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Imagewerks Marketing SEO Rebrand

How to Rebrand Without Losing Your SEO Ranking, Part 1

Posted by Molly Geipel on May 15, 2017 at 9:27 AM

Rebranding your company is an exciting process that can be a huge boost for brand awareness, customer loyalty, and business. However, rebranding can be a minefield for SEO missteps, and is the root cause of one of the most common mistakes businesses make on their website.


In this first installment of a two-part series on rebranding without jeopardizing your SEO status, we will explore the risks and rewards of rebranding your business, and start walking you through the seven step process of undertaking a digital rebrand.


The first question of any rebranding exercise is whether you’re undertaking a full rebrand (new company name, new logo, new positioning, new website, new everything) or just a brand refresh (same name with updated logo, visuals, and/or messaging). There are many signs that your company needs a rebrand, so do some research before you commit.


A Whole New World


A brand refresh isn’t much of a threat to your SEO rankings, so most of the tips in this blog post won’t apply. You’re better off checking out our posts on Authenticity and the Future of Branding or 5 Elements of Strong Brand Positioning as resources for fine-tuning your brand.


If you’re undertaking a true and total rebrand, buckle up.


Rebranding can be a milestone opportunity for a company. It’s a chance to update your positioning, expand or pivot your audience, introduce a new business model, or modernize to better match current market conditions.


Don’t Try This at Home


Rebranding is not without its potential dangers. Setting aside the risks involved in debuting a new personality to a public that may or may not embrace it, rebranding can have damaging repercussions for your SEO rankings. It’s not an undertaking to take lightly, and certainly not without the guidance or hands-on assistance of an expert.


All that juicy search engine authority you’ve built up for your domain can go out the window in one fell swoop if you don’t manage your transition carefully. Follow these seven steps to rebrand without sabotaging your SEO rankings.


7 Steps to Rebrand Without Sacrificing SEO Authority


1. Do your prep work.

Once you’ve settled on your new name, logo, and brand elements, it’s time to start getting your digital ducks in a row for the web transition.  


Domain: If you can keep your old domain, that will simplify your process. But if you’re changing your name, it may be unavoidable that you need to adopt a new domain name to match. Secure your new domain, but keep your old one registered.


Hosting: Set up hosting for the new website, but keep the url blocked from search engines while you’re building the site. This will help you prevent issues with duplicated content if some of your pages are similar to your old site.


Back up: You never know when you might want to revisit content from your old site, so back everything up before you make the transition official.


KPIs: You don’t want to lose access to the analytics you’ve accrued on your old site when you switch to the new one. Take this opportunity to record benchmarks for your most important KPIs, including traffic, bounce rates, SERP rankings, conversion rates, backlinks, and citations. These benchmarks will help you measure the success of your rebrand and determine how well you’re maintaining your SEO status.


2. Preserve as much content as you can.

If your website is a few years old, Google has been crawling and indexing your content for some time and you’ve most likely built up some pretty decent search authority. Not transferring at least a good part of that content to your new site will jeopardize that visibility.


We understand the instinct to put a fresh spin on your content to match your new design, but try to preserve as much of your original content as possible in order to keep a firm grip on your rankings.


3. Map out URL structure.

One of the great opportunities in building a new website is to reorganize your URL structure. Like moving house, redesigning your website gives you rare chance to downsize, consolidate, and declutter.


We recommend keeping your basic URL structure as similar to your old site as possible – thus allowing for straightforward one-to-one redirects – but consolidating content when possible. Condense pages with similar or redundant content, delete pages with outdated content, and try to reduce your website to the essentials.


It’s a common SEO misconception that more pages are better for search visibility. In reality, search engines are shifting to a “quality over quantity” approach to rankings. The most useful principle you can follow is that what is good for user experience (simple organization, clear content) is good for search engines.


4. Set up 301 redirects.

If you launch a new website and delete your old one without setting up 301 redirects, you will promptly lose ALL your search engine status in one fell swoop. That includes organic search traffic, traffic from backlinks, domain authority – everything. Did your blood just run cold at the thought? Yeah, don’t slack on 301 redirects.


Once you have your new URL structure in place, map out how content from the old website will forward to the new website. If you kept your URL structure similar, this will be pretty straightforward. About page → About page, and so on.


If you added, deleted, or consolidated content, you will need to decide where obsolete pages from the old website will link to on the new website. You will need to use code to redirect each individual page on your old website to the most relevant page on your new one.

Use an Excel spreadsheet to keep it all straight. In one column, list every URL from your original site. In the next column, list the URL on your new site that it will redirect to.


Creating 301 redirects will help you preserve organic traffic and search authority by ensuring that you don’t lose traffic from people clicking on dead-end links to your old website and by creating a clear path for crawlers to index the new site. Like we said: what’s good for users is good for search engines.


That’s it for Part One of How to Rebrand Without Losing Your SEO Ranking! For steps five through seven, covering how to launch and promote your shiny new brand identity, you’ll have to check back in with us next week.

In the meantime, you can download our free brand voice worksheet to help identify the qualities you want to reflect in your rebrand.


Download The  Brand Voice Worksheet


Topics: branding, brand strategy, SEO, rebranding

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