At Bluetext, we know that branded name searches are the most common way potential customers, partners, prospective employees and investors will find you online. We also recognize that a change in name and brand identity can be critical components to growth in a rapidly evolving, global digital economy.
We have a trio of these unique projects right now and understand that – because a name will inevitably involve a domain change – it could have significant consequences to the search equity you have built around your current name and website. Here are the five most critical steps to minimize the negative impact of a name and/or domain change and preserve the organic search rankings, domain authority and link equity you have worked so hard to acquire:
- SEO & Inbound Link Analysis
During the initial phases of a rebranding exercise, you will likely be tempted to roll out fresh content as quickly as possible with your new website. It is important, however to begin this process with both an SEO Audit and ROT Analysis to carve out redundant, obsolete or trivial content and at the same time identify assets that your analytics can clearly demonstrate have delivered site traffic, leads and positive brand exposure up to this point.
During the brand migration process, we also recommend retaining your existing web properties for a few months and performing an inbound link analysis of the external web pages that are still linking to them. Deleting them immediately would deprive you from leveraging the link equity gained by these pages as Google begins to understand and assimilate the changes you have made in order to update your index in conjunction the new content you are rolling out.
- 301 Redirects
Because rebranding is by its very meaning the process of changing your company’s corporate name and identity – it is impossible to maintain two separate versions. Therefore, one of the most important steps to take when launching a new domain is to redirect your old URLs to their new equivalents.
The primary purpose of keeping the old content as described above is to preserve and leverage the link equity you have acquired from existing backlinks to other websites and transfer that organic value as you redirectthat page to a new one. This helps everyone – and most importantly Google – understand that both old and new domains refer to the same organization.
- Avoid 404 Errors on Deleted Pages
On the other side of that same coin, be careful not to allow pages you are deleting in the migration process to suddenly disappear – it is critical to redirect them to either the new homepage or a placeholder page on the new site – otherwise you will risk losing any equity that page once had as well as its potential for associated traffic to the new domain. Every link pointing towards your new domain has the potential to transfer incremental value to your new domain.
- Google Search Console
Google’s Search Console is by far your most critical tool for communicating a name and domain change to Google. Before your new site launches, you should ensure that both your old and new domains are verified in the search console. Once you migrate to the new environment, you can submit a change of address request through your old domain’s account to ensure that your redirects are working perfectly.
In addition, we recommend submitting the sitemap for your new domain to the search console so Google can register those changes and ultimately index your domain more quickly post launch.
- Optimize. Optimize. Optimize.
One of the most important steps in preserving search equity during the migration process – and one that is given a back seat – is the maintenance of on-page optimization after your new site is launched. This starts with optimizing your title tags for each primary keyword – this the text that Google will display as your page title for every search result – as well as the text that will display in the user’s browser when they visit your page. From there is critical to leverage H1, H2, H3 and H4 tags to reinforce your primary and secondary keywords, as well as their long tail keyword variations you want to rank for.
And finally – continue to acquire new links for your site. Each link coming in is a signal to Google that your content is valued, reinforcing how you are indexed and maintaining your position at the top of rankings for the keywords that are driving your business.