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A client currently owns two websites. They want to take the content from Website B and move it to be located on Website A's domain name for SEO value. What they want to do is simply to take Website B and move it to a subfolder on Website A then interlink the two websites, taking advantage of Website A's domain authority and Website B's user engagement, low bounce rates and higher quality content.

I would think that Google may take issue with a "merged" Website A/B where half of the site is one template using one CMS, having certain SEO tags, certain HTML structure, etc where the other half of the site is using a completely different template with a different CMS with different SEO tags, different URL structure etc.

My question is whether we can expect any SEO penalties, drawbacks from adding all of this content to the new site with a completely different design/template.

  • While Google does look to content for ranking pages, there is also the whole render issue. I would suggest doing the work to fold the content from site b into site a properly and not trying to cut corners. It is at the very least a UX (user experience) issue before a Why confuse the search engines?, issue. It could effect bounce rates, time spent on site, time spent on page, and other important metrics from UX alone. Why risk it? Do the work properly and get it behind you. Do not cheap out. Cheers!! – closetnoc May 26 '16 at 20:52
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This is domain cannibalism and it's a common SEO tactic. There's actually not a problem with the different design, so long as it's optimised. Run it through all the standard page tests, and bring it's quality up or above that of your original content. Here's a run down of domain merging:

Pros:

  • You acquire a percentage of the original domains link equity. (some is lost with a 301 redirect)
  • Your content expands, giving you new relevant keyword searches.
  • Natural traffic from the links to the old domain.
  • It's a really cheap way to boost a domain with an auctioned/retired one.
  • Relatively easy to do, from a technical standpoint.
  • Almost always cheaper than building the same number of links from scratch.

Cons:

  • You lose the old domains trust. If it's 5+ years old, and your new site is 5 months, you should actually be moving to the old domain for SEO benefit!
  • If the new content isn't relevant to the rest of your site, you've created a folder in a bubble. It will strengthen your domain but it's not going to have a great effect on the keyword rankings you want.
  • It's less efficient than running the current site as a separate entity and linking your main domain from it, assuming the content isn't that relevant.
  • It's time consuming rather than an upfront cash investment. This can produce a blurred view of what the true 'cost' is. Employee time is money!

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