What Are The Top SEO Considerations For Merging Sites?

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

Migrations and consolidations can be daunting and scary but are often necessary nonetheless.

They can also be a great benefit to your website if done properly.

The question comes from Merrill in Portland, who wrote in:

“I have two domains for the same narrow, audience running on WordPress, each with many years of history and consistent traffic.

One has about 2,000 views per month; the other 500.

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

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

I’m considering creating a new domain and putting the content from both of these under the new domain and using a LMS like Kajabi to put the podcast, blog, email list, store, etc. under one roof and simplify the administration and “get credit” for the combined traffic and page views.

My hope is this will improve my rankings overall. What are the top 3 items I should focus on as I consider this migration?

Great question, Merrill.

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

Does this make sense for them?

From what you wrote, it sounds like a typical user would expect to see all of this content on one domain, so I would let that be my main driver.

From 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 this for the right reasons: users!

You mention a new, third domain name.

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

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

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

It’s possible that the domain could have been used for spam in the past (or something else that would put your business at risk today).

Regardless of what domain you choose to host it all on, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind as you start your migration and consolidation.

1. The Redirect Plan

This is where most sites fail at migrations.

No matter how well planned out, somehow they always miss or improperly configure some sort of redirect.

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

This might even mean updating older redirects that are currently in place (depending on your tech setup).

It’s too easy for things to fall through the cracks.

Many people use a Screaming Frog crawl to get a list of URLs, but that might not account for unlinked landing pages and such, for example.

Always start by doing an export from the CMS.

2. Content Mapping

Depending on the sites you are migrating, you might have some similar content on both of them.

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

You’ll want to plan ahead which content will get rewritten or retired, and which URLs the once duplicate content will live on.

Chances are good that one of those URLs has better SEO signals pointing to it than the other.

3. All The Tech Issues

Once you migrate, you’ll need to make sure all of this is updated properly:

  • Canonical tags
  • Schema tags
  • Hreflang tags (including those on other sites)
  • Sitemaps
  • Paid links
  • Open Graph tags
  • Twitter cards
  • CDN settings
  • Random javascript/images/etc. with static URLs
  • Analytics tags
  • Third-party ad servers, API keys, or other widgets that are domain-specific.

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

4. Tell The Search Engines

While most will figure this out on their own based on redirects, Google and Bing each have a tool to help you speed this up a bit.

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

There’s a lot more that goes into a migration or site consolidation than people think.

Having scoped out several of them for clients over the years, I can tell you the amount of work can be eye-opening – sometimes so much so that a team with a large site may reconsider their plan to change domains just for vanity reasons.

Hopefully, this helps.

Remember, if you’re ever stuck on a decision, forget about SEO and ask yourself what’s better for the user.

Usually, that’s better for SEO, too – it just might require some extra work to code it in a proper way.

More resources:

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