There are dozens of concerns that go into any brand acquisition or merger. What will your logo become? What colors will represent your brand? What messaging will you present to the world? Often lost in all the hubbub of building a unified look and messaging are the incredibly important details of company websites, social accounts, content assets and technology. The penalties for ignoring or forgetting about these details can be disastrous for enterprises and smaller companies alike.
Here are five critical digital marketing considerations to plan for with any major brand change, be it an acquisition, merger or other action where companies combine for a new whole.
1) SEO Value of Existing Websites
Often, the first order of business with major branding projects is tackling a new website that will represent the new brand and become its online home for the new look, feel, and tone. But, there’s a price for combining former companies’ websites into one whole – the long-term SEO value of those websites likely took years to build, and if not handled properly, can be lost forever, crippling a new website’s ability to reach the intended audience.
This problem isn’t only for new brand consolidations or new website projects. Existing brands who buy up other companies have this problem, too – particularly when the parent brand is an investor, venture capital firm or is less consumer-facing than the property they’ve acquired, or when it’s adding a product or service company that falls somewhat outside of its known core competencies.
The solution in any case is to properly plan for any website changes, be they migration of content to a new site, shutting down one site and sending users to an existing one, or building an entirely new site altogether. Your digital marketing teams should have the tools to analyze each website, and know which pages receive the most traffic from users across all channels – direct, organic, referral, social, email, paid, and more.
Any plan on transferring value from one site to another must be fully considered and strategized from the beginning, before any changes are made. Simple domain-level redirects on the server side may be all that is necessary to transfer value (and traffic) from one site to another, particularly if the website that’s being redirected is much smaller or has little to no SEO value or traffic.
But in the case of a site with heavy user traffic or with healthy and robust backlink profiles, the server-side redirect is going to sacrifice far too much value, in effect neutering the new website (and the purchasing company) from the digital value they’ve hoped they were acquiring through consolidation.
In this case, it is absolutely essential to use 301 redirects to send traffic from distinct pages on the old (or retiring) website to the new one (be it existing or a brand new site). This can be a painstaking process of looking into traffic data and backlinks profiles to identify the most important pages, and then finding the correct equivalent on the destination website. Furthermore, this process can and likely will identify holes in the content on the destination site that may need to be addressed – companies may need to create new content on their website, or make the decision to allow the retiring content – and its value – die with the old site.
Another important consideration is the time that it will take for the value to transfer from the retiring website to the destination. This is not an overnight transfer, and while re-submitting sitemaps to search engines to crawl will speed up the process, it can take months for the complete value of an old site to be fully realized on the new.
These challenges are only amplified when you consider IT staffs, website hosting and content management system differences between the site to be redirected and the destination website.
2) Website Hosting and Legacy
Acquiring a company and its collateral has several implications beyond hard assets like equipment and cash – there’s also the digital assets to consider. Among the challenges of wrangling these digital assets are the existing websites of the companies acquired or consolidated, and where and how they are hosted and managed.
This concern can be a minor one if you plan accordingly. But challenges are still likely to arise when dealing with the execution of that plan – particularly around who is redirecting the old assets to the new destinations, and what is to be done with the old websites once the redirecting is complete.
As stated above, planning for redirecting the content from the retiring site to the destination is critical, as is allowing plenty of time for Google and other search engines to recognize the updates and assign the proper SEO value to the primary website. Old content is most often stored on a different server, and it’s likely managed by a completely different team. This brings into question who will be responsible for managing that content until a redirect plan is completed and executed, and who will put that plan into effect.
Hosting is another concern. Obviously, hosting a site costs money, and if your hosting company is worth its salt, it is also charging for maintenance and security updates to keep that website secure and safe. You should expect to either continue to pay for retiring websites until several months have past since redirecting them, or figure out how to migrate the website from its current server to one that you control.
Finally, even when hosting, redirecting and transferring value from an old website is complete, there could still likely be a chance that you’ll need access to that old content at some point. Legal notices, internal documentation, and other concerns should all be recorded in the plan, but often the key users of this kind of content may not be in the know of the consolidation plan, and so IT staffs, marketers and those working on the consolidation and redirection planning may miss a crucial detail simply by not being aware that it was important.
For this reason, it is always a good idea to keep a copy of the old website stored somewhere, in case that content needs to be revisited in order to pull out a crucial technical document or other critical asset that was mistakenly overlooked during the planning process.
3) Content: Old, Existing & New
Another concern with any site consolidation or new site is where the content will be coming from. Whether adding to an existing site or creating a new site from scratch, your web content will be absolutely critical for the success of your consolidation venture.
Keep in mind too that content is more than just web pages – it’s also whitepapers, eBooks, videos, podcasts, infographics, data sheets, technical diagrams, slide decks, images, and more. Everything that exists on a retiring website likely had a purpose for being there – if this purpose is going to be shared by destination site, this content needs to be accounted for.
Obviously, it will be critical to have a complete content audit of all of the web assets available on any and every website considered for consolidation (likewise, you’ll need to do this for offline content as well – business cards, brochures, etc.). Figuring out the performance of key pieces of content is also crucial.
It is often the case that consolidating companies have content that covers the same areas – having these assets that cover the same topic can be a huge benefit, as it allows marketers the ability to judge which piece was more effective in reaching the target audience, and which one to use on the new website moving forward, or if they should be combined for one awesome new piece of content.
How should you judge these pieces?
- Look at the amount of traffic and the channels where that traffic is coming from.
- Consider the number of conversions (direct downloads).
- Consider the number of assisted conversions.
- Analyze which conversions led to sales.
4) Social Network Consolidation
Another aspect of online consolidation involves your social media accounts on networks like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Instagram. In all likelihood, you’ll be dealing with accounts from multiple parts of the company so you’ll need to decide which account(s) to keep for any given network.
Consumers have incredibly high expectations of brands, so you don’t want to confuse them by giving them an inconsistent social experience (numerous accounts on a single network, different branding across networks, etc.). You’ll also want to make it easy to share by making your social icons easy to find on your website and other assets.
Here’s what to consider in your social consolidation:
Networks like Twitter and Facebook have their own analytics data. You can also use software like HubSpot to look at metrics like click-throughs and traffic from your social accounts to further evaluate.
Where Is Your Audience?
If your research shows your prospects are active on Twitter and you’re getting traffic from that channel, you definitely want a presence there. But you’ll want to get rid of accounts on networks that aren’t relevant in your space.
History / Posting Cadence
It takes time to build up a social media presence, so you’ll want to consider how long you’ve been active on different accounts and the frequency that you’ve been posting on them. Think about keeping the more established accounts if they’re effective in reaching your audience.
Are people liking your Facebook posts? Are they replying to or retweeting your tweets? Engagement is an important aspect for you to consider in deciding which accounts to keep.
Number of Followers
This is an easy metric to compare across accounts. However, keep in mind that some networks like Twitter have a fairly high number of spam feeds.
5) Technology Integrations
As Scott Brinker has documented, the rise of marketing technology, or “martech,” has been dizzying – with nearly 2,000 vendors at last count filling every imaginable niche.
Dealing with technology integrations at the enterprise level can cause all kinds of headaches. Not only do you have to take an inventory of all the different systems involved, you’ve got to make some tough decisions about which ones should be adopted across the enterprise and make sure that those systems – your marketing automation system and email marketing software, for example – play nicely.
When divisions of your company work with systems that don’t integrate, it can slow down marketing campaigns, limit your tracking and reporting of data across your company, and perhaps worst of all hamper your customer experience.
You’ll want to start by taking an inventory of the systems brought to the table by the different entities that you’ve brought together. Then you need to assess how these different systems integrate; few things are more frustrating than trying to cobble together difficult system connections.
As you assess your technology, you’ll also want to think about who should be able to access these different systems (both internally and externally). Your trusted digital marketing agency can help you by looking at things like whether you’ve got your Google Analytics set up correctly and how you’re currently tagging and tracking your marketing campaigns.
Here are just some of the martech categories you’ll need to assess:
There are numerous platforms like Google AdWords, DoubleClick and Quantcast that are used for digital ads.
Measuring your results is incredibly important, so you’ll want to take a close look at how you’re using tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar, Optimizely and Google Search Console to track leads and online user behavior. Marketing automation:
There’s no shortage of marketing automation platforms out there like Eloqua, Marketo and HubSpot. These platforms are powerful in helping you engage your customers and prospects; you’ll just need to look closely at how their respective features match your particular needs.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
Powerful software like Salesforce, SugarCRM and the HubSpot CRM can help you manage relationships with customers across the entire lifecycle.
More Than Just Brand Logos
As you can see, any brand consolidation comes with all kinds of digital considerations. So don’t overlook these crucial aspects of building a unified presence and messaging across online and offline channels. Make sure you cover these crucial digital aspects of any brand consolidation project:
- SEO Implications
- Website Hosting and Redirects
- Content Consolidation Across Domains
- Social Media Consolidation
- Technology Integrations
Find yourself a trusted partner with experience in helping brands go through mergers or acquisitions. And make sure that partner knows more than letterhead and business cards, because your digital marketing legacy will depend on their success in doing more than bridging the gaps between logos, fonts, and brand colors.