In the current environment, many organizations have found themselves with multiple websites that need to be separately managed and maintained. This can be due to prior mergers and acquisitions, previous strategies that encouraged distinct identities, disparate brand hierarchies, individual line-of-business owners who saw value in going rogue, or any number of other factors.
Regardless of how organizations end up with a medley of disparate websites, the impact tends to be a costly and fragmented online presence, along with sub-par results. Often, though, the prospect of combining a few, or a few dozen, disjointed websites into a cohesive, manageable brand presence appears daunting, and rather than consolidate websites, the multiple-site status quo lingers.
Solid Digital has a strong track record of partnering with clients of all sizes to merge websites. We recently worked with a global food products group to combine 27 distinct websites into one, cohesive brand presence. The success of that and previous endeavors, has relied on adherence to an explicit process that involves in-depth discovery, astute site architecture skills, a focus on SEO best practices, client-centric UX, and perhaps most importantly, the assurance of stakeholder alignment early in the process.
Why Combine Websites
The first step in a successful migration to a single site is to get clarity on the reasons why consolidation of disparate sites into one, macro site stands to benefit the organization as a whole, as well as individual business units.
Invariably, the short answer is that maintaining multiple content management systems has proven to be costly, complicated, and results in:
- Inconsistent messaging due to multiple site owners, lack of integration, and varying priorities among business units;
- Impaired SEO for reasons that include duplicate title tags among websites, and schema markup that’s often missing;
- Inefficient utilization of lead generation funnels;
- Out-of-date, inconsistent navigation; and
- Disjointed UX and follow-up process among the different sites.
Web consolidation sets the stage for digital transformation fueled by:
- Improved brand awareness;
- User experiences that are aligned with current best practices and consistent across all sites;
- Integrated cross-sell opportunities;
- Established procedures for routing and sharing leads;
- More efficient and cost-effective maintenance and security;
- Cohesive messaging; and
- A unified visual identity across all brands.
Despite a strong corporate conviction that consolidation is the right thing to do, jumping too quickly into the process of designing the home page and sketching out wireframes is a recipe for excessive delays and roadblocks moving forward.
An essential success factor is a true acknowledgment that stakeholder owners of the disparate sites will all have their own priorities and opinions about the right way to move forward.
One-on-one interviews with every stakeholder at the outset of the project is an excellent investment to ensure that everyone knows they’ve been heard, and that the big-picture benefits of website consolidation have been presented in a conversation that allows for individual concerns to be voiced and questions to be answered.
Securing stakeholder buy-in and support upfront sets the stage for a smooth transition to the new site.
Essential Balancing Act
Creating a web experience that pulls in and systematizes the full scope of brand stories and objectives in a way that achieves the support of all stakeholders is a critical balancing act. It depends upon adeptly engaging with all stakeholders and fostering support for advantages of the consolidated site.
In the process of doing so, a depth and breadth of intelligence is gathered that factors into the sitemap, and the entire content strategy based on a first-hand understanding of:
- Related business units;
- Content that can be consolidated and content that needs to be brought over; and
- Customer journeys and their varying objectives.
This upfront information gathering serves to streamline next steps. Key among them is an in-depth audit and analysis of each site’s content, structure, and user experience to reveal similarities and patterns. An SEO audit that reports on each site’s SEO equity with further insights into search traffic, backlinks, page markup and keyword rankings. Also critical is a UX and design audit to uncover off-brand designs or outdated/confusing navigation.
A unified web presence serves as a foundation for digital transformation driven by cohesive messaging, up-to-date navigation practices, and technology advances, along with an easy-to-manage CMS.
Ultimately, the full scope of research and findings are factored into a streamlined, user-centric information architecture that emphasizes solutions, resonates with buyers’ emotions and builds connections based on an understanding of their objectives and the buyer journey.