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How to Rebrand Without Losing Your Search Engine Rankings

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There are several reasons you might have to rebrand. Rebranding is not something foreseen or something that is part of any business plan. It’s almost always a result of unexpected circumstances, a correction or an improvement to your brand. Whatever the reason behind your decision to rebrand, know that no matter how disruptive rebranding sounds, if done correctly, it is highly effective and can be a game-changer.

The digital marketing agency, which I manage, successfully rebranded recently. The reason behind our rebranding was an unexpected circumstance. Another company that we have never heard of claimed that our name was confusingly similar to their trademark, even though our names didn’t entirely match. Upon checking, we realized they were the senior users of the trademark and decided to rebrand. Trademark law is complex; getting a trademark law attorney’s advice is always a good idea if you find yourself in a similar situation.

Our digital marketing agency, now called Search Schematic, was well-established and enjoyed high rankings on search engines. So, we needed to rebrand to our new name and domain while maintaining rankings on search engines. This is how we successfully rebranded without seeing any permanent drop in our rankings:

Related: When to Consider a Rebrand (and How to Do It Right)

Choose a brand and domain name — and perform a trademark clearance and domain history search

Choosing a brand name was a challenging task. There were a few names we came up with before Search Schematic that we had to give up due to the unavailability of a matching domain or the likelihood of confusion with other trademarks. We didn’t want history to repeat itself. According to an experienced trademark law attorney, Nikki Sissel, “It’s crucial you get a trademark clearance search by someone with experience and expertise in trademark law when choosing your brand name to protect yourself from potential litigation threats.”

Our unique name made it simple to acquire the matching domain with clear history.

Create a new logo

Logos are a crucial aspect of brand identity, and it is what helps make brands distinctive. Creating a new logo to reflect our new name was an essential step in our rebranding process, and it was the first thing we did once we had chosen our brand name and acquired the domain.

Stick to what is necessary

In the planning phase of our rebranding, we considered including some changes to our web design, and that seems like a good idea when you’re reinventing. Yet soon, we realized it would be better if we did what was necessary because it would increase the chances of a successful migration, and if something goes wrong, it would be easy for us to pinpoint the source and troubleshoot. Google also states this to be a good practice. We reserved changes to our web design for later after domain migration.

Related: 4 Ways to Survive Your Company’s Rebrand

Domain migration process

Domain migration is a complex process, and a lot can go wrong. Creating a backup of your website before you proceed with migration is a necessary step. We created a couple of backups as our safety net.

Use the Addon domain in your Cpanel with your current hosting provider to add your new domain and install WordPress. We had a basic WordPress theme installed on our new domain before migration.

There are different ways to migrate your website. We will share what worked for our WordPress website and will likely work for you, and it is also the simplest way. We used the Updraftplus premium plugin to migrate our site, but many plugins, like WP All In One Migration, will do the job and will give you clear directions.

After cloning our website to our new domain, we turned on the WordPress option, “discourage search engines from indexing this site,” until we were ready to publish to the public. We updated our content with our new name where necessary, updated our logo, ensured all internal links mentioned our new domain and then reviewed and ran tests until we were satisfied.

The most crucial step in domain migration is implementing 301 redirects. They permanently redirect old URLs to new ones and pass all the ranking power. According to Google, it’s a great way to direct people and search engines to your new pages. The most common way to implement redirects is using .htaccessfile, but some plugins also let you manage redirects. Once implemented, run tests to ensure everything works.

The rest of the process includes the following steps:

  1. Add and verify your new domain in Google Search Console.

  2. In your old domain GSC general settings, use the change of address setting to inform Google you have moved your site.

  3. Add a sitemap for your new domain in GSC.

  4. Google recommends keeping redirects in place for at least one year, or indefinitely, for a better user experience and to avoid losing link equity. A good practice is to use this time to update as many links as possible from external websites with the new domain, starting with those that you have control over, such as social media accounts, and then reaching out to websites linking to your old domain to request that they update their links.

  5. Share the news of your rebranding on all your social media and write a blog post. A press release works best for this type of news.

  6. Be ready for some downtime. Our rankings fluctuated but gradually bounced back. Keep monitoring your traffic on Google Analytics and rankings on Google Search Console.

With good planning, what seemed like a hectic task worked out to be straightforward. We are delighted with our new name, Search Schematic, and have received great feedback. We hope our story serves as an inspiration for others who may be considering a rebranding of their own.

Related: Important Lessons I Learned From a Rebrand

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