Protecting Rankings & Traffic During A Rebrand: SEO Expert Tips

What SEO considerations should you keep in mind in the process of planning your rebranding?

This question comes from Tyler, who attended a recent SEJ webinar and asked,

“Recently, we rebranded the client and changed their brand name and URL. We saw an absolutely massive drop in rankings and traffic.

Can you give some insight as to why specifically changing the brand name/URL would affect all these pages that were basically unchanged in content and had proper redirects applied? “

Doing the pre-work to re-brand a successful site

“A URL/domain change means a completely new page or website for Google. This is a classic website migration challenge,” says Ludwig Machian, co-founder of Mazeless – Enterprise SEO.

He suggests, “You need to take some critical steps to ensure that your migration goes smoothly. If you do everything right, you will avoid losing your rankings and save a lot of revenue.”

suggested solutions:

“First things first, there is a lot of preparatory work to be done,” Machian says.

“The easiest way to play this is to follow a good website SEO migration checklist. Generally, the whole process will be divided into the following main phases: pre-migration, launch, and post-migration.”

Here are some of the most important things you should do in the pre-immigration phase:

  • Run technical SEO standards.
  • Determine the main traffic pages.
  • Review the staging setup.
  • Create an inventory of your content.
  • Create a list of redirects.
  • Review the analytics configuration.
  • Website and database backup.

Next, you have to run a bunch of tests on your staging environment. You have to make sure all redirects are set up correctly. Some important mistakes to avoid are broken redirects, redirect chains, and loops. In an ideal world, you want to make sure Each 301 redirect contains no more than one hop,” Machayan states.

“To recap, after the migration you have a brand new page for Google. Now you want to move all of your pre-existing page values ​​here. To do that you have to tell Google that this new URL is the new logical version of the old one.”

See “Mahkyan Site Migration Issues: 11 Possible Causes of Low Traffic” to learn more.

Resist the urge to implement all the changes at once

Harpreet Mangalfounder of LoudGrowth, says the biggest mistake many companies make isn’t a technical error, but a process error: implementing all changes at once.

“This can complicate things and reduce efficiency, especially if you have a large website,” he adds.

the proposed solution:

To avoid this, Mongal advises marketers to “break down the process of rebranding and domain into different steps.”

For example, first deal with website design changes without changing the content, web hosting, or anything else. Then give it some time to see any effects. If everything looks fine, start making other changes.

And, he adds, be sure to back up your old website. In case of serious problems with the site, you can always come back again.

“If you had to recover with your backup, identify the issues that affected ratings and traffic. Then, start over by planning the right strategy and implementing changes one by one. Track the changes and give each enough time to evaluate the results,” Mangal explains.

Get your redirects in order

Adam RimmerCEO of Adam Riemer Marketing, recommends that when you rename and change a URL, “you should always set up all redirects properly.”

In this case, Tyler is pretty sure his redirects were done correctly – but it never hurts to double check.

the proposed solution:

Rimmer asserts that “all pages—especially those with high-quality backlinks and that get traffic from social media—need 301 redirects.”

Additionally, he noted, “It’s also important to update your sitemaps, pointing all canonical links from the old URL to the new URL, so as Google crawls it will see the new URL and where the page is now.”

“Then, contact any relationships you have backlinks with and ask them to change the old link for the new one. Then, email clients letting them know about the new brand and start building buzz,” Rimmer suggests.

Keep improving and monitoring traffic changes

Himani Kankaria, Founder of Missive Digital, shares her insights on why the change of her brand name/URL would specifically affect these pages.

“Normally, authority is associated with each domain name, so even if you redirect correctly, with all the primary and internal links in place, the site may lose traffic due to loss of domain authority,” she advises.

suggested solutions:

What can be done in this case? Kankaria recommends:

  • Make sure you wait a month or two to see the real impact before making any changes.
  • Do some PR activities or link building campaigns for the changed name.
  • Do some content optimization for the top ranking pages each month.
  • Make sure that you are not linking any pages to the old URLs.
  • Crawl your website in Frog scream or sitebulb To see if there are any major technical issues that need to be resolved.
  • Constantly monitor the change in traffic for each URL of interest.
  • If there is a known business, you can reach out to Google for help.

Post-Rebrand Takeaway and Work Backwards

For Tyler, it’s too late to get back to planning. But the above considerations provide a framework from which to work; If any of the above steps have been neglected, this is a good place to start.

Check your redirectsensuring that you haven’t inadvertently created any broken redirects, forwarding threads, or loops.

Web design re-evaluation and content changes that were executed at the same time. See if you can identify the high value pages that are treated as the most affected. What has changed? What can you change now and test to get that traffic back?

Do a technical SEO audit To identify any major issues that could negatively affect the rating.

Evaluate link building and content activities. Have you put other SEO tactics on hold to focus on rebranding? If so, kick it back and get ready to rebuild.

Some other potential issues and questions that come to mind include:

Has the site architecture changed?

Is it possible that the PageRank is not optimally distributed as it was? Is your site hierarchy becoming more difficult for users or crawlers? Are important pages now more clicks away from the home page?

How long has it been since the brand change?

There may have been some initial confusion for search engines, especially with the domain name change. If rankings and traffic losses are site-wide, then it is likely. Sometimes these things settle down and rebound.

Did they change anything on the backend?

… like removing/not setting up a CDN properly, making design changes that bloated code, reduced mobile compatibility, or page speed affected?

Did you explicitly notify Google of the domain change?

Submit a new sitemap.xml file and Use Google’s change of address tool to tell them about the change.

Did you update the directory listings to reflect the new URL?

This is especially important if you rely on local organic traffic. You will not lose traffic from the listings themselves if your redirects are accurate.

However, when Google sees conflicting key business information like phone numbers that don’t match, business hours, or website address, it has to decide which one is correct.

Your site might not seem trustworthy if suddenly every other place the business is listed online says the domain is something else.

Have you checked for problems with the history of the new domain?

Hopefully, the new brand name and associated domain have been thoroughly vetted before migrating. But if it is not resolved, now check to see if there are any unresolved manual actions.

You may need to do some cleaning up and submit a reconsideration request.

If all else fails, work through this list of other reasons why a site might have a sudden ranking drop.

More resources:

  • The Ultimate Guide to SEO Friendly URL Structure
  • Does URL length affect SEO?
  • Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction

Featured image: Gearstd/Shutterstock

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