirects.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.