Effect of acquiring a domain on your website analytics


2/5/2021 2:00 PM

Analytics SEO Review Analysis

Ever wondered what happens to your website analytics when you redirect an entire domain to your own?

Back in November 2020, we announced the acquisition of Handset Detection’s online presence. When we completed the acquisition, we had some predictions of what would happen to our website analytics. However, not everything can be so easily forecast.

There were some unexpected side-effects to the acquisition that we’d like to share with you. If you ever find yourself in the middle of a domain acquisition, here’s what you can expect to see from a Marketer’s point of view.

The acquisition story

To an outsider, an acquisition seems to happen relatively quickly. After a few handshakes and contract signings, the process may have already been completed before being announced to the world.

However, no two acquisitions are the same. Some are hugely beneficial to both parties, and others become well-renowned for their failure. Who else remembers the infamous and divisive HP and Compaq merger of the early 2000’s? Luckily for us, our (comparatively small and painless!) acquisition can be sorted into the former category.

It’s important to consider the secondary effects when presented with the decision to acquire a domain. For example, how does the acquisition affect your search engine position, your keywords or your website traffic?

It’s these considerations that we’d like to tell you more about, using our acquisition of Handset Detection’s online presence as a case study.


Website referrals

After the dust on the acquisition contract had settled, it was time to update the online presence of Handset Detection. We redirected all Handset Detection URLs to relevant pages on our website, and unsurprisingly, our referral traffic went through the roof.

We were expecting this increase of referral traffic from the Handset Detection domain, and within the first week, we saw a 99% increase in referral traffic. Since then the referral numbers have plateaued as expected.

On the other hand, we didn’t expect to see a jump in overall users who had arrived at our site via a spam website referral link. We saw a large user increase to our website, and after analysis we found that 76% of the increase was due to spam traffic.

Every website struggles to prevent spam referral links. We hypothesize that when you increase the number of domains that link to your website, you increase the number of spam referrals. Now in our case, the increase in spam referral users (on the day URLs were redirected to ours) may only be a coincidence, but it’s important to consider.

Social media referrals

Another unexpected result from redirecting Handset Detection URLs to our own was the entrance of Pinterest as a social media referral.

51Degrees isn't on Pinterest, so we were surprised to see high amounts of referral traffic from Pinterest. Since the acquisition, we’ve continued to receive steady amounts of referral traffic from Handset Detection’s Pinterest account.


Search engine rankings

When you redirect a competitor’s domain to your own, the search engines begin to remove the obsolete domain from their search results. Handset Detection’s ranking keywords began to slowly trickle out of the top 100 pages, and the last few ranking keywords are still being phased out today.

Despite operating in the same device detection industry, there were very few keyword crossovers between Handset Detection and ourselves. We only shared 2% of keywords, so when Handset Detection disappeared from the search engines, we saw little change to our own search engine rankings.

It’s possible that an acquisition of a closer competitor would directly influence your search. For example, if your website was ranking at number four within search engines, and you bought the third ranking website, theoretically your website’s search engine ranking position would improve. We haven’t tested this theory yet but we'd be interested to find out the results.


Unlike HP and Compaq’s merger, our acquisition of Handset Detection’s online presence was amicable and stress-free. From the outside looking in, it’s not always easy to see what happens when you acquire a competitor, or what side-effects may occur.

From a Marketer's point of view there could be many consequences of an acquisition to your website analytics, overall company reputation and search enginge visibility. What have we learned from this process? If you go into an acquisition prepared you won’t be surprised, and you can benefit immensely.