If it’s time to give your company a facelift but you don’t feel that re-designing the website itself is enough, rebranding may be the solution. But, with a domain change comes the potential loss of all the SEO you’ve worked hard to build for your current website. If you don’t want to start over from the bottom and risk losing customers and valuable traffic in the process, there are some important things to consider before you begin the rebranding and domain migration process.
Send Signals Before the Switch
If it is possible to do so, use the old website to deliver signals to Google about the transition for a short amount of time before the transition occurs. You can do this through traditional marketing and PR efforts as well as through making changes to your content and metadata. When you’re moving to the new site, maintain elements of the old branding within the new metadata as well.
Use the Same URL Structure
Make every effort to retain the current URL structure. Changes to the URL structure and content placement can wreak havoc on your migration and SEO. Maintaining the URL structure or moving to something similar to the same number of content levels helps mitigate SEO risks and consolidates a variety of signals. It also simplifies the redirect process because it can be done with a single line in the .htaccess file.
All that said, Google will never forget a crawl path. Over time, the old URL will have picked up links that point to non-200 URLs and gone through changes and restructures of its own. Because of this, you still need to compile a complete redirect list and process it to ensure you retain all previous equity and signals.
Keep the Existing Content Wherever Possible
Though it may require some minor edits to align it with the new brand, it’s best to maintain as much of your original content as possible. If you must create new content, aim to replicate your old content as much as you can so that you avoid losing Authority and authorship. This helps prevent your rankings from dropping. Even keeping small elements like your fonts and headers the same can have a big influence on SEO.
Properly Implement 301 Redirects
To maximize your SEO effort and keep visitors happy, redirect every page from your old site to the corresponding pays on your new site.
If you have not been able to maintain the same URL structure for whatever reason, things are a bit more complicated. Because you can’t redirect the old pages to the exact same page on the new site, you have to redirect to the most relevant page on your new site. the easiest way to do this is to create a spreadsheet with the URL for the old site in one column and the URL for the new site and the other. This process could be time-consuming depending on the size of your site so it is crucial to prioritize and start with the pages that generate the most traffic.
Remember People Will Search for the Old Brand
Even if you’ve done a great job with marketing and PR to alert people of the rebrand with a new business name, people are still going to search for your previous brand name for years. To account for this, accommodate for the old brand name through your content in your FAQ Pages, blogs, and support section.
Users, both your existing user base and new ones to come along during and after the rebrand, may have questions about the old platform still. failing to include the old brand in your content to capture those searches leaves traffic to your competitors which could result in a large number of missed opportunities.
Generate New Signals
For the greatest success, you need to take time to generate new signals for the new domain. this can be done with traditional marketing, digital PR, and link building.
When you put together the redirect list, identify high importance links, potentially with branded anchors or commercial anchors that are pointed to the old domain. You can use these as outreach targets to try to have the link updated but these efforts should not substitute adding fresh signals to the mix.
Update Your Social Media Profiles
When your new brand is an effect, it’s crucial to update all of your social media sites. Depending on the platform, it may be a challenge. When rebranding on social media consider:
Twitter has a lot of IDs that aren’t in use so if someone has the one you want but isn’t actively using it, reach out to see if you can take it over. Twitter recommends doing this because they are slow at deactivating these accounts.
Facebook only allows you to change your page name and URL one time. If you need to rebrand a second time, you’ll be stuck creating a new page from scratch and hoping the audience migrates over.
LinkedIn is fairly easy when rebranding as long as someone else isn’t already using your company name. If that’s the case, you may need to change your company name just a little, such as keeping the name the same and adding a tagline after it. Contact LinkedIn directly to change the URL.
Update Google Webmaster Tools and Analytics
If you follow these recommendations to rebrand and also focus on creating buzz and new signals around the new domain, it should be easy to combine the old brand with a new one and make your transition easier after the migration.