Keeping Your Rankings and Traffic Safe During A Rebranding

Keeping Your Rankings and Traffic Safe During A Rebranding

Are you thinking about a rebrand? You’re undoubtedly well aware that it won’t be simple. You’ll have to deal with Google in addition to the soul-searching, repositioning, creative, legal headaches, and everything else.

So much of what we do in marketing is focused on establishing brand awareness and online exposure – and if done incorrectly, switching to a new name and domain can jeopardize all of it.

It’s crucial to remember that not every rebrand necessitates a new name and domain; if your company’s primary goal is to change its positioning and logo, most of the information in this post will be useless. Read on if you’re courageous enough to change your company’s name, logo, and website all at once.

1. Preliminary Work

It’s critical to plan ahead. Before you begin the tactical steps, double-check that you have everything you’ll need to fire the trigger when the time comes. If you skip these steps, you can run into some issues later on.

  • Webmaster Tools is a service provided by Google. To use Google’s Change of Address feature, you’ll need to add and validate both sites in GWT (more on this later). Make sure you’re using the same Google account for both.
  • Google Analytics is a tool that allows you to track your online In Google Analytics, double-check that you have administrator access to the site. You won’t be able to change the old website information to the new one if you don’t have the appropriate rights (we’ll go over this later).
  • Registrar and hosting. Confirm that you have access to both the old and new websites’ hosting. You’ll also want to make certain that you’ll be able to host both the old and new websites in the near future. Similarly, you’ll want to register the old domain for as long as possible in order to keep ownership of it for years to come.
  • The New Site should be blocked. Your new website should be up and running, but search engines should be restricted for the time being. If the pages are substantially the same as the old site, this is very critical to avoid duplicate content issues. This is simple to perform with the Robots.txt file.
  • Back up. Last but not least, make a backup of your previous site. It’s never a bad idea to be safe, and who knows, maybe you’ll get sentimental later.

2. Benchmark Important KPIs

If you work in marketing, you presumably already measure everything, but keeping a historical record of your analytics data is especially critical during a rebrand.

Prior to the transfer, take the time to benchmark your most essential KPIs (key performance indicators). The following is a nice place to start:

  • Traffic. Break it down into several channels, such as organic, referral, direct, and so on.
  • Rankings. Positioning 20-30 of your most critical keywords in your document, including both new and old brand names.
  • Links. Make a list of all your backlinks, or websites that point to yours. In step 8, I highlighted a few of our favorite tools for this.
  • Citations. These are “mentions” of your old brand in prominent locations on the internet. You can manually search for these in Google or use a service like BrightLocal or Yext to do so.

Are you ready to go? Let’s get down to business.

3. Make Sure Your 301 Redirects Are Ready to Go

You’ll need to redirect every page from your old site to the most appropriate page on the new one to provide an excellent user experience (and to keep the search engines pleased). Even though you’ll be building your redirects file in this stage, you won’t be using it until the new site is ready to go live.

This phase may be straightforward depending on the specifics of your rebrand. Or maybe not.

Do the pages and URL structure on your old and new sites match?

You’ve come to the right place. You may easily route all the pages on the old domain to the matching page on the new one with a few lines of code in your.htaccess file.

Here’s the code you’d use – simply change the domains as needed:

RewriteEngine On RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^olddomain.com$ [OR] RewriteCond %{HTTP_HOST} ^www.olddomain.com$ RewriteRule (.*)$ http://www.newdomain.com/$1 [R=301,L]

Do the pages and URL structures on your old and new sites differ?

You’ll need to do a few extra steps if that’s the case. This step may take some time if you have a large website (which you almost definitely do if you’ve been doing inbound marketing).

You’ll still use the.htaccess file, but you’ll have to redirect each page on your old site to the most relevant page on the new site in this scenario.

With some sample code, here’s how you’d go about doing it:

Redirect 301 /old-sample-page.html http://www.newdomain.com/new-sample-page.html

Redirect 301 /old-sample-page-2.html http://www.newdomain.com/new-sample-page-2.html

It’s important to note that if you have a blog, landing pages or any other content on a different subdomain that is hosted elsewhere, you’ll have to create a separate .htaccess file for those URLs.

4. Deploy

It’s finally time for all of your hard work to pay off – this is the simplest step!

  1. First, go to the previous domain hosting and upload the.htaccess file you made in step 3. The effects will be instantaneous, so test a few of the old URLs to make sure they point to the correct sites on the new site. Remember to run a test on the home page.
  2. Then, on the new site, remove the Robots.txt statement that is preventing it from search engines. 

Don’t make the mistake of removing the previous website too soon. Because DNS updates can take a few days, some searches may still see your old site after your redirect is set up. If you take down your site too soon, you risk generating a slew of 404 errors, which will confuse your clients and jeopardize your traffic.

5. Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics Should Be Updated

After you’ve set up your 301 redirects, you’ll need to notify Google that your website is transferring. You may use Google Webmaster Tools’ helpful change of address option to do precisely that. Simply go to the old site and select the gear icon at the top of the screen.

You’ll go through a couple of brief verification procedures when you let them know which site you’re transferring to (it has to be a site in your account – this is why we had you verify both sites in step 1), and then you’re done.

The next step is to notify Google Analytics that your site’s URL has changed. This is also a simple procedure. Simply log in to your Google Analytics account and go to your site’s account. Navigate to the Admin tab.

You’ll most likely need to update the information in two places. Update the Account Name field under Account Settings, and the Property Name and Default URL fields under Property Settings.

While you’re at it, make a note in Google Analytics on the day you make the switch so you have a point of comparison for comparing traffic before and after the switch.

Bonus: On your new site, create a sitemap.xml file and submit it to Google through Webmaster Tools. It should speed up their crawling of your site.

6. Give the Search Engines Signals to Connect the Old and New Names

The search engines will ultimately figure out the link between your old and new company names, but you can assist them out by sending them signals in a variety of places:

  • Title tags and meta descriptions
  • The footer of your website
  • A custom 404 page
  • Your social media account handles and/or descriptions
  • Guest blog posts on high-authority websites

“About Us” pages usually feature some history about a firm, making them a wonderful place to highlight your prior brand name if it makes sense.

While this “information fragrance” is vital for SEO, it also helps your visitors understand the change. Someone looking for your old brand and finding an unfamiliar website with a new name and style might be perplexed. And bounces equals confusion.

7. Update Your Directory Listings

If you have a local business (and who doesn’t? ), you’ll want to be found when people search for your products or services in your area. The consistency of your business NAP — that is, its Name, Address, and Phone number – across dozens of local, regional, and industry business directories is one of the most important local ranking variables. These are known as citations in the SEO field.

As a result, you’ll need to go back and edit all of your listings with your company’s updated information. Yes, it’s time-consuming, but it’s essential to your local SEO efforts.

Please be aware that this is not a “one-and-done” project. Many directories take what seems like an age (if at all) to update the listing, and if they do, it could be weeks before Google indexes the updated information.

8. Make Some Outreach For Link Updates

This phase of the procedure, like upgrading your directories, is likely to take some time. The goal is to update all strong links that point to your previous site or reference your old name to the new information.

The first step is to find all of the websites that have mentioned or linked to your old company name. Fortunately, various tools, such as Ahrefs, Majestic, and Moz’s Open Site Explorer, can assist with this procedure.

After that, enter all of the links into a spreadsheet, dedupe them, and begin working your way down the list. While using a template email saves time, a personalized approach is preferable in all outreach attempts. Use the spreadsheet to keep track of which links and mentions have been changed, as well as who needs to be contacted.

9. Your New Brand Promotion

It’s time to spread the message. If you execute it correctly, you may end up with more traffic and total visibility than before:

Email announcement – customers, vendors, suppliers, and friends should all be informed. You want people to begin looking for your new brand name.

Press release – write a captivating press release that tells the story of your new brand and distribute it through a PR distribution provider. Because the release will most likely be picked up by many sites, make sure to include both your old brand name and your new NAP.

Guest posts – when done correctly, it’s still one of the most effective tactics for brand marketing. Pitch related blog entries to sites whose readers will benefit from your rebranding experience.

Social Media – update your social media profiles to reflect your new brand and utilize them to promote your new identity. This is an excellent opportunity to invest in paid social media to broaden your audience.

PPC – people will undoubtedly seek for your old brand for a long time if you done a good job of marketing it. Purchase PPC advertising for your former company name and utilize the ad wording to explain the rebrand.

10. Monitor and Follow-up

You’ll have to conduct a lot of monitoring and follow-up over the next few months. Here are a few crucial areas to concentrate on:

Directory listings – this was not a “one-and-done” process, as stated in step 7. Because data providers take a long time to update your information, you’ll find a lot of listings with the old brand name. You’ll need to identify, claim, and update the old listings on a regular basis, much like a game of whack-a-mole. This might go on for months, so you need to catch them as soon as they appear.

Links – it will most likely take several outreach attempts to get your links updated with the new brand information. You are unlikely to prevail in many circumstances. Don’t bother about the terrible “designed for SEO” directories; instead, focus on updating the most vital, authoritative, and relevant links.

Crawl errors and 404s – you’re going to see some of these no matter how much planning you do. Fortunately, Google Webmaster Tools keeps track of them all for you. Keep a watch on 404s (pages that can’t be found) – as soon as they appear, redirect them and mark them as “resolved” in GWT.

Traffic and rankings – keep an eye on the KPIs you benchmarked in step 2 and pay attention to them. If you notice a significant drop in traffic or rankings, you should investigate more to determine the source of the problem. Expect to see your new brand name’s ranks steadily improve over time, depending on how competitive the phrase is.

Final Words

Be aware that even after following these steps, you may see a drop in traffic for a month or two as search engines index all of your adjustments. If you play your cards correctly, this should only be a temporary situation. If you play them well, you can find that you get even more traffic and visibility as the dust settles.

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