How To Make Sure Your SEO Stays Stable During Rebranding

How To Make Sure Your SEO Stays Stable During Rebranding

Almost all of the successful businesses you know today have gone through a rebranding process at least once. Whether they did it because their original branding strategy didn’t work anymore or to refresh their company’s image, rebranding is a big step that might alter how your brand is perceived in the market.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Rebranding can actually improve your company’s image, making it more recognizable among prospective customers or clients. It can also boost your sales and position you as a leader in your industry — but only if done right.

And yes, your SEO strategy doesn’t necessarily have to go down the drain with the rebrand.

You can do a few things proactively before, during, and after rebranding to ensure your SEO stays stable.

What Does it Mean to Rebrand Your Business? 

Rebranding is a marketing strategy that involves changing how your company presents itself to the general public. 

It’s the process of changing the fundamental touchstones of a business — like your company’s name, logo, symbol, voice, and even the way you speak to customers — to develop a new brand perception. 

Rebranding is often triggered by one (or several) of the following factors: 

  • Your company has been struggling, and you want to give it a new lease on life. 
  • You want to refresh your brand’s image and make it more recognizable to customers or clients. 
  • Your target audience has changed over time, and you need to update your brand’s message accordingly. 
  • You want to use the rebranding process as an opportunity to increase your market share
  • You want to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Suppose your business feels and looks a lot like your competitors’ businesses. In that case, you can use rebranding as an opportunity to stand out or make your brand more noticeable in the eyes of prospective customers.

However, not every business can benefit from launching a rebranding campaign. For example, if your company is struggling financially or you’ve been having problems with staying consistent in your branding efforts, rebranding may not be the right course of action. 

Rebrand or Relocation? 

Rebranding is a common strategy many businesses adopt to give their company a facelift. It may involve tweaking the logo, website design, tone of voice, brand image, and more. 

Relocation isn’t branding (well, not exactly). It’s when a business chooses to move to a new location.

And while rebranding impacts SEO in general, relocation only affects local SEO. For example, if you’re a local plumber moving to a new location, you must start your local SEO from scratch. You must go back to the drawing board and rebuild your ranking in Google Maps, local directories, and social media sites. 

How Rebranding Affects SEO 

Rebranding does impact your SEO, and it’s not always for the better. 

If it’s a name change, your website’s URL will change. That affects your site’s rank in search results because Google has to re-index the content and update its indexing accordingly. 

If this is a full rebranding involving new logos, images, etc., you’re essentially starting from scratch with SEO. You’ll need to start building links again, optimize your on-page content, and build local listings from the ground up. 

Google will also have difficulty associating your new site with the old one since you’re essentially starting from a clean slate. 

To make sure your SEO doesn’t take a hit, here are some strategies you can use before, during, and after the rebranding process: 

Pre-Rebrand Strategies 

#1. Conduct all the Important Prework 

Before the rebranding process begins, it’s important to conduct some preparatory work. That includes a full SEO audit and an on-page analysis of your website’s current ranking pages and content.

That will give you an idea of where you stand right now regarding SEO and what needs to be done before the rebranding begins. 

It will also help set a benchmark so you can track the progress of your SEO campaigns during and after rebranding.

Here’s a checklist of the things to do before launching a rebranding campaign: 

Conduct an SEO Audit of the Site: 

How to Perform an SEO Audit in 18 Steps

Pic Credits: SemRush

You must look at your current site and perform an overall SEO audit. 

You want to look at the technical aspects of your site, including its high-level structure and the way search engines index it. 

You also want to analyse on-page elements like title tags, meta descriptions, and images. 

Finally, you’ll want to look into off-page SEO factors such as backlinks and domain authority. 

Use this information to create a solid rebranding strategy based on actual numbers and metrics, not just gut feeling or intuition.

Identify the High-Ranking Pages: 

The most important pages on your site are the ones that rank high in search results. 

That’s because they’re already well-optimized, making it much easier to get them to the top of Google with a little work.

Identifying these pages will give you a good starting point, no matter what kind of rebranding strategy your business plans to implement. 

Conduct an On-Page Analysis: 

The next step is to analyse all the pages on your website to identify which ones are ranking well and which aren’t. 

That isn’t just for SEO purposes but also to identify which pages perform best and should be optimized first. 

It allows you to focus on what’s working instead of wasting time on improving low-ranking pages that will probably never rank well in search results.

Google Search Console & Analytics: 

Google Search Console allows you to add and verify the two sites you’re rebranding and then compare the data to see how they perform. 

Use their change of address feature (more on this later) to monitor your new and old websites and weigh in on the SEO impact. 

Google Analytics has a similar feature that will let you track traffic on both sites to find out which one’s getting more visitors and conversions.

Block the New Site: 

Once you’ve created your two sites, you need to block the new one from being indexed by search engines. 

You want to do this to avoid the issue of double content (duplicate content) and give yourself enough time to set up your redirects. 

That will allow you to work on clean URLs for your 301 redirects so that the new site doesn’t lose any ranking power when it launches.

Hosting and Registrar: 

Make sure you have access to the hosting and registrar for both domains. That will allow you to configure various settings, such as the canonical tag, and create redirects. 

Hosting will also be helpful if you have to make any DNS changes during or after rebranding.

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Back-Up the Site: 

Before you do anything else, create an up-to-date backup of your site. 

That will be extremely useful if something goes wrong and the migration has to be done again or if you have issues with the new domain (code errors, downtime, etc.) that can negatively affect your SEO campaigns.

After all, it never hurts to be safe than sorry.

#2. Benchmark Important KPIs 

The next step is identifying which KPIs will help measure your efforts’ success (or failure). 

Some examples include: 

Organic Traffic: Break down this data into landing pages and compare it to see which ones get the most traffic. 

website design banner

You also want to break down the traffic into organic, paid, referral, and direct traffic and compare them to see how rebranding affects each source.

  • Ranking changes: Analyse any changes in rankings for your targeted keywords, so you know where you’re starting from. 

You want to track both desktop and mobile rankings since this can affect traffic from different devices differently.

  • Brand mentions and shares: Identify how often your brand is mentioned in blogs, forums, social media sites, and other online platforms. 
  • Backlinks: Pull a list of your backlinks and see if any significant changes happened during rebranding.  

You can use tools such as SEMrush, Ahrefs, Majestic and similarweb to list and monitor your backlinks. 

They’ll also show you the pages, domains and social media sites that are linking to your site

You need to track the number of citations and ensure they’re correct, consistent and up-to-date.

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  • Leads & Conversions: After rebranding, you want to see if your new site generates more leads than the old one. 

Monitor this closely during and after rebranding, as it will give you a clear idea of how well the SEO changes are working for you.

Once the project is completed, compare these numbers to see which methods had the best impact and base your decisions for future SEO campaigns on those insights.

That will show you how much authority you have as a brand and reveal if any of your competitors are trying to capitalize on the rebranding process to snag some of your customers.

  • Social media buzz: Track how people are reacting to your brand. See if there’s an uptick in followers, shares and likes. 

Make sure to analyse the sentiment of these mentions (i.e., was it positive, negative or neutral), so you can address any arising problem quickly.

Technical issues: Don’t forget to look for technical issues like server errors, duplicate content and broken links anything else that could negatively affect your site rankings and traffic. 

Once you’ve identified these, fix them as soon as possible, so they don’t cause more damage.

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#3. Prepare Your 301 Redirects 

Before rebranding, you need to create a list of all the URLs that will be affected. 

You’ll then use this information to create 301 redirects, so your users and search engines are automatically taken to the right page when they try to access an old URL.

You’ll need to redirect every page on your old website to the new one, even if the page has no content or redirects to another page. 

For example, if your old domain is www.oldbrand.com, you’ll need to redirect every page on that site to the new one at www.newbrand.com 

Here are some tips for creating 301 redirects: 

  • Use the .htaccess file: This is a text file in the root directory of your website that tells the server what to do when a user (or bots) visits an old page. 

You can use it to forward an old URL to a new one, so all traffic is automatically redirected. 

  • Keep redirect chains to a minimum: Redirecting from one page to another and then redirecting that page to another creates a chain effect. 

That can slow your site down and negatively affect SEO since each link takes longer to load. 

In most cases, you want to keep redirect chains under three links. 

  • Monitor redirects carefully: Once you implement your 301 redirects, you want to keep a close eye on them to ensure they’re working as they should. 

Many tools allow you to monitor this, such as the Redirect Path Chrome extension or the HTTP Status Codes Checker Tool. 

You’ll also want to test them manually by entering your old URLs into a browser to see if the redirects are working as they should.

Depending on the particulars of your rebranding, the redirecting process might be a piece of cake or a major headache. 

If You’re not Changing Your Domain Name

Then that should be a walk in the pack.

You just need a couple of lines of code in your .htaccess file to redirect all of your old URLs to the new ones. 

Here’s the code you’ll need — be sure to swap out your old domain name with the new one: 

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

Once you set up your redirects, test them by trying out a few old URLs to see if they’re correctly forwarding users to the right place.

Are You Changing Your Domain Name?

That’s where things get a little more complicated. 

If changing your website’s domain name, you’ll need to ensure all your old page URLs are redirected to the new ones. 

That can be a painstaking process, especially if you have a large website with many pages.

You’ll still be using the .htaccess file to redirect old URLs, but you’ll have to go through each page individually. 

Here’s an example of how to do this — Just be sure to swap out your old domain names with new ones:

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

Redirect 301 /old-sample-page-3.html http://www.newdomain.com/new-sample-page-3.html

And so on. 

As you can see, this process can be time-consuming and require much effort to get right.

That explains why we insisted on you listing all your old URLs in one column and their corresponding new URLs in the next. 

You want to prioritize the pages that generate the most traffic or have many backlinks pointing towards them. 

Now, if your website has a blog or landing page hosted elsewhere, you may want to create a separate .htaccess file for those pages and redirect them separately. 

#4. Deploy

Ready to put your rebranding plan into action? 

Once you’ve created your redirects and double-checked them for accuracy, it’s time to deploy them across your website.

  • You want to begin by uploading the .htacess file you create. Be sure to back up your old .htaccess file if anything goes wrong. 
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The results will be instantaneous; you should see redirected pages leading to their new locations. 

We suggest you test out a few new pages across your site to ensure everything is working properly. 

If you notice any issues, go back through your redirects and ensure you didn’t miss any. 

  • Remove the Robots.txt file that was in place for your new website. 

That will allow search engines to crawl your new site and index the pages correctly.

Don’t be too quick to take down your old site. Instead, keep it up for a few days or a week or two as the DNS updates. Taking down your site too soon could result in a lot of 404s.

If you have the resources, consider running your website on both domains for a while to ensure there’s no interruption in service.

#5. Update Google Search Console and Google Analytics

After setting up your 301 redirects and deploying them on your site, it’s time to update your Google Search Console and Google Analytics.

Google search console has a handy “Change of Address” feature that will help you seamlessly transfer your website from your previous domain to the new one. 

You can use the feature to notify Google about your new domain name change. That way, you’ll notify Google that you’ve moved your website from an old domain to a new one.

Submitting the new address also informs Google to forward the signals from the old website over to the new one.

Once you let Google know which site you’re moving to, you’ll be taken through a couple of verification steps. 

These steps will involve you installing a piece of code on your website to confirm site ownership. 

Once you’ve finished the verification process, your new site will be linked to Google Search Console, and any traffic or errors found can be tracked. 

As for Google Analytics, you’ll need to update your tracking code and add the new domain to its list of sites.

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#6. Send Search Engines Signals to Connect the Two Domain Names

There will be a period when your old and new websites will exist simultaneously.

Google, for one, may not have indexed the new site yet. 

In this case, you can signal to Google that your new domain name is live by creating and publishing a sitemap on your new site. 

You can generate a sitemap for your new domain and submit it to Google Search Console. 

You also want to drop the “formerly known as” references in a few of your online assets, including but not limited to:

Don’t forget to update your social media profiles with the new domain name, so you can continue to signal that your site is live and ready for business. 

The “About Us” section might also be the perfect place to mention your rebranding and why it was necessary.

Here’s an example of Gobonafide’s website after they rebranded from Zizinya:

#6. Update Your Directory Listings and Online Reviews

After rebranding your website, you’ll also want to update its listing and reviews. 

For example, rebranding might mean updating your Yelp or Google Business profile.

You must ensure your NAP is the same across your directory listings, social media profiles, and website. 

If your NAP information isn’t consistent across all your listings, search engines will have a tough time figuring out which information is correct.

Go back to every listing and update its information one by one. The process might be tedious, but your local SEO rank depends on it. 

Note that this is not a one-time thing. You’ll find that many listings take what might seem like an eternity to update, and after they do, it could take Google a few weeks to crawl the new info fully.

You want to start with data providers such as Factual, Acxiom, Infogroup, and Localeze because they feed data to many listing sites. Then, move on to the most popular directories one by one. 

It would help if you had a well-organized spreadsheet to plan, document, and track your efforts.

 You also don’t want to rush this step and risk omitting information or making mistakes.

#7 Do Some Link Update Outreach

Link Building Outreach: Tips, Tools, and Tactics

Now that your website, directory listings, and reviews have been updated, it’s time to tackle your link profile.

Look for any mentions of your old domain name and reach out to the Author with a friendly email asking them to update their link to the new domain. 

Use an SEO tool such as Moz’s Open Site Explorer or Ahrefs to search for any mentions of your old domain on the web. 

Next, compile all these links in a spreadsheet. 

Identify the websites you want to reach out to and draft an outreach email. 

Here’s an example of an email you can send to an author: 

Dear Author,

I’m writing to you regarding the article you have written about us on your website. We recently rebranded and wanted to let you know that our new website is https://newdomain.com/. Could you please update the link in the article, so it redirects to our new domain? Thank you for your time.

Sincerely, 

Your name

If it’s only a link, your outreach email can read something like this: 

Dear Author,  

We’re writing to let you know that we recently rebranded our website and updated our domain. We noticed that you have a link to our old domain in your article. 

Our new URL is https://newdomain.com/, and here’s the article we’re referring to: 

https://website.com/old-domain-article/ 

Would you mind updating the link in your article to our new domain? Here’s the new link: 

https://newdomain.com/old-domain-article/ 

Thank you for your time and consideration! 

Sincerely, 

Your name

For example, when Dunkin’ Donuts decided to rebrand as Dunkin’, they ditched the idea of adding “Donuts” to their name. It was a big change that made people wonder what would happen to their doughnuts.

Dunkin’ had to reassure their customers that their doughnuts and coffee would remain intact, even with a new name. They didn’t have to worry about their favourite pastry missing from the menu.

But this doesn’t mean your SEO efforts should go down the drain. 

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.

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