Will a Rebrand Hurt My SEO? How to Optimize Your Rebranding

Are you considering rebranding your business? Although rebranding a business can come with risks, it can also come with significant rewards – rebranding can grow your audience, refine your company message, and even impact your reputation. Although it is a time-consuming process with a lot to consider, a rebrand that is pulled off well can do a lot for your business.

One risk of rebranding that could keep you from taking the plunge is the potential impact on your SEO efforts. SEO is an iterative process that requires ongoing work and attention, and, understandably, it’s likely you don’t want to lose all of that hard work by changing your company’s brand.

However, rebranding is not synonymous with going back to square one of your SEO strategy. Here, we’ll discuss brands and why a company would want to rebrand, the pros and cons of rebranding, and how you can leverage SEO to not only maintain your rankings in search results, but use your rebrand to improve your SEO efforts.

What is a brand?

A brand encompasses the identity of your company and helps customers identify a business, product, or service. Though your company name or logo are recognizable elements of your brand, your brand is much more than that.

How you define your company’s brand has a significant impact on the audience you reach, your customers and customer retention, your business’s reputation, and the overall commercial success of your company.

How does brand strategy work with SEO strategy?

Brand strategy consists of defining your brand’s identity and determining how to communicate that identity to your target audience. SEO can be a valuable tool in helping you execute your brand strategy by increasing your website’s rank in search results, improving user experience on your website, and increasing engagement with your target audience online.

If you incorporate SEO into your brand strategy, you can increase the visibility of your company for keywords and search queries that are relevant to your business and offerings. Over 50% of organic traffic to websites comes from Google search, so an effective SEO strategy can have a huge impact on the overall visibility – and, thus, success – of your business.

An effective brand strategy takes into consideration the different components that make up your company’s brand – personality, voice, mission, target audience, what you give your customers, etc. – and helps you set tangible short- and long-term goals to establish your brand, reach potential customers, and help your brand stand out from the competition. And an effective rebranding strategy does the same.

What is a rebrand?

A rebrand or rebranding is the process of changing your company’s image in some way to shift or reinvent the identity of your business. Rebranding can be for an entire business, or for a particular product, service, or branch. The reasons a company chooses to rebrand, and how it’s done, can vary based on the context around and magnitude of the rebrand.

Companies rebrand themselves for several reasons:

  • To stay current or up-to-date
  • To expand or shift the target audience or audience demographics
  • To differentiate from competitors
  • To respond to negative news, perception, or social pressure (think the Land-o-Lakes packaging change)
  • To refine company identity
  • When the company is acquired, or acquires another company

Rebranding can include changing the business name or logo, rolling out a new design update on your website or for your products, shifting your marketing style to appeal to a different or expanded audience, or shifting the mission, focus, or tenets of your business to better represent the direction your business wants to go.  

Should your company consider rebranding?

Rebranding can come with some risk, and may not be the best choice for every business. To determine if a rebrand is right for you, we’ve compiled a list of cons and pros (bad news first!) to help you weigh your options, as well as a guide on how to keep your rebrand from harming your SEO efforts.

The Cons

You Must Plan Ahead

It may seem obvious, but any rebrand – regardless of how extensive or involved – requires significant planning to be successful. Your rebranding plan should encompass:

  • Why you are choosing to rebrand
  • What your new brand looks like, sounds like, etc.
  • The scope of your rebranding
  • What needs to be changed, and how to do that
  • How you are going to communicate your rebranding to your customers, employees, and investors
  • The long- and short-term to-dos for the rebranding

Although this planning can be time-consuming and even a bit painstaking, this isn’t entirely a con. Planning ahead will make sure you are well-positioned for your rebrand, that the why behind your rebrand is clearly defined, and that you are sure it is the best decision for your business.

You Can Lose Recognition or Confuse Customers

Change can be difficult for anyone, and that includes your customers. If your company goes through a major rebrand, you run the risk of confusing or alienating your current customer base, or losing the recognition that came with your former brand.

You have some control over this. Let customers know about the change ahead of time – be communicative, direct, and transparent, and share the news of your rebranding on multiple channels (email newsletters, social media, etc.).

However, if some customers don’t like the rebrand, or miss the old brand, there may not be much you can do about that. Listen to your customers. While losing some customers or traffic to your site early on after a rebrand is perfectly normal, taking a significant hit, numbers not recovering, or receiving substantial negative feedback may provide you some insight on the success of your rebranding efforts.

You May Lose Customers or Traffic to Your Site

As we said, a common side effect of rebranding is losing customers or traffic to your website. This can happen for several reasons, including, customers not liking the rebrand, lack of recognition of the new brand, or the new website not ranking as prominently in search results.

Again, some customers will resist change no matter how well you handle your company’s rebranding. Don’t panic – losing some customers or traffic early on is normal, and you should see your numbers bounce back (or even improve) as time goes on.

Rebranding isn’t (Usually) Cheap

Rebranding often indicates change, and change can be expensive for a business. A new website, website copy, graphic design, and press releases are just a few of the things you may need to consider when budgeting for your rebrand. Take note of everything that will need to change to carry out your rebranding, and consider the costs.

If the budget feels tight, consider if now is the right time for a rebrand, or what can be done later or in-house. While there may be areas where you can save, don’t reduce the effectiveness of your rebrand just to save a few bucks.

The Pros

You Can Refine Your SEO and Marketing Strategy

This pro goes hand-in-hand with the planning con. Like we said: planning can be time-consuming and painstaking, but it can save you a lot of time and headaches in the future. What’s more, planning can help you streamline and refine your SEO and marketing strategies, helping to improve your website’s ranking in search results, user experience on your website, and reach your target audience.

As you plan your rebrand, consider what it means about who you want to reach, and how you want to communicate with your audience. This may result in changes to your marketing strategy, helping it to align with your new brand.

You Can Reach a Wider Audience, and Target New Demographics

Rebranding can help you shift your company identity to appeal to a wider or new audience. More and more, the products people buy and the services they engage with can be seen as a reflection of their identity. A rebrand can help you shift out of your old mold and show prospective customers a different side of your business.

When planning your rebrand, consider who you want to reach, as well as why you weren’t reaching them before. Determine the changes you will need to make to shift these groups into your target market.

Rebranding Can Help Your Company Stay Current

Times are changing, and how a business reaches its customers is, too. As the prominence of the internet increases, with over 95% of people looking online to learn more about businesses, businesses must have a strong online presence to maintain relevance and continue to reach customers.

What customers expect from businesses is also changing. More and more, customers want to know that businesses have strong social awareness and responsibility, in addition to wanting their products and services. In fact, 89% of shoppers report that they stay loyal to brands that share their values.

A rebrand can help your business highlight or emphasize the things that are important to your customers, and stay up-to-date on the best way to reach and appeal to your customer base.

You Can Improve Your Reputation

A rebrand is an opportunity to change how your business presents itself to customers and, as such, can shift the narrative around your company. When done effectively, a rebrand can help build trust and transparency with your customers, highlight your social responsibility and philanthropy, improve your company culture, and help you highlight your business’s mission, all of which can have a positive impact on your reputation.

You Can Get Closer to What You Actually Want to Be

It’s likely that your business isn’t exactly the same as when it started. You may have more employees, a different leadership team, or expanded product and service offerings. Maybe you’ve expanded where you operate, where you’re headquartered, or shifted industries entirely.

Rebranding can give your business the opportunity to better represent itself in its current iteration to customers, employees, and investors. It offers the opportunity to bring to the forefront what makes your business reliable, interesting, and unique.

How to Keep a Rebrand from Harming Your SEO

An effective SEO strategy takes planning, consistent work, and patience. Don’t let your rebrand harm your efforts – or let the fear of a negative SEO impact keep you from a necessary rebranding – by following our SEO rebranding guide.

Maintain Your Website(s)

If you are not changing your company name or domain name, a rebrand for your site can be relatively simple. Updating relevant pages, images, and content with any new information related to your rebrand can be a straightforward process without too much change.

However, if you are changing your business name and, in this case, your website, things can get a bit more complicated. Here are some of the key to-dos to keep in mind when shifting from one company website to another:

Set up 301 redirects

To best help customers find your new site from your old one, you will need to set up 301 redirects. This means that you will have to redirect each page of your old website to the most relevant or related page on your new site. While this can be tedious, it will help customers find your new brand website easily once it goes live, as well as help search engines understand the relationship between the two sites.

How complicated this process is depends on one thing: whether or not your new website has the same pages and URL structure as your old website.  

If the answer is yes, you can use a couple lines of code to route the pages of the old domain to the corresponding pages of the new one.

However, if the pages and URL structures are different between the two sites, this process can be a bit more complicated and time-consuming, as you will have to manually input redirects from each page on your old site to relevant pages on your new site.

Do not take your new site live until it’s time

Once your new website is good to go, go ahead and take it live – but block it from search engines to avoid confusion, duplicate content penalties, or users finding your site before it’s fully ready to launch.

You can easily block your new site from indexing by implementing the robots.txt file on the site.

Let Google know

As you make the transition from your old site to the new site, you’ll need to make sure that Google knows what to prioritize in results. Verify both of your websites in Google Webmaster Tools so that you can utilize Google’s Change of Address tool to indicate the shift from your old site to your new site. In addition, update your Google Analytics account with the new website information so you can monitor the traffic of your site

Determine how long to leave your old website up

This is more or less up to you. Some companies remove the old site completely, while others keep it up indefinitely. While the latter definitely results in more work, it will also allow you to keep the URL and any traffic that comes to your new site from the older site. However, this may be confusing to customers over time.

If you want a clean break, you can deindex or remove your old site completely once you have the new site up and running – though not immediately. It can take search engines time to recognize your new site, so consider leaving the old site up for at least a few days.

Update Links and Profiles

Your website isn’t the only thing you’ll have to update when you’re rebranding. Whatever you do to your website, whether it’s a new name, logo, added product offerings, or a new brand voice, should also be applied to your social media profiles. Not all social media profiles make this easy – while changing your company name on Linkedin can be relatively simple (as long as no one else has already claimed that name), you can only change a page name on Facebook once, so you may be required to make a new page.

Once you have updated your social media profiles, be sure to share about your rebrand as well. Let your followers know why you are rebranding, what they can expect, etc. On average, it takes 5 to 7 impressions for people to remember a brand, so make sure you’re putting your new brand out there whenever possible. What’s more, presenting a brand consistently across all platforms can increase revenue by up to 23%, so you’ll want to make sure each profile is updated and sharing.

In addition to updating your social media profiles, you will need to update your directory listings. The most important of these to update is your Google My Business listing, but don’t stop there – anywhere where there may be information listed about your business, be sure to update to reflect your business accurately.

On a similar note, audit the links and mentions of your previous brand, and do what you can to get those updated. Reach out to the websites that host these links, let them know that they are out-of-date, and provide them with the new link, name, or image that you would like them to include. You may not be able to replace every link and mention with your new brand, but the more you do, the more authority and oomph your new site will have.

Link Your Old Name and Your New Name

Although you do want to highlight your new name, it is also important to link your new name to your old name to help search engines understand the connection between the two. Include both your old and new name in meta descriptions, the About page of your website and social profiles, in your content, etc.

Including a phrase such as “formerly known as [old name]” will not only help search engines understand the association, but can help customers as well, alleviating some of the confusion that can come with a rebrand.

Use Content to Your Advantage

Content is an incredibly valuable resource for improving the authority of your website, giving people more information about your brand and offerings, and ranking for your target keywords. When it comes to a rebrand, content can help you promote your new brand and give old and new customers pertinent information.

Content isn’t just limited to blog posts and website copy. Email announcements, press releases, sponsored posts, YouTube videos, and even social media shares can all be leveraged to increase engagement and exposure for your new brand, and help increase the prominence of your new brand in search results.

Keep Track of How it’s Going

Once you’ve defined your new brand, updated your socials, and taken your new site live, your rebranding is done! Right?

Not exactly. Though the hard stuff is largely behind you at this point in the process, it’s important to continue to monitor and improve. Ensure that relevant platforms are updated, keep track of opportunities for earned media, monitor your traffic and rankings, assess the health of your new site, listen to customer feedback, and always continue to improve.

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