Messy SEO Part 1: Navigating a site consolidation migration

Search professionals have found themselves cleaning up issues following site consolidation migrations. This is the exact situation I walked into for the MarTech brand. 

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Messy SEO is a column covering the nitty-gritty, unpolished tasks involved in the auditing, planning, and optimization of websites, using MarTech’s new domain as a case study.

Walking into any new SEO project presents marketing strategists with unique challenges. Different website properties need solutions tailored to their specific issues. And with so many things to consider—branding, business goals, site setup, etc.—your project requires particular deliberation.

Search professionals have found themselves cleaning up issues following site consolidation migrations. This is the exact situation I walked into for the MarTech brand. 

It was nothing short of what I call an “SEO mess,” or a collection of issues affecting search visibility in need of intricate solutions.

I recently joined the Third Door Media team to help clean up these issues arising from the consolidation of Marketing Land and MarTech Today. The new site needed someone to jump into the thick of things and chart a path forward. Here’s how the process unfolded:

Issues arising from site consolidation

Many organizations find their sites in need of heavy-duty clean-up after consolidation. But, unfortunately, they don’t always have time to undergo continual optimization and maintenance. 

In MarTech’s case, the issues arose from a necessary business decision for the brand. 

Rather than continuing to split our audience between the brands Marketing Land and MarTech Today, we chose to lean into MarTech. Using our resources to help marketers find their place in the new marketing landscape made sense.

Yet, significant website changes often come with significant issues, no matter how necessary the work. And there’s no one magic strategy to fix the mess. Instead, this situation requires a multifaceted, nitty-gritty solution.

The messy side of SEO

Before the site consolidation, the team took the content published on one platform and repurposed it for the other. For example, MarTech Today produced content for professionals researching marketing technology and automation, while Marketing Land focused on a broader marketing audience. Each would tailor their content pieces to their market, making slight changes where applicable.

The expected duplicate content issues arose following the consolidation, and the required fixes were far from a one-time fix.

The new site now has at least two versions of over 1,000 articles. What’s more, their copy is close enough to target the same topic and keywords. To solve this issue, we put together redirects from the content on Marketing Land to its counterpart on MarTech Today. Most of these contained the “-2” in their URL that WordPress adds to duplicate slugs.

The redirects were a needed short-term solution to prevent user experience and duplicate content issues. But with the new site being as large as it is, not all the redirects were set up, leaving many near-identical pieces waiting to be indexed.

Many other problems were also affecting the site, including many relevant non-indexed pages, broken links, mixed content, and site speed problems. However, we decided to tackle the duplicate pages first because they related to our site’s primary offering; marketing strategy, news, and insights. Fixing the problems affecting content visibility and quality is thus the priority.

Considerations and solutions 

Working on these crucial issues after a site migration and consolidation isn’t glamorous by any means. However, when engaging with any messy optimization project, you need to ensure your expectations align with the likely outcomes. 

The fact is, you won’t see the results of your efforts for some time. And that’s OK.

Google and other search engines need time to analyze the site for these changes, and we want them to be thorough. Fortunately, setting up the redirects directs visitors to the correct pages immediately, preventing UX problems until the consolidated pages are indexed and ranked.

Redirecting our focus

Because the content on each duplicate page in question is targeted toward separate audiences, there are a few factors to consider to determine what will appear on the consolidated page. These include the following:

  1. How is the page performing?
  2. How are people interacting with the page?
  3. Which content is best suited for the target audience?

Using data available from Google Search Console and Analytics, I reviewed clicks, impressions, average page views and time spent on them, and a whole host of other valuable data. This data helped me answer considerations #1 and #2.

But, since the site has only been live since May, more data was required to determine which content aligned with MarTech’s audience interests.

Speaking with our talented writers and reviewing keyword data helped me determine which pieces of duplicated content were best suited for MarTech’s audience. It allowed me to begin the process of placing the best content on our new consolidated pages. And by redirecting the duplicated URLs, I’m able to point people and search engines to the most appropriate destination.

Wrapping up

That’s it for this first installment of “Messy SEO.” Next, we’ll continue to go through the steps taken toward cleaning up the mess post-site consolidation. 

Have you worked on a site consolidation project for your business or clients? What tactics and tools did you use? Email me at cpatterson@thirddoormedia with the subject line Messy SEO Part 1 to let me know.

>> You can read Part 2 of our Messy SEO series here <<

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About the author

Corey Patterson
Corey Patterson is a former editor for MarTech and Search Engine Land. With a background in SEO, content marketing, and journalism, he covers SEO and PPC industry news to help marketers improve their campaigns.

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