Branding plays a huge role in today’s world of business and marketing, so be sure you’ve got a plan for your rebranding strategy.
Why do marketing people go through a rebranding campaign? Businesses often need to rebrand, and it can result from many reasons, including international growth, new management, a bad reputation or an outdated image.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to create a stellar brand that people will remember.
Large brands rank better than smaller brands.
They attract more web traffic and more sales.
They are trusted by a majority of customers worldwide.
While trying to find resources to prove the above points, the first five results I would come across were large brand websites – yet, the actual pages were not useful for me.
Knowing all that, you can just about gather how important branding is for the success of your business, be it large or small. If you’ve concluded now, or have been mulling over it for some time, that your brand could do with a revamp, stress not.
True, website rebrands come at a cost: if not executed, they can damage both your rankings and traffic. So let’s explore how you can rebrand your brand (pun intended), and not lose anything in the process – including your sanity.
Question: Do I need to rebrand?
Before you begin the process, you need to be sure it will be worth your while. Ask yourself essential questions such as:
- Why do you think you need to rebrand and what do you hope to achieve with it?
- Has your company gone in a new direction?
- Have you changed your brand persona and company culture?
- Do you feel the branding you went for was not good enough?
- Have you merged with another company, or expanded your services?
Remember the migration process involved in rebranding will take some skill and time. If you are not ready to invest both, hold it off until you get to the very end of this article, and make your final decision then.
Fast and Painless – Website Redesign
The Result? A beautiful, fast, SEO tuned and mobile friendly website.
Step 1: Testing and staging
When doing a rebrand, what you’re doing is moving a website from one domain to another. This is the only way to do it. If you’re only changing a logo, brand colors, and service pages, you don’t need another website, and most of this article will not be of any use to you.
Let’s assume you’re moving from one domain name to another, shall we?
When doing this, you need to house everything on a test server first and make sure everything we’re about to go into works. Errors are bound to creep in, and you don’t want to launch the website only to discover one of your redirects is broken.
Step 1.1: Plan and Your Rebranding Plan
Before you jump into the migration, you need to plan it out.
First, choose a time of year when you want to execute it. Depending on how large the website is, it might take you days or weeks to move everything. If you are creating new content and visuals, it will take even longer.
Choose a slow part of the year. Don’t go into rebranding when a large sales cycle is approaching.
True, your traffic and rankings shouldn’t be affected if you take all the steps but were to go wrong, you wouldn’t want it to happen at such a critical time. Plus, your customers might need a bit of time to adjust to the changes.
Step 2: Crawl
Now for the fun part. Be warned that a lot of what we’re about to cover is a bit, if not very, technical, but for the sake of clarity and sheer space, we will not go into every minute detail. If something is not clear enough, hit us up in the comments.
Crawl your website with a tool like Screaming Frog (the best for the purpose) and make sure you don’t delete the export. You will need the data later.
This crawl compiles a list of all the URLs you have on the website, so that nothing gets lost in the migration, and that all pages (and subsequent redirects) are accounted for.
This is also a great time to note any redirects you already have in place and if there are any crawl errors coming up. They can show up from time to time, and seeing that you’re already fixing things, use the opportunity to make everything spick and span.
If you find any links from your website that point to 404 pages, make sure you replace them with pages that work while you are moving everything to the new domain.
You can also go through all of your outbound links and revise them – consider whether you want anything to point to a different resource, look for outbound links you can replace with internal ones, and so on.
Check your internal linking structure as well, and make sure every page is linked to. Orphan pages are bad for your rankings, and no one will find them anyway.
Remember Screaming Frog might not find all of your URLs, so do a quick manual skim through the website, if it’s workable. If you have hundreds or thousands of pages, place your trust in Google Analytics and Screaming Frog, as everything (or everything) should show up in the combination of the two.
The entire point of this exercise is to transfer all the value and authority you have on the old website to the new one. This will mean content and links, and everything you already rank for.
If you are creating new content for the rebranded website, you might not want to copy/paste what you already have, but it’s important that you redirect the old pages to similar new pages. This is what will pass authority (i.e., rank) through to the new version.
Everything you don’t need, and that has little to no authority, can be dumped. But remember this will still likely affect where you stand, even though the pages may not have been very valuable.
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Step 3: Transfering
Once you have the new domain, you will need to add it to Google Search Console using the same Google account, and once that’s done, verify it. When everything is set up, and you’ve made sure it’s working, you can use the “Change of Address” option to redirect all incoming traffic to the new domain.
You also need to have administrator access to both the old and new versions of the website in Google Analytics. If you don’t, you won’t be able to make the updates.
Now is also the time to hide the new version of the website from both users and search engine crawlers. You can do this in robots.txt. If you have both websites up and running Google will spot the duplicated content issue and punish you for it.
Step 4: Redirects Your Rebranding
You need to make sure that every page on your old website points to the corresponding page on the new website. We’ll go into some alternatives to this process later, but for now, let’s just agree that you need to place a lot of 301 redirects across the website. This is done in the backend of your old website, in the .htaccess file.
You also need to keep the old sitemap in your Google Search Console and add in the new sitemap. You can later ask Google to crawl the old sitemap, which will lead it to the redirects you have just placed.
Unless you need to sacrifice your old website for some reason, keep it. All the redirects will transfer all the authority you have gathered so far to your new brand and help you gain traction.
Step 5: Content migration
The one thing that lends authority to your brand is the content it publishes. This Google’s bots use to determine your authority, and as they already have your old content in their database, you would be foolish to throw it all away during the rebrand.
However, this doesn’t mean that you need to transfer everything you have as it is on the new website. What you should do is writing the same pages. If you have a blog post on a certain topic, and you want to change what you’ve already said in it, do so, but make sure that the old page redirects to the new page.
This is important for all of your most valuable pages (in terms of links and rankings). Making your content better at this point is a great on-page tactic that can help you rank even better after the migration.
Again, if you want to sacrifice something that does not provide any value, do so. But know that it might cause some movement in terms of rankings.
If you have a page you no longer have any use for (for example, you are no longer offering a certain service) there are two options you can choose from:
You can choose not to redirect the old page to the new website. Remove all the links that point to and from this page, and redirect it to a 404 page.
Or, you can redirect these pages to your new homepage. That might sound like an odd move, but people landing on 404 pages will have zero interest in exploring your website further.
However, if they land on your new website, even though you no longer offer the service they need, they might want to explore what else you have on the website.
This call will be up to you.
Step 6: Update internal links
All of the links on the new website should point to the new website – this should be a given. What I mean by this is that you should not allow the redirects to loop from the new site, through the old site, to the new site again (see, it already sounds confusing).
You need to manually change all of your internal links to point directly to the new URLs. There are several reasons to do this. First, these loops will slow your server down, which will affect performance and thus, your rankings. Second, the redirects themselves might harm your rankings.
Also, make sure that all canonicalization on the new site references the new site, and not the old one.
Step 7: Update external links
As you will redirect all of your old pages to your new pages, none of your visitors will be lost.
However, consider asking the most authoritative websites that point to your old site to change the link to the new one. This will help Google recognize that migration has occurred, and will give your redirects a bit of a breather.
Don’t do this for every link, and don’t expect everyone to change them. It will take up a lot of your time and will not be worth that much. Focus on contacting websites that carry the most weight, and that also points back to your top pages.
Step 8: Launch
Once you have done all that, have tested everything and made sure all the redirects are working, you can unleash the website.
Upload the .htaccess file to the old domain’s hosting. Remove the noindex from your robots.txt file, and let the search engines crawl your new website.
And that’s it.
Make sure you keep the old site up, allowing Google to recognize and index your new website.
Step 9: Social media
Once your new website is live and running, you will need to update all of your social media profiles to reflect the new branding. This will mean uploading the new logo, changing the brand colors, and doing whatever else you need to ensure people recognize you have a new face.
Don’t forget that your social media profiles now also need to point to the new website, instead of allowing visitors to travel through the redirects you have placed.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn – all will have a different way of changing your handle, profile name, etc. Make sure you check what needs to be done in advance so you can speed up the process when the time comes for the move.
Step 10: Promotion and Your Rebranding Strategy
Now that you have completed all of these complex steps and rebranded your website, the time promotes it.
First, you can go over all your old directories and listings, changing them to your new domain and brand name.
You can send out a bunch of press releases announcing the rebrand.
You can build some new brand name links: be this in comments, on communities and forums, or on industry hubs. Just as long as you use the new brand name, letting Google know the change has happened.
As for the rest of it: this is the perfect time to rework your marketing strategy. See what your new brand can do in terms of customer engagement and online advertising, come up with a new and improved plan, and start executing it.
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Your marketing ROI is critical. For you and your company
Measurement matters now more than ever. Use this marketing scorecard toolkit to bring structure and meaning to your numbers.
A final thought about Your Rebranding Plan
A rebrand may be a challenging process, but it is just as rewarding. Once you get it right, you will have the personal satisfaction of a job well done, and the opportunity to take your business to new heights. Good luck!
Have something to say about your thoughts on rebranding strategies?
Natasha Lane is a web designer, a lady of a keyboard and one hell of a tech geek. Natasha is always happy to collaborate with awesome blogs and share her knowledge about IT, digital marketing and technology trends.
Rebranding is a marketing strategy (brand and design) in which a new name, term, symbol, design, concept, or combination thereof is created for an established brand to develop a new, differentiated identity in the minds of consumers, investors, competitors, and other stakeholders.
Why rebrand a company?
Businesses often need to rebrand, and it can be a result of many reasons, including international growth, new management, a bad reputation, or an outdated image. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to create a memorable brand.
How often should you rebrand your company?
On average, companies rebrand once every 5-7 years, a process that often involves restyling the color palettes, logos, photographic style, messaging and content, and visual language. In some cases, changing the name might be necessary.