You’ve been in acquisition mode for months (maybe years). But after a lot of legwork, a few headaches and countless discussions / meetings, you’ve done it.
Congrats! You acquired a company.
There are plenty of things to do. But one important item may not have even crossed your mind.
During the acquisition process, you undoubtedly thought about old-school assets like the company’s inventory or equipment.
But have you thought about their digital assets? Have you thought about their website as an asset? And their current SEO value?
Given that you’re even reading this article, you’re probably familiar with the fundamentals of search engine optimization — you know that, at a basic level, Google cares about high-quality, relevant content and backlinks. And you know that a website that performs well in the eyes of Google (and customers) isn’t something to scoff at.
So what do you do with an acquisition’s website?
At the heart of it, you have two options — leave it as is or take it down completely. 99% of the time, we help our clients do the latter.
But before we jump into the specifics, here are the questions you should be asking (and getting answers to) regarding your acquisition’s website before you make a decision:
- Does the acquisition have established brand equity?
- Are there any keywords that are bringing significant (or super relevant) traffic to the site?
- What pages are bringing in the most traffic?
- Are there certain pages that current customers use regularly? Like a payment page or a file upload page?
- Are there pieces of content or other assets that are exceptional and worth keeping?
First, let me say that if the answer to number 1 is “hell yes” then you might want to consider leaving the site as-is and simply post something on the site that notes the change in ownership or merger.
But for the sake of this article, let’s assume you know you want this new brand to be nested under the umbrella of your company.
But you can’t just take down their site.
You want to make sure users who may still be looking for old pages can find what they’re looking for — and easily. You also want to capture as much of the site’s current traffic as you can. And even keep ranking for the right keywords in the SERPs (search engine result pages). To do that, you want to retain the acquisition’s SEO equity or “link juice”.
Let’s talk about how to do that.
Save any (and all) assets
Whether or not you have a plan to use any or all of the assets on the site (pdfs, content, videos) it’s in your best interest to save those files. But if there are items that are valuable and can be utilized on your company’s website, use them! Add them to your learning center or add supplementary copy to your existing website pages — whatever you can do to utilize these new, valuable assets at your disposal.
Map their website
You’ll need to make a spreadsheet of all the acquisition’s website pages. Rather than manually creating this list, I’d recommend using a tool like Ahrefs. Not only is it faster but it will pull pages that you might miss, like a 404 page.
Now that you’ve got the list of pages — you’ll want to go through one by one and find the closest match to each of the acquisition’s pages to your website. For the sake of context, let’s say Gorilla 76 is acquiring a little company called Chimp 67.
Here are some example pages:
And here are the pages that are a best-fit match to those:
Pretty straightforward, right?
What if there’s not a good match? What should you do?
You might consider creating a new page on your current site so that you can use it to redirect to. Chimp 67 had a thriving videography offering and a corresponding page dedicated to it, but guess what? We don’t. If that’s a service we want to continue, we’d draft up a new page to the website about videography and use that as our one-to-one match for the videography page.
The goal here is that a user should be able to find what they’re looking for in the least confusing way possible even though the acquisition’s site is no longer live. You want to make sure Google still sees these new pages as super relevant and helpful just like it had with the old pages.
And what about the homepage?
It might be your first instinct to just redirect the acquisition’s homepage to your homepage. But that’s not necessarily the best option. Assuming time and money aren’t an issue, think about creating some sort of locations page for the acquisition. This gives some context for the user. Without blatantly saying it, you’re letting them know that Chimp 67 is now a part of Gorilla 76. It’s also an opportunity to direct users to other places on the site. Think about what products / services are particular to this location and include any special contact information here. And if an important page exists that needs to be kept (a pay invoice page or a file upload page) it can be linked to from this page.
You’ve done the hard work. You’ve decided which pages need to be redirected where. Now it’s time to actually make those redirects.
Make sure you do a 301 redirect.
I know, you’re thinking “there are types of redirects?”
Yes, there are.
I won’t overwhelm you with the other options but the importance here is that a 301 redirect is a permanent redirect rather than a temporary one. And it’s the best way to ensure that users find what they’re looking for AND you get the “link juice” from the acquisition’s site.
And if you’re like most of our clients operating websites using WordPress, here’s an easy tool to help: https://wordpress.org/plugins/redirection/.
Test & wait
Once you’ve made the changes (including redirects and maybe a new page or two and / or a locations page), you’ll want to make sure everything is in working order. Test the redirects, either using the redirect plugin I just mentioned or Google. If you do the latter, you’ll go through the pages in Google’s index and make sure they actually redirect to the main company site. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t expect to see the exact same search positions right away. It may take some time. SEO isn’t an exact science. What we do know for sure is that doing what we laid out here helps improve the likelihood that it’ll happen.
Remember, with the required investment (both time and money) considered, this is our go-to option to get the most out of your acquisition’s website.
You’re growing — which is a wonderful thing.
Enjoy knowing that you’re utilizing all the new assets at your disposal.
And if that growth will require you to reassess your marketing needs, reach out to us.