So, you finally decided it’s time for rebranding. Awesome!
Startups and Fortune 500 companies both rebrand when their business is growing, and they want to showcase this to their investors, customers and other stakeholders.
But it’s not easy. There are considerable creative and legal challenges and not to forget, you will be spending countless hours thinking about what kind of new brand you want to be. But the biggest challenge is how to tackle with Google.
Because since you are making a new brand, you will also be making a new website that will feature a new name, meaning, a new URL!
Yup, your ranking on Google will be at stake since all your keywords and SEO was aimed at your previous brand. So, if you find your digital marketing team worrying what’s going to happen, don’t be alarmed.
In fact, gathered here are the things you should keep in mind when it comes to your Google ranking and how you can keep it as it is.
Lay down the groundwork:
While you are busy in rebranding, make sure your digital team is prepping for the inevitable. There are a few things that you should do first when it comes to preserving your Google ranking. Start with these.
- Log into your Google Webmaster Tools and add in your new site and verify it. Make sure that the account is the same one where you verified your previous website.
Why are you doing this? Google has a nifty feature called “Change of Address” feature which as the name suggest means that you can notify Google that you are changing your URLs and it can help minimize the overall impact on your SEO.
- Make sure you still have access to your Google Analytics. This seems little redundant as obviously, you will have access to it, but sometimes right at the end moment do we realize we don’t have the administrator access (happens often). So, make sure you do as you will need to update it with your new website information.
- Like Google Analytics, make sure you have access to your previous website’s hosting. You will need it for some time as you prepare to shift to a new website with new branding. Imagine having a new company taking over your domain as soon as you abandon it!
- Back up! Back up! Back up! We can’t stress this enough. You are embarking on a perilous road where you need to make sure your previous website is backed up. You may not only need its content, framework, and URLs but sometimes you just feel a little bit of nostalgia and want to use it again.
- Lastly, make sure your new website is not accessible by Google, not for the time being at least. Why? Well, first it features a lot of your content that will get your penalized by Google since it’s duplicate from your previous website. Second, you need to be sure that everything is right and proper before you proceed further.
Don’t forget about your performance metrics:
Since you are working on rebranding, this gives you a great opportunity to see how well it works by benchmarking your performance metrics. Comparing how well your new website does against the old one will give you a better idea of how rebranding your business helped you on the digital front.
Above all else, you can also check how your SEO ranking was affected.
Online Traffic: One key performance metric is your online traffic. Breaking it down into organic, referral or direct helps you understand where your visitors are coming from.
Rankings: One of the foremost SEO metrics and something we are talking about in this course of writing. What you need to do is check your current ranking against your keywords against your new and old names.
Backlinks: If you are rebranding, we suggest that you ask your SEO guy to compile all the backlinks that your site has. For obvious reasons, you want all your backlinks going to your new website.
Mentions: Over the past few years you must have managed to get some citations online. Whether these were shot outs from other blogs or reviews on other websites, these mentions help in your SEO and you need to record them. Use Yext as it helps you in tracking and making a record of them easily.
Redirecting to your new websites – 301 Redirects:
Online visitors hate when they are browsing your website and they see the dreaded 404 error. What is it? It’s when they land on a page that doesn’t exist. Here’s one such page with a little bit of humor:
Since you are migrating to a new website, it’s important that you consider using 301s redirects. With 301 redirects, you can ensure that every page from your former website will lead to its sister page on the new one.
What this means is that when you customers visit pages that they know about already, they will be automatically sent to your new website. There will no disruption in their navigation experience and they will only be seeing the new website.
Now, if your new website is like your old website, then this process is going to be easy.
All your digital experts must do, is create a few lines of code in the .htaccess file and all your existing URLs will simply route to the new ones on your new domain.
So, for instance, if your business name was “big cookies” and you switched to “Really big cookies”, here’s how it will go.
In the example above, when your customers type in the first URL, they will automatically be routed to the new one.
Now, what happens if you restructured your new website to make it completely new? Well, then you will have to work a little extra.
You will be again using the .htaccess file, but now you will have to work on each page on your old website to ensure it redirects to the most relevant on the new website.
Here’s how the code will look like:
htaccess Redirect 301 /about-us.html http://www.bigcookies.com/about-us-page.html Redirect 301 /about-us-2.html http://www.reallybigcookies.com/about-us-page-2.html
Considering it’s a completely new website, you will have to use this for every page. We recommend creating a spreadsheet with one column for old URLs and others for new ones. Remember to prioritize pages that bring you the most traffic and then proceed down the ladder to the one that gives you the least.
Lastly, don’t forget about pages, blog or other online content that you have hosted on different servers. For this, you will have to create a new .htaccess file to ensure the URLs lead to the new pages.
Revisiting your Google Webmaster tools:
As stated earlier, you will be needing your Google Webmaster access as you will be using it to let Google know that you are changing your URL.
Google has an intuitive approach towards its users and understands that sometimes, everyone may want to change their website’s URL. Which is why they offer the “change of address option”
Here’s how you do it:
First, log in and navigate to the dashboard.
Here, click on the gear icon and find “Change of Address” feature:
Now, you will come across a screen that will guide you to easily change your URL address within the webmaster. This is the reason why we wanted you to make sure you have the access to the webmaster as if you hadn’t, it would have been all for nothing.
Once you are done with this part, you will have to access your Google Analytics and notify it as well that you are changing your website’s URL. This one is going to be an easy step.
All you must do is login into your Google Analytics account, go to your website’s page and use the Admin tab. Here you will come across this screen:
Here you must do two things, first update the account settings with the account name field and in the property settings, update the property name along with your URL fields.
You’ll probably want to update the info in two places. Under Account Settings update the Account Name field, and under Property Settings update both the Property name and the Default URL fields.
Let Google know:
While both Google Analytics and Webmasters will do the job for you, you can take it up a notch by using online signals to let the search engine know that you have a new website. Here’s how you can do it:
- Update your meta descriptions and title tags to add in your previous name by using the phrases “formerly known as”.
- Add this information in your website’s footer and on a custom 404 page as well.
- Make sure you share this information on your social media pages as well as Google bots crawl them as well.
- And write guest blog posts on different high authority websites where you can talk about how you have shifted to a new brand and a new website.
Rebranding is a fun and exhilarating experience but never forget that your SEO is incredibly important. Using this guide, you will be able to salvage most of your work without losing out to your competitors.
About the author : Nikola Banicek is an internet marketing specialist at Point Visible, a marketing agency providing custom outreach and link building service. He’s a laid-back guy with experience in PPC, copywriting, and project planning. When he’s not working, he’s either gaming, watching football or anime.