Flexicover Travel Insurance company have recently merged their two websites – their .co.uk and the .com domains.
There’s always a big debate on what companies should do when merging their online websites and it is a very important decision, and if not made correctly can have some ramifications later on down the line.
What should you consider when merging sites and what domain should you choose as your default?
If you have two sites that are similar like Flexicover and pose a possible content duplication problem, and they are in the same geo targeted area, then there is certainly a neccessity to merge domains to avoid being penalised by the Search engines.
Here are Rankability’s considerations before merging sites:
1) Does your business trade mainly in the UK or worldwide?
If you own the .co.uk and .com domains and your audience is mainly in the UK then defaulting with the .co.uk domain and redirecting (301) the .com domain is a good solution. If you are thinking about breaking into the US or European market then a Top Level Domain (TLD) using a dot com would be a better choice. A dot uk domain hosted in the UK will never achieve primary rankings in the US or any other countries. Most people in the US type in the word ‘.com’ when searching for businesses and seeing a .co.uk domain will probably be just ignored.
Something else to bear in mind in relation to this is the age of the domain and the link quality.
2) Age of the domain
If you .com domain is older than your dot uk and has some valuable link equity, then this may influence your choice otherwise you may need to consider changing external linking.
3) Changing external linking
If both websites have been around for a while, and have a fair number of inbound links from other sites and online articles then you will need to do a link analysis on your two sites before deciding.
Inbound links help build pagerank (Google Juice) although they will automagically flow through when they hit the 301 redirects, but it may be a good idea to contact the sites directly and ask them to update their links instead of relying on the 301 to pass the link reputation.
4) Link authority – how can you tell if it is being passed on?
You may want to double check if your 301’s are passing all the link reputation. There are a few techniques to determine if the link juice is being passed on but the one I recommend is using bogus anchor text.
You can add a word to your link anchor text and see if your target page ends up ranking for a phrase it already ranks for + the additional word.
For example, I could put the word ‘electronic’ in a link pointing to www.ToysGamesGifts.com and see if this site starts ranking for things like toys electronic. A worthy tool to see what the old ranking of a page is before you start the test is waybackmachine.
If you check where the site ranks before you add the link and then check a week or so after, if the position has not increased on a set phrase then you know it has little if any link value.