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M&A’s Impact on Digital Marketing: Keeping SEO Momentum

By | August 2, 2012

Merging two businesses is an exhilarating and usually exhausting process.  Now that you have the prize, how do you make the most of the digital footprint in the integration phase? During integration planning, there is always lots of focus on operational, real estate and HR issues, but getting the most leverage and momentum out of the digital footprint can be one of your greatest drivers of momentum of the newly combined entity.

What are the critical factors to integrating and managing the new digital property to achieve maximum value?

Having a post-acquisition strategy in place before the deal is done is critical for both the buyer and the acquired entity. If a company has spent time, effort and resources developing a digital property, they will want to know how it’ll be treated once they sell it. If you are able to show them a strategy that’s sensitive to the site’s character and strengths, this will make the transaction and transition far easier for both parties.

So, how should you manage an acquired site? What should your post acquisition strategy be?

No Easy Answers…  

Unfortunately there is no single blueprint for site acquisitions. Clearly you want to extract the maximum possible value from your latest purchase and pass this value on to your existing websites. To do this you need to carefully identify the website’s strengths and weaknesses.

From a digital marketing perspective there are lots of options. When deciding what to do with a newly acquired site you should consider brand sentiment, traffic, search performance, SEO value and user experience.

Brand Sentiment

All too often marketers will simply see a new site as an opportunity to create links and pass SEO value. You will often see lazy marketers applying a blanket 301 redirect which sends everything to their own homepage. Though in some cases this can be the right option, if it’s used in the wrong situation you could be denying yourself many other valuable opportunities.

Due to the undeniable power of the social web there are an increasing number of sites which carry low search authority but have a strong social following. These sites might have a loyal and active community of followers and a strong online brand. This community and branding could hold significant value for your business.

In this situation you have two options:

  1. Maintain the acquired site as a separate entity. This allows you to continue building the brand of the site and determine the value of its audience. To extract some SEO value you might consider a link in the site header which makes your acquisition clear to visitors.
  2. If there are strong similarities between the acquired site and your own site you might consider redirecting to a custom landing page which explains the acquisition and why visitors should continue to visit your site.

Though it will depend on the nature of the acquisition, it’s important to determine what will happen to the site’s associated social accounts post-acquisition. If the site has a strong social following these accounts could have significant value for your own organization and should be included in the acquisition arrangement.

Does it Attract Traffic or Links?  

I know it sounds obvious, but not all sites are the same. Some attract a large amount of traffic while others attract an unusual amount of high quality links. To get the maximum value from the acquired site you need to fully understand how the site performs and where its strengths are. Though it requires a lot more effort, in most cases the best long term solution is to map the site and perform a sensitive, customized integration based on the merits of each individual page.

Before you acquire the site, you should complete a full content audit of the site. This audit should begin with some keyword research and analysis. Try to determine the new site’s ‘keyword strengths’. Which searches does it perform best for?

You should then perform a full back-link analysis for each individual page on the site. Which content pulls the most links? Do these pages also pull a large amount of traffic?

Once you have this data you can then start putting together a content map. Focus on identifying any overlaps between content on the acquired site and your existing site. If there are strong similarities, these pages should simply be given a targeted 301 redirect. If content exists on the acquired site that has no overlap on your main site, you should consider integrating that content into your main site and redirecting visitors to that.

With a full understanding of the search performance, SEO value and how each page fits into your wider SEO strategy, you should be able to allocate a function for each page on the new site.

If you are faced with managing the acquisition and treatment of a new site, you should approach it with an open mind. Don’t just think about SEO value. The nature of the content and how that site is integrated with the social web should also strongly inform your integration policy. If your post acquisition marketing policy is sensitive to each of these functions you will greatly increase the value you receive.

Examples

Dual Branding – Sybase / SAP
Sybase and SAP joined forces back in 2010.  You can see from their website that the Sybase brand including websites, social properties and products were retained.  However, the power of the SAP logo and brand has been utilized across most properties.

Where might this make sense?
I think this is the best route when you’re being acquired by a large enterprise organization where the acquisitioned company’s brand sentiment and product offering can get swept away by a larger the larger organization.  If the two companies have complementary product offerings but very different products all together, then it likely makes sense to keep the them separate.

Other examples: Radian6/Salesforce, Clearwell/Symantec, Autonomy/HP

Some Marketing Advantages:

  • The business was bought for a reason; let them continue doing what they’re doing.
  • Brand sentiment
  • Customer loyalty
  • Clean databases
  • Maintain site rankings, strategies etc.
  • Not worrying about the complexity of combining the sites (301’s, platforms, TLDs, analytics, combined content etc.)

Absorption/Integration – Websense / Surf Control
Back in 2007, Websense acquired one of their main competitors, SurfControl.  The two companies basically merged and the sites were combined with a 301.  You can still see a landing page with SurfControl info here: http://www.websense.com/content/surfcontrol-welcome.aspx

Where might this make sense?
I think this makes the most sense when the two organizations have very similar product offerings. This will likely mean very similar content, keywords and marketing efforts.  Combing the two websites will provide a stronger foothold within the vertical.  If one of the products is being integrated into a larger suite or similar product offering, this is also a no-brainer.

Other Examples: Oracle/RightNow, Cisco/LineSider Technologies, Trend Micro/Mobile  Armor

Some Marketing Advantages:

  • Combined SEO power of both sites (content, links, social properties)
  • Efficiencies with combining marketing efforts.  (Databases, email, digital, vendors, contracts etc.)
  • Combined marketing budgets?
  • Consolidated marketing efforts

3 Comments

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About Brad Miller

Brad Miller serves as Director of Business Development for Fathom and has more than 10 years of experience in digital marketing with expertise in search, social, analytics and lead generation. He has worked in multiple capacities throughout his career including roles in production, management, consulting, and sales. His experience brings a first-hand multi-dimensional understanding of business to the hundreds of organizations he’s worked with. Brad currently leads Fathom’s strategic partnership efforts.

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  • http://www.fathomdelivers.com Patricia Thibault

    Great details for organizations to consider while in an M&A mode, Brad! I’ve already shared your post with a client who is acquiring a local competitor (and will most likely merge their websites).

  • Pingback: How and When to Use 301 Redirects vs. Canonical ,Vancouver Island, Canada()

  • http://www.standardregister.com Tom Slage

    Excellent analysis Brad, and very apropos to my company’s current situation since we’ve recently acquired a competitor.

    Given a situation of migrating a very large website’s link equity and traffic to an existing site, how would you propose prioritizing page analysis for content repurposing and redirection? Just top-linked pages and top-trafficked pages?

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