In Part One of How to Rebrand Without Losing Your SEO Ranking, we discussed the difference between a rebrand and a refresh, the risks and rewards that come with rebranding your company, and the first four steps of executing a digital rebrand without endangering your hard-won SEO ranking.
1. Do your due diligence to get your digital ducks in a row.
2. Preserve as much content as you can.
3. Map out the URL structure for both your old and new websites.
4. Set up 301 redirects for your old website.
Steps five through seven of the rebranding process provide guidance for how to launch and promote that shiny new brand identity you’ve worked so hard to create.
Without further ado...
Now you’re ready to launch your new website!
A word of caution: Don’t take down your old site too soon. Crawlers are smarter than ever, but they’re not infallible. Even if you were meticulous in setting up your 301 redirects, it can take crawlers a few days to realize that they’re visiting a new IP address. In that time, visitors may still be taken to your old site. Taking it down too soon will result in 404 error messages and mass confusion amongst search crawlers and users alike.
The general consensus is that you should keep your old site live for at least a week to give Google adequate time to recognize and index the new site.
6. Notify your change of address.
Sorry, you’re not done yet. You made the official move, but you still have to unpack and settle in. First thing’s first: it’s time to send out your digital change of address cards so that Google and everyone else know you’ve moved.
First, update your website address in Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics. Add the new URL to your Google Webmaster Tools account and go through the verification steps in the change of address feature to make it official. Then change the URL in your Google Analytics account so that you’re tracking traffic to the right website.
Don’t forget to add an annotation in Google Analytics on the day you make the official switch so that it’s easy to differentiate traffic before and after the move.
Update all your social media profiles with your new name, logo, messaging, and URL. Social media is now a huge source of search authority, so this is a critical step.
A couple additional change of address housekeeping that will help smooth your transition:
- Update any and all directory listings for your business. This will help maintain consistency of your NAP (name, address, and phone number) across the web, one of the most important factors in local search rankings.
- Reach out to websites that backlink to yours and ask them to update their content with your new company name and URL. Depending on how many backlinks you’ve acquired, this could be a monumental task. If your backlinks number in the hundreds or more, identify the links with the greatest authority and start there.
- Give search engines an extra nudge to take note of your change by adding “formerly [insert old name]” to certain highly visible sections of your site, such as title tags, meta descriptions, footer, and social media handles.
7. Make the announcement.
Finally, the fun part. Now that the hard work is over, it’s time to start spreading the good word about your new brand!
The key to a seamless transition is to spread the word to as many people as possible as quickly as possible. If you play your cards right (and leverage PR), you could even end up generating greater brand awareness than you had before.
Here are some tactics to cover your bases and achieve a widespread announcement:
1. Email everyone on your list with an announcement about the change, encouraging them to check out your new site.
2. Post on social media and spread the message across all your platforms. The announcement should be your pinned post on platforms like Facebook and Twitter. Use paid posts to expand your reach.
3. Run PPC campaigns under both your old name and your new name. People may continue to search for your old name for a while, and a PPC ad will help make sure your new site is the first thing they find.
4. Issue a press release announcing your new brand identity, the reason behind the change, and your new brand positioning. Syndicate the release through a PR distribution platform to cast the widest net. It could be picked up by other sites, expanding brand awareness to new audiences.
Your Work is Not Over
The heavy lifting you put into designing and launching your rebrand is just step one of the rebranding process. Step two, moderating your new brand’s first few months out in the world, is critical to the long-term success of your rebrand. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your brand’s online activity.
1. Use Google Analytics (and your CRM, if you have one) to monitor your traffic, rankings, and leads. A dip in performance is to be expected after a major rebrand, but if you’ve done your prep work well, you should start to see your new site steadily gaining traction over the weeks to come.
2. Track 404s and crawl errors to make sure there are no issues preventing users and crawlers from accessing your site – both of which could have serious repercussions for domain authority and search visibility. Correct 404s as soon as you notice them. We mean it – immediately.
3. Follow your mentions on Twitter and Facebook to learn how your customers are responding to your new identity. While you want to avoid the mess of backtracking at all costs, monitoring your mentions gives you an opportunity to answer questions and engage customers in the wake of a significant rebrand.
After a few months, SEO will hopefully have rebounded and stabilized, your positioning well-received, and your new brand will be sailing through smooth waters. Once your new brand is established, your job is to maintain consistent branding and messaging across all platforms.
Okay, this isn’t an official step, but seriously – if you’ve made it this far, you and your team have worked really hard and you deserve to pat yourselves on the back. Head out for happy hour already, won’t you?!
Download the complete guide
If you’d like to have all this advice consolidated in one place as a handy dandy reference guide (maybe even printed out? how old-school of you), we’ve compiled parts one and two of How to Rebrand Without Losing Your SEO Ranking into one ebook. You can download the PDF for free by clicking the button below.