The U.S. is not shy when it comes to business mergers and acquisitions. In fact, there were over 12,000 merger/ acquisition deals in 2019. Whether your business decides to combine resources to reduce potential competition or diversify your product offerings, you must focus on synchronizing marketing efforts between the organizations, especially in the digital space. Explore ways to successfully join and manage essential marketing tactics including your website, SEO, social media, and analytics during a merger or acquisition.
Updating Your Organization’s Website
Coordinating merger or acquisition-related website updates requires a significant amount of work, and usually has strict legal timelines. The best path for managing these updates can vary depending on how your businesses are uniting. If you are going through a merger, the two companies must determine the site that will remain. During an acquisition, the surviving site is typically that of the purchasing company, so your combined company will need to fold any content from the other site into the surviving site. If the resulting business is going through a redesign or total rebrand, it’s important that the organizations properly plan how they will introduce the new identity on current and new sites, and when. Whichever route you take, there are proven methods to ensure success.
The process should begin with a site audit or an evaluation of how each site is performing in regards to website activity, SEO, analytics, design, and ADA. This audit can signal what strategies are currently effective, as well as opportunities for improvement during the merger or acquisition. With these insights, the companies should define specific goals for the new instance of the website, coordinate key merger or acquisition-related communications, and define important timeline requirements. For most businesses, there will be phase 1 and phase 2 deliverables identified, since the timeline of updating your organization’s site is typically tight.
From a structural perspective:
To establish a strong foundation, you will initially want to determine the impact on your site architecture, and outline any necessary updates. This will ensure that all products, services and locations offered by combined (or acquiring) institutions are properly represented on the new site and accounted for in the sitemap.
In addition to new product and location pages, companies should account for other necessary site updates. Often companies create a “welcome” site or page with helpful information to guide customers through the transition. This typically involves a multi-phased approach, offering information prior to legal day one, as well as once the merger is complete. This page or microsite will usually serve as the destination for all merger/acquisition-related communications, so planning for this should happen very early on in your process. A successful “welcome” experience requires effective strategy, copywriting, design and development support to ensure effective messaging and to minimize confusion and frustration among customers. Common features include FAQs, important dates, required actions and more depending on specific circumstances to provide a seamless transition. After the change is complete, companies may also want to consider adding a site tour to help introduce visitors to the new site by highlighting the location of important elements and information.
From a content perspective:
Once you understand which parts of your website presence are impacted, content is a huge consideration and takes thoughtful planning. If updating an existing site, companies will minimally need to identify all references of the old company name within the content that have to be changed or deleted. There are specialized scanning tools available – such as SortSite – that can help find all instances of the previous brand including the name, tagline and other distinct elements. This can help ensure that you don’t miss anything scannable, anywhere on the site – from content to meta data and disclosures. Unfortunately, there is no mechanism to both identify and update brand references automatically, so while the process for making changes is manual, the scanning tools can help minimize the initial effort.
If undergoing a complete redesign, a full copywriting strategy will be needed to establish a consistent tone and brand approach for the merged companies. This includes how products will be promoted, how the company’s story will be shared, and other key details. Additionally, if both companies have blogs or other educational resources on their sites, a comprehensive plan should be created regarding how that content will be integrated with the newly merged brand and website.
From a design perspective:
In addition to strategic and content updates, there will likely be design implications, especially if there is a new or updated brand as a result of the merger/acquisition. If updating an existing site, this usually involves changes to the logo, CSS, imagery and other styles to establish cohesiveness. If designing an entirely new site, you will need to determine how to best reflect the new brand personality and priorities with distinct visual elements. As a best practice, all design changes should conform to ADA guidelines to ensure accessibility for all visitors, including those with disabilities.
SEO and Other Technical Considerations for Company Mergers/Acquisitions
When sites change because of a merger or acquisition, it’s important to mitigate any negative SEO impacts as a result of name changes, content changes or domain changes. During your project, you will need to take a few steps:
If a domain is going away: If one company is going away, it’s important to set up page-level URL redirects from the sunset site to the new site, and keeping those in place for up to a year to allow for page-level redirections. This is an SEO best practice to create a seamless experience for consumers that have saved URLs, as well as give sufficient time for search engines to recognize the new domain and establish credibility. Be sure to setup redirects as permanent (301) redirects and notify Google and Bing of this change as well within your webmaster tools. Make sure all domain variations (www, non-www, http and https) are permanently redirecting, as well.
- If a domain is changing: If you are introducing a new domain, you will need to follow the same steps as detailed above to transfer any equity that the previous domain had to the new domain. To streamline this process, create a list of all old site URLs, match each with a related page on the new site, and set up respective redirects pointing from the old domain to the new domain. You can easily obtain a full list of existing site URLs with a free online site map generator. Without following these steps, you will start at square one from an SEO perspective since the domain has no established search engine credibility.
- If your domain is staying the same: Ensure that any pages on your site that you have sunset are properly redirecting to the most topically relevant page on your site to avoid 404 errors. 404 errors are frustrating for visitors and are therefore penalized by search engine rankings as well.
- Update meta tags: If there are any changes to your brand name, you will need to reflect that in all meta titles and descriptions. This will establish consistency with your updated content and aid in your SEO goals. As mentioned previously, all instances should be identified during the initial site scan, making it easier for you to update. Additionally, if you are introducing any new site pages, you will need to add tags for those pages as well. Be aware that a simple find/replace will not often work given SEO best practices, including character count restrictions.
Google My Business and Bing Places for Business listings are another important part of local SEO and will need to be updated post-acquisition or merger. If you have a completely new brand, or if only some locations are affected, this will need to be reflected in all applicable listings. If any locations are going away, they will need to be marked as permanently closed. If there are any changes in address, that will need to be updated. If you do not own the listings, you first will need to first claim them on Google and Bing. If you already own your listings, you will simply need to log into your Google My Business and Bing Places for Business account and individually update each location. These changes are essential to ensure visibility and accuracy when users search for your old company name or new company name.
As part of a merger or acquisition, you might have locations in two separate accounts. You can easily transfer ownership of certain locations to a master account for more efficient ongoing management of all locations within a single login.
How to Maintain Social Media Accounts During M&A
When you have determined the basics of your new company's brand, it's time to roll out a new social media strategy. This will involve combining social media accounts, or sunsetting ones that will no longer be needed. The process for this for each channel depends on platform capabilities, but certain best practices should always be followed.
The good news is that Facebook allows you to combine two or more Facebook accounts. Whether you are going through a merger or an acquisition will impact the best approach. If you are going through a merger with a new brand, you might want to create an entirely new page and merge both existing company pages into that new page. All posts, photos, and usernames from the legacy pages will be deleted during this process. If you are going through an acquisition, you may instead decide to select a surviving page (likely the purchasing company) and merge the other page with it, as posts, photos and username of the surviving page will be maintained.
In either case, you will be able to retain the likes and check-ins from both pages, and you will have access to update all profile details once the pages are officially merged.
LinkedIn also allows you to merge multiple company pages. The process is relatively simple and the platform provides some helpful how-to instructions. You must be an admin of all pages that are impacted by the merger and be sure to clearly indicate the page that needs to be retained. Another important note is that there must be at least 100 employees associated with the page that is being merged. If you don’t meet the required minimum, you can always ask employees to associate the company with their personal LinkedIn pages. Also, if you currently have job postings, they will continue to be active, but you will need to manually re-associate the job posting with the retained page.
Unfortunately, you cannot combine two Instagram accounts. For this reason, companies that are going through a merger or acquisition will need to choose between creating an entirely new page or picking a surviving page based on brand changes, followers and content that would like to be maintained. If you choose to keep an existing page, you may simply need to update the name of the profile to match your brand and/or delete images that are no longer relevant to the brand. When the timing is appropriate and the proper preparations have been made, just make sure to delete the other account, so as not to confuse your audiences.
Similar to Instagram, there is no way to combine YouTube accounts. However, there are ways that you can successfully establish a joint YouTube presence and keep existing channel content, as necessary. Depending on whether you are going through a merger or acquisition, you may choose to maintain one channel and update it to be consistent with the new brand, or create an entirely new account. If there are any videos that need to be retained from any accounts, you can simply download the videos from one channel and upload them to another.
As an overall best practice for all platforms, you should notify existing followers of upcoming changes – from new branding to new accounts – and encourage them to follow you on your new page if your presence is moving. Some channels will even allow you to invite existing followers to join you on your new page.
Learn more about merging social media accounts.
Merger/Acquisition Effect on Tracking Analytics
Presuming that both companies have analytics tracking on their sites, one will have to remain for the new/updated site. Typically, with a merger or acquisition, one analytics account will be selected as the surviving account, usually the acquiring company’s, while the other company will move its old analytics to be under that property for historical reasons. Google recommends that you move all properties under a single account, as it keeps your analytics account information current with your business. View Google's detailed instructions on how to move properties if you choose to do so. After you update your properties, track your analytics to gather as much information post-acquisition as you possible to ensure you are meeting customer needs and identify opportunities to improve.
Undergoing a merger or acquisition can be a complicated process. However, with proper digital planning and the right resources -- it can result in a successful new or updated site experience that reflects your combined company’s products, services and other vital information.