Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Company acquires new business - Q: Do we run two website targeting the same people?

I was asked over a bottle of wine what I thought the best thing to do when 'Company A' buys 'Company B' and they now have 2 websites targeting the same consumers on the net.

This is a great question and although I can remember my exact answer (blame the wine), the question keeps popping up in conversations with other clients.

Some history on search engines (mainly google)
It used to be that if you had a site and somebody copied the content (think CTRL+C then CTRL_P) the SE would think its you trying to do bad stuff. Somtimes the new site would actually beat the older site in the ranking as it was new and fresh etc. Other time both sites would be penalised and would see their result standings drop, or disappear.
Index updates would be 'rolled out' every few months, and we would all sit and wait to see where we ended up in the results, and then have 3 months to fix it and wait, then fix, wait....

Duplicate content across multiple site's was bad and I would have said back then to drop one of the sites Company A owns and permanently redirect the traffic to the other, keep it neat and clean.

Fast forward to now
SE's are super smart, they update their index faster than the sites can be created.
The idea of sites of the same content is normal, sites are sharing XML feeds, mashing up data and content onto their own pages etc.

SE's can also check domain ownership, location of hosting server, location of company who owns the site, location of the people who visit the site.
Even if the sites have identical content, an SE can see they are different sites (okay there will be instances where they are the same but that's covered later *)

With 2 sites that are relatively the same  (the 2 sites are travel/trip based), Company A has a great opportunity to maximise their traffic, across two competing sites.
Both sites are already ranking okay in SE results and have their own brand that consumers are aware of, so is there really a benefit of combining them straight away - I don't think so.

There are a lot of caveats and maybes from here on in, so have that pinch of salt ready.

If it was me I would;

  • set up SiteA and SiteB to interlink where appropriate
  • link to/from other 'intra company sites'
  • each should (if possible) target slightly different customers
    • set them to target different demographics (one high value trips other low?)
    • find out if either of the sites is being hit from any particular geo location, if so use this site to target this area. (this is very easy to do)
    • if targeting geo location, use local phone numbers
  • use meta data and page control the content on both sites so it is NOT exactly the same
    • use different staff is possible to write the content for each site, sounds a bit extreme, but web content writers always have 'accents' in the copy they write
  • don't be afraid to send customers from A to B, add pages on each site that are specifically set up to send the customer to the other. If they buy, who cares which site they do it th
  • leave the sites hosted where they are for the time being
  • run regular benchmark reports to see if 
    • sites are working in harmony (traffic/ vs sales vs enquiry)
    • SE results are being helped by having 2 sites
    • customers are getting lost between 2 site
Once you know how the sites are working together you can decide where to go with the sites.

Obviously if one of the sites is new or has no SE value and no one ever uses it, then I would say kill it and focus on the other, but if the sites are both strong then its a waste of SE value to just get rid of it.
Its very hard to put a price on SE value, but it can cost a lot in time/£££ to get a site up to the level of a site that has 'some' value.

These are just my opinions, they could be wrong or they could help you, either way comment and ask questions.

* I see my site twice in the results
This can happen if you have sub domains that are displaying the same content ie and have the same content and are hsoted onthe same server, same owner etc.
In this instance I would shut down the duplicate sub domain and redirec the traffic to the main site.

There is no use setting your own site and sub domain as competitors

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