Transitioning eCommerce - Sell the Affiliate site or merge?

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#1
I am faced with a very complex situation that I've been thinking through from every angle. I'd appreciate some help and/or some ideas:

The situation is this - about 8 months ago I started a content website in a niche in the health industry. Since that time, I've been presented with an opportunity to start an eCommerce brand in the same industry. The content site has grown well and is making ~$500 a month. The site has a bunch of content on it covering some medical topics that I can't be covered by eCommerce brands in the industry.

I was naively assuming I could continue to own the content site and leverage that traffic and send it to my brand. The issue is this creates a situation where my company would own a content site making medical claims sending it to an ecommerce brand that the same company owns that can't make those claims

Long story short I can't own and operate both.

The new eCommerce brand is the big opportunity here, there is no question that I will continue to pursue it. The issue is how do I handle ownership of the content site.

The immediate idea was to sell the content site and remove the connection all together. This removes the association, makes things clean and simple. The $10-15k from the sale of the content would be great, but nothing life changing or needed though.

Then this idea hit me:

Many of the topics that I've covered on the content site would also be covered on the brand site, maybe approached from a slightly different angle or with specific medical claim omissions. Selling the site, I'd be re-writing lots of this content, just omitting some topics and steering clear of medical claims.

Thinking through this recreation it hit me - why not take as much content from the content site and merge it into the new eCommerce brand and do a site move pointing the content site at the ecommerce site rather than selling it?

Doing a site move, I'd be 301ing about 75% of the content over to the ecommerce site. A good number of pages would be 404ed, the content site brand would be dissolved. I am looking for any insight into how this might work out since its not an apples to apples site move to a new domain, but really a new site absorbing some of an existing site.

I've done this before, but slightly different. I kept all the content just moving it to a new domain. The domain lost relevancy and the overall traffic dropped and never recovered. This would be different as it would not preserve all the content, but the domain relevancy preserved.

I am worried I be hamstringing the new ecommerce brand from an SEO perspective - throwing all that juice at a new domain - don't want to put it into a bad place for the long game.

Any advice would be greatly, greatly appreciated!
 
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#2
Recounting what you have written - the money from the sale isn't life changing. About 75% of the current content is useful for your new brand.

Currently your site makes medical claims which may not be in the best interest of the user (by the sounds of it).

Why not phase this all out?
  1. Register your new domain, add coming soon page, add to relevant directories or sites
  2. Prune the irrelevant content
  3. Let G index the pruned site
  4. Make the existing useful content 100% legit for your new brand, remove any unproven/unbacked claims
  5. Give G time to index these content changes
  6. Copy site over, change branding/theme/etc, 301 redirect old pages to new
  7. Officially move site in Google search console
Fully understand there are some industry-specific subtleties I might be missing.
 
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#3
@jjj_ not sure I totally understand what you’re suggesting. Maybe I can elaborate a bit more as I might not have been clear:

As an example, let’s say the content site is all about painkillers. General content that includes health claims of how and why they work and why citing research, topic pieces, the best brands to buy etc.

Then, the new e-commerce biz I am starting is a painkiller brand. This store sells B2C and while it can’t make claims about how they work, it can give general info and info - what they are, types etc.

I need to move completely away from owning any property that makes health related claims.

Rather than selling the content site off, I am wondering if it’s feasible use it to build out the content section of my ecomm brand - 301ing articles that make sense, 404ing those that don’t. The goal to populate the content section and possibly preserve some rankings/traffic, passing it from the content site to the content section of the ecomm site.

Not sure if I’d even need to register a site move really....
 
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#4
The site move/domain change was a suggestion as I assumed a domain change was needed. But let's assume it's not the case. It sounds as though the articles you have are still good, it's just that you're positioning your articles differently.

So if you don't need a new domain/brand name, maybe this is how it goes:
  1. Prune the irrelevant content
  2. Revise the existing useful content so it no longer makes claims and instead provides more general information
  3. Give G time to index these content changes
  4. Add product pages
The only reason I can see this having trouble is if the intent is so completely different, but I'm sure you can be creative and keep decent rankings while removing any unproven claims.
 
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#5
I'd definitely go with what you outlined;

port the good/ranking content to your ecom site and 301. Everything else 301 to a relevant page on your ecom site or homepage if there are no good/relevant 301 destinations.

Monitor the changes for 1-2 months and enjoy the boost :smile:.

Depending on your risk-tolerance, I'd point a couple of links to the old URLs after you 301 them to speed up the process. That old domain will serve as a buffer of some sorts, so you can play around with it.
 
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#6
So if you don't need a new domain/brand name, maybe this is how it goes:
I will be using a new domain. The old content site would get thrown out.

I'd definitely go with what you outlined;

port the good/ranking content to your ecom site and 301. Everything else 301 to a relevant page on your ecom site or homepage if there are no good/relevant 301 destinations.

Monitor the changes for 1-2 months and enjoy the boost :smile:.

Depending on your risk-tolerance, I'd point a couple of links to the old URLs after you 301 them to speed up the process. That old domain will serve as a buffer of some sorts, so you can play around with it.
My risk tolerance is very low. This is a serious business that I am building for the long run with a partner. Can’t be messing around at all.

Couple questions:
  • The content site has a listing of brands, I had planned to just 404 those out if i was to do this. They wouldn’t be relevant and I’ve always though slamming a ton of irrelevant page 301s to the homepage was bad. Am I right here? I think that’s what you suggested...
  • The ecomm site is very new, would throwing up content and 301ing a whole site at it put it in the sandbox or potentially have a negative outcome?
  • When I port the content to the e-commerce site, should I let it index and settle for a bit before 301ing the content site over, or do it immediately?
 
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#7
I will be using a new domain. The old content site would get thrown out.



My risk tolerance is very low. This is a serious business that I am building for the long run with a partner. Can’t be messing around at all.

Couple questions:
  • The content site has a listing of brands, I had planned to just 404 those out if i was to do this. They wouldn’t be relevant and I’ve always though slamming a ton of irrelevant page 301s to the homepage was bad. Am I right here? I think that’s what you suggested...
  • The ecomm site is very new, would throwing up content and 301ing a whole site at it put it in the sandbox or potentially have a negative outcome?
  • When I port the content to the e-commerce site, should I let it index and settle for a bit before 301ing the content site over, or do it immediately?
1, 2, 3) I do a lot of tests with different types of redirects and I almost always create an inner page (something like 'acquisitions', 'bought', whatever) and slam some text that looks like a PR statement. The sole purpose of that page is to serve as a destination for all those 301s without a home.

I use interlinking to connect that page to all my topical hubs and then simply 301 everything that doesn't have a page-to-page destination. Businesses buy other businesses all the time. They also merge different websites/pages to their site all the time, so there's nothing shady about it.

Having such a page mitigates a lot of risk and I've never experienced any issues with this strategy (dozens of redirects over the last 3 years).

I'd port the content and 301 immediately.

Hope that helps.
 
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#8
@andreint That helps a ton. Your approach makes a bunch of sense and this announcement page would really work well now that I think about it. The only thing I need to think about more is just the business strategy, specifically 301ing vs 404ing pages that were previously profiles for competing brands - we might need to sacrifice the SEO benefits to preserve public perception/

Another great thing about that page is it would give me a place to direct an initial email blast to my existing email list on the content site announcing the switch. Very nice.

Assuming I go this route, it will be interesting to see what happens to the existing rankings with the content changing AND the fact that the ecommerce site is brand new and the content site has age. As far as I know most brands aquire and absorb sites that are generally younger/less powerful than the absorbing brand and/or the brand absorbing the site is well established.
 

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#9
301 redirecting a site to another site works fine for me. I've done it countless times. I know you had problems last time and I was supporting you in doing it. I wish it hadn't happened that way, but at the end of the day I still have to say that I've done it a lot and it's always been fine.

What I would do is use this as an opportunity to cut out a lot of crap content too. Like if you have a ton of 250 word brand profiles without links. Just 404 those things. Otherwise, fix everything up in regards to medical statements and then move it all to your blog or article resources section or whatever and do a one-to-one 301 mapping. Then go homepage to hompage, about to about, contact to contact, etc.

Realistically, you should still be able to monetize that content and get your new venture rolling with some cash flow on the side. It won't be the primary ecommerce cash, but it's still cash, and a side you can continue to scale and use to raise awareness, interlink to the ecommerce side, bait links, etc.
 
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Realistically, you should still be able to monetize that content and get your new venture rolling with some cash flow on the side. It won't be the primary ecommerce cash, but it's still cash, and a side you can continue to scale and use to raise awareness, interlink to the ecommerce side, bait links, etc.
On the content site now, each article is monetized using display ads + an upsell at the end recommending some brands to choose from. One brand in there is like 50% of the site revenue, the good news is that our new brand sells a comparable product, priced more competitively - so effectively I've proved demand.

This is amazing because instead of monetizing by sending traffic out to 3rd parties via display/affiliate, our brand is the solution. No way I'd be sending that valuable traffic off to a 3rd party!! :D a cross sell over to the product section and it goes search traffic -> new customers.

If it all goes well it gives us a fully populated content marketing machine, email list, seo presence on day 1 and it should be a solid base to grow the business from. Just a slow roll is so much better than having to get all the momentum going from a dead stop.

@Ryuzaki - the last situation was really messed up and hit me hard and your support then and now are truly appreciated. Hopefully this one goes better!
 
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#11
Looping back around here to say thanks again to all you guys for the feedback. Pitched the idea to my biz partner and he is in.

Should be executing this by the end of the month! I’ll let you all know how it goes.
 
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#12
Looping back around here to say thanks again to all you guys for the feedback. Pitched the idea to my biz partner and he is in.

Should be executing this by the end of the month! I’ll let you all know how it goes.
Awesome!

I purchased one auction domain with 270 relevant LRDs yesterday and insta-301ed it to my acquisition page (first on that site). I'll also report back in a month or so with a progress report. This is the first time I did the 301 without reviving/reindexing the site first, so I'm very interested to see how will everything play out.
 
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#14
I don't add the site to SC if I don't plan to revive it - or if I don't see results within a month. Then I add it to check if there are manual actions (never happened so far).
 
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#15
Hmm ok - sounds like I have a different situation where I already have the site registered and indexing through search console.
 

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#16
I do file site moves, add the site into the account, etc. My philosophy on stuff like this is, if I'm doing nothing shady and Google provides tools to help speed things up or acknowledge that it's not shady, then I'm going to exploit them.

But adding the new domain in and waiting for Search Console to update is wise because you can see if there's any manual penalties (in the case that you bought some aged / juicy domain). You can usually get those gone within 24-48 hours with a reconsideration request explaining that you're the new owner and there's nothing even on the site.
 
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#17
The new domain is squeaky clean and has been in webmaster tools for a few months now, clear of penalties, indexing already etc.

It sounds like my best plan might be to give the ecommerce search console account access to the affiliate site, then file the site move once all the 301's go live. I'm so wary of doing this after my last experience that I am considering doing just the 301's and not filing the site move.

You make a good point about using the tools they give you though...
 
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#18
Here’s a question: since the affiliate site is essentially becoming a sub-section of the e-commerce site, it seems to make sense to me that 301ing the affiliate sites homepage to the merger announcement would make sense in that the homepage of the e-commerce site is not really a 1-1 match.

From a user perspective it seems to work - you’re looking for the homepage of a site but now that site lives as a sub section of another site. Landing on a merger announcement explains this and then links off to the relevant pages.

Just not sure if this breaks SEO convention that says redirect to the obvious matching page, ie home to home, contact us to contact us etc
 
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#19
Just not sure if this breaks SEO convention that says redirect to the obvious matching page, ie home to home, contact us to contact us etc
I would still link to the announcement page. The 1-1 match is to prevent soft 404s and to maintain rankings for specific phrases. For ex) "How to Install Blue Widgets" should match on the new site. People looking for the home or contact page are likely searching by brand anyway, so take them to the page explaining the brand change
 
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#20
Just an addition...for the content you'll be pruning, perhaps you can recycle them for guest posts (if they are good enough) or for web 2.0s.
 
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#21
So I've been deep in the trenches on this, getting all the content ported over and mapping out what lives, what doesn't, and where everything redirects.

I would still link to the announcement page. The 1-1 match is to prevent soft 404s and to maintain rankings for specific phrases. For ex) "How to Install Blue Widgets" should match on the new site. People looking for the home or contact page are likely searching by brand anyway, so take them to the page explaining the brand change
Thanks for the thoughts on this @ryandiscord, this gives me an overarching rule to apply to each case now. I'll be redirecting the home, contact, and the landing page of a major section to the merger announcement.

Just an addition...for the content you'll be pruning, perhaps you can recycle them for guest posts (if they are good enough) or for web 2.0s.
This is a solid idea, but in this case I won't have anything but scraps left over, not enough to make another property out of. Thanks for this tho!

Something new that's come on my radar is that Google in the site move documentation recommends image redirects from old image locations to new. I didn't do this last time, and maybe this was my mistake. The way I understand this is that for the content I'm bringing over, I'll make 301's for the images within that content and point them to the images on the new site. Does that check out?