Should you merge two of your blogs into one? How about combining your professional site and niche blog that are currently on different domains? Is it time to simply change the domain of your site for branding reasons? I've gone through a lot of site mergers and re-branding efforts over the years, and I'm going through another one right now.
Today let's talk about making the decision to merge two sites or move one of them to a new domain, what's involved in each, and how to decide if it's really worth it.
What's Involved in Site Moves and Mergers?
After you've moved or merged a few sites, the process can become fairly quick. But it still takes time away from other things, and you may spend more time later marketing the change. Here are some of the things you'll need to do when you move a site to a new domain:
- Backup your database.
- Choose and register a new domain.
- Set up your new domain with your Web host (or get a hosting plan if you're moving from a free host to self-hosted site).
- Import all files and databases to the new site via your host's control panel.
- Create your new site design if you're not keeping it the same as the old one (re-branding doesn't usually involve keeping the old design).
- Create a new logo and slogan for the site -- important branding elements.
- Decide if you want to keep the same permalink structure (meaning SiteA.com/article1 will redirect to SiteB.com/article1 -- no change in file names or other permalink structure elements).
- Set up 301 redirects for every page and file -- automatically directs traffic from the old page to the corresponding new page under the new domain. This can be quick if you don't change the permalink structures, or you might have to redirect everything individually if you change things on the new site.
- Announce the change to readers -- introduce them to the new brand and why you made the change.
- Start a new marketing campaign to build brand awareness on a larger scale.
- Contact people linking to the old site and ask them to update their links to the new addresses (I don't always do this as I just redirect, but some say having the links changed is better for SEO purposes. I haven't personally had any SEO problems without doing this though.)
Those are some of the basic things you'll have to deal with if you move a site to a new domain. But what if you're merging two of them? Things are slightly different. You won't have to do some of the above-mentioned things (like creating a new logo if you're merging one site into another you already have), but there are extra steps you need to consider. Here are some of the steps involved (specifically thinking about WordPress sites).
- Backup your databases for both sites being merged, so you can separate them again quickly if there's a problem.
- Decide which site will remain and which one will be merged into it.
- Create an export file that you can import into the WordPress installation you're keeping.
- Import that file into the installation that will be your remaining site. This will bring in all pages, posts, comments, etc. from the second site.
- Clean things up. You'll probably have two About pages after your import for example. Kill one and edit the other to reflect the merger. You might also have a bunch of new categories from the blog that was merged in, and they might not all fit well with (or be too similar to) your existing categories. In this case you'll have to move the posts from the imported blogs into appropriate categories from the blog you were keeping. You might even want to change the categories on the old blog before creating the export file so you can import them directly into the right categories.
- Go through the same 301 redirect and link update process that we talked about in the site re-branding section above.
When are Moves and Mergers Worth It?
As you can see, there can be a lot involved in moving or merging your blogs or other sites (and those lists aren't comprehensive -- you also have to consider plugins, sitemaps, and other updates). If you've never done them before, either can be rather time-consuming. Neither is a decision to take lightly.
Here are a few thoughts on what I personally consider when deciding whether or not these moves and mergers are worth it. Hopefully they'll help you make your own decisions.
- If I've promoted the brand a lot and no one is talking about it, I probably did a lousy job with the brand development. Sometimes a simple name change for a site or blog can go a long way towards bringing in more readers or customers.
- If my market changes in any way, the old brand might not be relevant anymore. In this case it's also a good time to consider moving and re-branding the site.
- Re-branding can also be a good idea if you add new services or expand the niche you're covering in a blog if the old brand doesn't nicely cover the additions.
- If I feel like I'm spending too much time on a niche because I have too many sites in it and it's taking away from other projects, I'll merge them. (For example that's why I merged the Query-Free Freelancer book site and blog into All Freelance Writing, and why I also merged my freelance writing jobs, book writing, and book marketing blogs here.)
- If a site is being neglected out of a sheer lack of time, and its topic area fits nicely within another blog I do have more time for, then I consider merging the two.
- If there are two similar sites and one has a great brand while the other is struggling, I'll consider merging them and keeping the successful brand.
- If I choose to sell a domain / brand name but want to keep the content from the site I'll either move that content to a new brand / domain or I'll merge it into an existing one I have.
Are you thinking about moving or merging a site or blog? Have you gone through it before? What factors do you consider before making that time commitment?