How To Make Your Website's Rebranding SEO Friendly
Changing your corporate image at any level is a long and tricky process with many potential things that can go terribly wrong. One of them is your SEO. It’s really quite obvious – you might have been working on improving your search rankings for years and now, given that your business or products have new names or that you’ve moved your content to a new website, your SEO strategy needs to be reconsidered.
So how do you avoid a drop in rankings now that you have a new website and an army of new keywords that you need to optimize it for? Are there ways to make this transition as smooth as possible? We’ll try to answer this question in a bit. But let’s first take a brief look at possible reasons behind choosing to rebrand your website in case you’re unsure whether your business needs this change or not.
Rebranding doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning your brand’s history and disrupting its continuity. On the contrary, it usually means improving what you’ve already built. There may be a number of reasons for this. For instance, you might feel you’ve outgrown your initial goals, messages, visual identity or even values. This then calls for a change in overall business strategy, which includes reinventing some of your brand’s elements as well.
Furthermore, it may be that you’re moving to a new market. This means different target audience that needs to be attracted by your name, your products or your logo. Again, this doesn’t have to entail a radical change that would make your brand unrecognizable. It can be just a small but vital modification in approach to building your brand that could make it more appealing to the market you intend to enter.
Finally, you may simply want to catch up with the flow of things and adapt to new trends and technologies. In order to conform to the newest tendencies in your market or general business trends, you’ll need to offer your (potential) customers something new.
Since this article deals with possible SEO problems that can come as a result of rebranding, we’ll focus on those brand elements that could affect your search engine rankings if changed. Above all, those elements are your company name or the name of your products, as well as the design of your website.
Changing the company name
Adopting a whole new company name is one of the most radical business rebrand moves you can make. The issues with it go far beyond SEO, since you’ll need to find ways to let people know that there’s a continuity between two seemingly unrelated businesses. It will have to include some clever marketing across all imaginable digital or non-digital channels. And convincing search engines that this kind of continuity exists might be even more difficult than convincing the general public.
Apart from the obvious shift you’ll have to make in your keyword strategy, there are a few other things you should pay attention to if your company is undergoing such a significant transformation.
Domain name change
First of all, you’ll definitely need to change your domain name. This transition will demand a lot of work with URL redirecting unless you want to have all your previous SEO efforts ruined. We’ll look into this topic in more detail in the website redesign section.
Of course, the trouble doesn’t stop here. You need to make your new website relevant for search queries including your old brand name. It’s relatively simple to redirect people who click on links pointing to your old website, but those who try to Google your company using its old name won’t be able to find you. However, there’s a clever way around this that will help your new website gain at least some relevance for old branded keywords.
The best way to make search engines realize there’s a connection between the old and the new brand is creating a new page in the new domain that will be dedicated to the old brand. Here you can also explain the changes you made and provide some details about what’s new about your company. This page should serve as a kind of a bridge between the old and the new brand.
Once you’ve done did this, make sure this page links to your new homepage. After that, you should do the same thing in the opposite direction. Offer your visitors a short explanation about rebranding on your new home page and include a link to the "bridge" page. You’ll get even better results if you decide to repeat this trick multiple times with multiple pages all linking to the page about the old brand. This way you’re making these pages relevant for search queries including the old brand, while at the same time making the “bridge” page more relevant itself. This won’t get you the SEO results you had before, at least not immediately, but it will surely make a significant and positive impact.
Product name change
If you decide to change the name of a product, you should follow a very similar procedure to the one just described. Just apply the same method with the old and new product page, linking to each other, with relevant anchor text and explanations. This is helpful not only in terms of SEO, but also from a business perspective, as it will be easier for people to find out how, when, and why you decided to change the names of the products in question.
Anchor text in backlinks
Finally, you’ll have a two-fold issue concerning your backlinks. First one is the already mentioned problem of redirection (we’re getting there, really!) and the other one is the anchor text problem.
Namely, redirecting traffic you’re getting from other websites to your new domain is one thing, but the anchor text on these websites will still remain the same. Now, if the anchor text includes branded keywords, it simply means that it will contain the name of your old company or product instead of the new one, which can damage your optimization efforts.
What you should do to solve this problem may not seem too complicated but it will demand a lot of work. Just simply pick your favorite SEO tool that can list all the backlinks from other websites, check which ones contain the old names in anchor text and start writing emails.
It’ll be a tiresome process, but it’s very important that you do it. You should start contacting blog owners long before this big brand change is about to take place. If there’s a lot of backlinks, you’ll probably need some time to convince all the owners to change the anchor text in relevant articles. Just be nice and polite and hope for the best.
Changing the name of your business usually won’t entail just a change in the domain name, but instead will result in a complete reinvention of your online presence. This includes the redesign of your website. First and foremost, it’s crucial to say that you shouldn’t enter the redesign process just for the sake of it. It’s a procedure that takes a lot of time and effort, so unless you see serious gains from website redesign don’t undertake it. Get familiar with what’s hot right now, check how some of the latest website designs look like and see if you can implement any of it in your new design.
Mobile-friendliness and page loading speed
There’s several important optimization-related details that have changed with the latest Google’s updates. Arguably the most significant changes are caused by the speed update and mobile-first indexing. Long story short, these two mean that mobile-friendliness and the speed of your website will become vital SEO factors in the future. Hence you have to make sure that your new website is designed in a way that will fit mobile devices and ensure top-notch performance. You should constantly keep an eye on what’s the next big thing in search engines’ algorithms and adapt accordingly.
The most important part of the redesign job, SEO-wise, is URL redirection (yes, we’re finally there!). Ideally, when redesigning a website you ought to keep the URL structure intact, but since we’re already dealing with the change of domain here, it can’t be done in this case.
Namely, if you fail to redirect users from the old website to the new one, you won’t be just hurting your traffic and annoying people with 404s. This is also going to destroy all the authority your pages are getting from backlinks since they’re simply not going to reach your new website. Not to mention the mess that’s going to happen with your internal links this way.
Thus it’s absolutely essential to crawl you existing website thoroughly to get a complete list of existing pages. Then you need to map all the old URLs to the new ones and let 301 redirects transfer the users and the authority you’ve built to the new website. This way, all your pages will maintain the rankings they had. There are numerous plugins that could help you with the redirecting task, so you should use this to your advantage as well.
Launching and monitoring
There’s one crucial thing left before your website goes live. You’ll need to test it for problems that can ruin your SEO, such as broken links or missing tags and meta descriptions. If everything seems in order, it’s time to update the robots.txt file. It should include a new sitemap built according to the new structure of your website. Submit it to be once again crawled by Googlebot and you’re basically ready to go.
In order to get the best results, you’ll have to be closely monitoring all the key SEO indicators, as well as those that can affect it in the long run. Comparing these numbers to those that were recorded before shutting down the old website is crucial. You’ll inevitably see some fluctuations in the first few weeks, in terms of traffic, keyword rankings, number of indexed pages or page authority.
These fluctuations will probably be more extreme than usual due to the change of domain and company name. But it’s essential that you keep tracking all these metrics, to test which SEO practices work and which don’t and try to not just avoid damaging your rankings but actually improve them on the long run.
All in all, retaining your online presence throughout the rebranding process can be of great value to your business. And optimizing your new website and other new brand elements for search engines is definitely a huge part of it. If people can’t find you online, it’s almost as if you don’t exist. Thus putting as much effort as possible to keep your rankings high should not be considered a waste of resources. Be careful and methodical during this process, don’t rush things and you probably won’t have much to worry about.