Rebranding is a crucial phase. Rebranding can mean huge opportunities ahead, but it also means running the risk of you wasting the traffic you have built for your previous website.
It’s definitely one of the biggest SEO challenges as most business owners are worried about the following:
- Is our website’s traffic going to tank?
- Is our SEO ranking going to drop as well?
- Do we need to totally rebuild our brand’s voice from scratch?
- Is it all worth the time and effort?
The good thing is that there are ways to efficiently and effectively manage a website rebranding or a multi-site consolidation project, involving a change of domain name and preserving and leveraging the previous investments in SEO and Paid Search.
However, a website rebrand should never be a one-man show. This needs the help of everyone in the marketing team to ensure that the rebrand survives and flourishes.
Why Change Domains?
Before we talk about how to avoid wasting organic traffic when rebranding your site, let’s first know the possible reasons website owners have for making this move.
- A more user-friendly domain name has become available: If you were stuck with a .biz or .net domain and a .com domain suddenly becomes available, you may think about grabbing it and moving to this more user-friendly domain. It’s not really a necessity, but we all know that a .com domain is easier for the audience to remember and sounds more credible.
- Your business name has changed and you want your domain to reflect this: If the name of your business has changed, you should really change your domain name as well to maintain consistency. Probably it’s because of merging of companies or acquisition of a new brand. Whatever the reason, a new, matching domain name is a must.
- You plan on consolidating multiple similar domains into a single platform: If you’ve got multiple sites that deliver just the same kinds of content to the same audience, you may think about just consolidating everything in one platform.
- You’re just plain tired of your domain: This might sound casual, but some website owners do feel this way.
Before plunging in, you have to finalize everything and check if it’s really worth the work as you’re basically putting your SEO ranking at stake here.
A few elements to consider:
In order to limit your loss and still take advantage of the previous investments you have made in your previous SEO and Paid Search efforts, carefully consider the following:
- Your old website Analytics
- Your old website Page Ranking
- Your old web pages’ Quality Score
- All Organic Keywords your old webpages are ranking for
- All Organic Keywords your competitor websites are ranking for
- Your old website backlinks
- Your old website Domain and Trust Score
Most websites that went for rebranding got so focused on the “during” that they have forgotten to pay attention to the things they should do before and after. Planning is a crucial step as you might end up wasting resources and dragging the project if the right approach is not laid out properly. Planning also ensures that your goals are set, and the whole journey is well navigated.
Here are some of the things you should know beforehand:
- Know the facts and statistics of your website (conversion, engagement, loyalty, attribution), understand the overall workings of SEO, and never forget the difference between Quality and Quantity.
- Decide which content is worth migrating from your old website to your new one.
- Set the placement of the migrated contents, lay out the architecture, and map the incoming traffic page by page.
- If your site serves multiple geography in multiple languages, ensure that the search engines will understand them too.
- Optimize your website’s speed and plan how to achieve a new website that’s blazing fast.
- Choose how you want to set up your Analytics (Views, Filters, Goals, Attribution)
- Plan how to seamlessly and permanently migrate the web traffic from your old website to the new one
- Decide when and how to test the re-mapping of traffic.
- Decide when and how to clearly communicate to the Search Engines about the migration/consolidation of websites.
- Decide when to pause and update your paid campaigns.
- Choose which backlinks to keep and which ones you should drop.
- Plan when and how to reach out to backlinks’ owners and ask to update the URL and the anchor texts associated with them.
After you have laid out your plan and all the considerations, let’s now proceed to the actual execution:
1. Do your prep work:
Once your new name, logo, and other brand elements are settled, take care of the following:
- Domain: If you decide to just keep your old domain, it will make the process simpler. However, if you are changing your name as a part of your rebranding, a new domain name that matches it should be secured. Register the new one, but keep the old one intact as well.
- Hosting: Set up the hosting details of the new site, but the URL should be blocked from the search engines while you are still building the website. This disables issues in terms of duplicated content if some or all of the pages you have are just the same with your old website.
- Back up: You may need to revisit the content from your old website, so it makes sense to back things up before you make the move.
- KPIs: Never lose access to the analytics you have used for your old site as you make your switch. Record the benchmarks for the key KPIs, like bounce rates, traffic, conversion rates, SERP rankings, citations, backlinks, and more. These benchmarks can help you gauge the success of your rebrand and help you know how well you’re doing in maintaining your SEO position.
2. Clean Up Your New Domain
If the new domain you have is previously registered, make sure it does not tag along some old penalties. Check for any unsettled issue and claim your new domain in the Google Webmaster Tools and also check the Manual Actions page. If there’s a manual action, do the required changes and submit a reconsideration request. After getting the approval for your request, you can now safely move forward with your new domain.
3. Preserve as much content as you can.
If your old website had been up and running for years, you most likely have managed to rake in some pretty decent search authority. Transfer at least a good chunk of that content to your new website to help in retaining your visibility. Of course, you should still consider putting a fresh spin on the content, but preserve as much original content as you can to keep hold of your rankings. When moving a portion of your site, you can use Duplicator and other similar plugins to make the process faster and more efficient.
4. Set up 301 redirects.
If you miss setting up 301 redirects, you may lose the entirety of your search engine status straight away—that includes your traffic from backlinks, organic search traffic, domain authority, and everything else.
Securing 301 redirects enables you to preserve your search authority and organic traffic by creating a clear path for the crawlers to index your new website and by preserving the traffic when people click on dead-end links to your old site.
5. Map out URL structure.
Rebranding offers the opportunity to reorganize your URL structure. This is your best chance to consolidate, downsize, and declutter.
It’s best to keep the basic URL structure of your new site similar to the old one. Condense pages with redundant or similar content, delete those with outdated content, and reduce your site only to the essentials. It’s an SEO myth to believe that the more the pages, the better for search ranking. Actually, search engines are now prioritizing quality over quantity.
6. Officially Tell Google You’ve Moved
Don’t forget to update your website address in Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools. Add your new URL to your Google Webmaster Tools account and undergo the verification steps to make it all official. Change the URL in your Google Analytics account to monitor traffic to the right site. Do add an annotation in the Google Analytics page on the day of your move to easily differentiate your traffic before and after the switch.
7. Make the public announcement.
Spread the good news to as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. If you do this right, you can even generate better brand awareness than before. Here are some ways you can spread the word:
- Email: Send an email blast to your contact list and announce the change while encouraging them to check your new site out.
- Social Media: Post an announcement on your social media page and make this announcement your pinned post. You can even maximize paid posts to grow your reach.
- PPC Campaigns: Run PPC campaigns under both the old and new name. People might keep on searching for your old name, so a PPC ad can help to ensure that your new website is the first thing that they find.
- Press Release: You can use a PR distribution platform to cast the widest reach. It could even be picked up by other websites which further expand your brand awareness to a new set of audience.
Don’t miss updating all of your social media profiles using your new logo, name, URL, and messaging.
The work does not stop at the execution part. You should keep on monitoring your rebranding’s progress by keeping track of your new website for broken internal or external links, slow pages, warnings and issues, crawling errors, and more. Keep the following in mind:
1. Use Google Analytics
This is to effectively monitor your rankings, leads, and traffic. Your performance is expected to dip after the rebrand, but if you have taken care of the prep work, you should be able to see progress in just a few weeks’ time. If not, adapt and improve your strategy till you find the right formula.
In Google Analytics, monitor the following:
- Which content has performed well? And which content has flopped?
- Which site pages are getting the most traffic? And which ones need more attention?
- Which pages are getting the most conversion?
- Which pages bear the highest bounce rate?
- Are your visitors taking the action and the path you desire them to take?
2. Track 404s and crawl errors
You should also make sure that there’s no issue preventing the crawlers and the users from getting access to your site. If there are 404s, correct them immediately.
3. Follow your mentions
Check out how your audience is responding to your new name and identity. Following your mentions enables you to engage your audience and answer their questions about your major rebrand and other details.
Tracking your progress enables you to know what to improve and what to retain in your campaign. As long as you solve the issues, better results are sure to come.
In conclusion rebranding is not just about building a new website and deploying it. Don’t forget to maximize the time, effort, and money you have invested in your previous website. Leverage the organic traffic you have established and turn your rebranding into an opportunity to make things even better.