Merging multiple websites can be an unpredictable process. We’ve put together the best strategies for identifying and prioritizing your most valuable pages when combining two or more publications.
Merging multiple online publications into one website is a complicated affair. Attempting to manage the project in-house, without sacrificing your Google ranking in the process, is nearly impossible. If your publication relies on organic search traffic for reader acquisition, then extreme care needs to be taken when merging multiple websites.
At Web Publisher PRO, we regularly manage website migration projects for top online publications. Digital publishers who’ve gone through the process of merging multiple websites have found that the key to retaining a Google ranking for high-value keywords is to preserve—and actually build on—the performance of their existing websites during the merging process.
How do you do this, and how can you minimize the risk involved when you’re merging multiple websites?
Building a Sitemap
The best place to begin is with a sitemap that draws on the strengths of the websites being merged. The sitemap will become your guide, as you work to build a new online publication that has as much (or more) visibility as the original. If you can get this part right, your new website will be able to retain the performance of the sites you’re merging.
The key to success when developing a sitemap is to pick out the most valuable or important pages before getting started on the sitemap itself. When this is done correctly, the process flow allows publishers to retain almost 100% of the organic traffic their previous domains were seeing.
Cherry-picking the most valuable pages for the sitemap allows us to focus our energies on what’s most important when merging multiple websites. We can remove any pages that are likely to become irrelevant once the websites have been merged. This allows the publisher to put their best foot forward, so each and every page is relevant and valuable in the eyes of Google’s algorithm.
Highlighting valuable pages and removing irrelevant pages when developing a new sitemap has been shown to lead to increased traffic for publishers who have gone through the merging process.
How to Find Valuable Pages
- How do you decide which pages are most valuable when you’re merging two websites into one?
- Where should you spend the bulk of your time when developing a new streamlined sitemap?
The answers to these questions will look different for every publication. As a general rule of thumb, online publishers should consider page traffic, page conversions, Google rankings, backlinks, and business priorities when deciding which pages are most valuable.
Some of these factors are more obvious than others. For example, it’s clear that pages that are seeing a high volume of search traffic are going to be important or valuable. These are the pages to focus on during the migration and merging process. Similarly, pages with high conversion rates are valuable, especially for publishers that rely on subscription sales or display advertising.
Conducting Website Audits
Now that we have defined what is valuable, the next question is how to pinpoint those high-value pages. The best strategy here is to conduct a website audit. Pulling together data from multiple sources, you should be able to evaluate the top performing pages on any websites you’re merging. These pages are what we consider high-value pages. They are the pages that you want to preserve when you’re merging multiple websites.
The most common type of website audit is known as a keyword audit. During a keyword audit, the publisher will conduct keyword research to look for relevant keywords based on the new publication’s content or areas of focus. Those keywords will then be added to a list and tracked with the existing domains. A keyword audit can show which pages on an existing domain are currently ranking for each keyword.
Content performance audits rely on tools like Google Analytics to discover which pages drive traffic and conversions. Publishers that hope to retain as much of their existing website traffic as possible while merging multiple websites should plan on conducting content performance audits before beginning the merging process.
Two other types of audits to be aware of are content architecture audits and backlink audits. Both can be valuable for publishers looking to maintain Google page rank, offering a good idea of where a given page sits within a sitemap hierarchy.
Google has published an extensive FAQ page with information for publishers with multiple domains.
To learn more about what’s involved in merging multiple websites and how a development agency can streamline the process, contact our team of specialists at Web Publisher PRO.