A guide to: combining websites after a company merger or acquisition
In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps to ensure a smooth transition and achieve your digital integration goals.
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are like moving in with your mates or a significant other - they’re transformative events for companies, big and small. They bring new opportunities, synergies, and challenges, especially when it comes to consolidating websites. Ultimately, you don’t need two kettles. Successfully combining websites after an M&A requires careful planning and execution. In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps to ensure a smooth transition and achieve your digital integration goals.
Align your goals and objectives
A happy merger and acquisition primarily hinges on a joint vision for the future - what you are aiming for. You may have joined forces but different organisations have nuanced aspirations, cultures, and kettles…
Design your digital strategy
Before diving into the technical aspects of merging websites, it's crucial to align on your goals and objectives. Are you looking to increase brand visibility, streamline operations, or expand your customer base? Explore what you want to achieve with the merger in terms of your digital presence - interviewing your stakeholders is a great place to start uncovering the answers you need. Your digital strategy should reflect these objectives and you can reap the benefits as the decision-making becomes a walk in the park during the website design and development process.
Define what success looks like
Defining clear success metrics is essential for evaluating the effectiveness of your merger. Metrics could include increased web traffic, higher conversion rates, or improved user engagement. Establishing these benchmarks will help you measure the impact of your efforts and adjust your strategy as needed. If success involves clearly communicating a renewed brand purpose and mission, you may look towards qualitative insights through a programme of user research to benchmark and measure your progress.
Consider a phased approach
Merging websites doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing endeavour. Consider a phased approach to reduce the complexity and risks associated with the transition. Start by focusing on the most critical aspects and gradually integrate additional components. This approach allows you to learn and adapt as you go, making it easier to manage the merger effectively. If you are working with an agency and have established a digital partnership, they will be well positioned to advise on a roadmap that allows your digital presence to scale, minus the growing pains.
Perform a technical audit
It’s essential that you dig into the data and technical setup of your technology stack to identify how you can put your best foot forward with your new, merged digital presence. How old is your kettle? How does its energy consumption compare to your partner’s?
Choose a primary website instance
In most cases, you'll need to decide which of the existing websites will become the primary instance. There are a plethora of factors to consider but things like domain authority, content quality, and user engagement are a good place to start when making this decision. The chosen website will become the home for your merged entity, no matter the frontend design, and you need to make sure you have the best foundations to build upon.
Select a preferred Content Management System (CMS)
Consolidating your digital presence may involve migrating content to and fro between various platforms. Selecting a preferred CMS that aligns with your digital strategy and can efficiently handle the content migration is crucial to ensure your website works with, not against, your organisation. Content Management Systems come in a variety of shapes and sizes so it’s important to pick one that matches your team’s level of technical expertise and the level of functionality you need.
Review your technology stack
Make sure to take a look at your broader technology stack, including hosting infrastructure, third-party integrations, and plugins. Ensure compatibility with new and existing systems and identify any potential conflicts that may arise whilst scoping out your new and improved website. Addressing these issues proactively will help prevent disruptions to your website's functionality and ensure it’s delivered on time and within budget.
Refresh your brand and user experience
Every now and then, you need to refresh your wardrobe. Your collection of t-shirts might be threadbare or you want to keep up with the latest trends. Nevertheless a rebrand could be on the horizon. It’s no different for websites. Especially if you start wearing someone else’s clothes (I mean merging two or more websites…).
Define your audience
Joining forces with another organisation usually means you have a lot in common but there are likely a fair few differences too - like your target audience. If this is the case, your new website will serve a broader or more diverse set of users. Collate the information you already have, conduct additional user and stakeholder research to gain insights into the preferences and expectations of your (new) audience.
Defining your target audience will enable you to make user-centred decisions along the way and tailor your content, design, and user experience to deliver an impactful digital experience.
Reimagine your online presence
Although a challenge, mergers and acquisitions are an opportunity. A chance to refresh your organisation’s online presence and re-establish authority in your industry. Reevaluate your brand identity, including logomark, colour palette, and messaging, to create a cohesive and compelling story. Consistency across the merged website will enhance trust and recognition of your brand.
Redesign your information architecture
Content is king, especially when it comes to combining websites. Not only because you’ll likely have reams to sift through, but also because it is so crucial to your user experience. Use this exercise as an opportunity to streamline and optimise your website's information architecture to ensure a seamless user experience that drives conversions.
Take a step back and perform a content audit, involve users in the design process - card sorting springs to mind - and evaluate design decisions. A well-designed information architecture has a positive impact on your website’s usability and your users’ experience of your brand more broadly.
Preserve authority during migration
When you merge two or more websites, you need to make sure you don’t take a step backwards. All that means is more work in the future. To this end, ensuring you preserve your authority online is crucial to the success of your newly combined website.
Follow a technical SEO checklist
Whilst it might seem tedious, this step is full of quick wins to set you up for success. To prevent a loss in search engine rankings during the migration, we always recommend you follow a comprehensive technical checklist. A list like this can include tasks such as setting up proper 301 redirects, updating XML sitemaps, and ensuring canonical URLs are correctly configured.
Review Core Web Vitals
Google's Core Web Vitals also play a significant role in SEO rankings. Ensure that your merged website meets these vitals' standards, including page speed, interactivity, and visual stability. It’s not as scary as it sounds; you can use tools like Google PageSpeed Insights to help identify and address performance issues.
Set Up 301 Redirects
A big no no when it comes to migrating content from one site to another is leaving loose ends, i.e. URLs that lead to error pages. Not only is it poor from an SEO perspective, but it negatively impacts your user experience. Redirecting old URLs to corresponding pages on the merged website is crucial to preserve SEO equity. Implement 301 redirects to inform search engines about the content migration and prevent broken links. A well-planned redirect strategy will help maintain your website's search engine rankings.
After the dust settles and you’re ready to merge your websites, what seems like a complex challenge can be minimised with a composed and strategic approach. By aligning your goals, conducting a technical audit, refreshing your brand and user experience, and preserving SEO during migration, you can successfully integrate your digital assets and create a cohesive online presence that supports your business objectives. A well-executed merger should be seen as an opportunity to produce a stronger, more competitive digital experience in the long run.
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