SEO considerations when changing your domain name
There are a number of reasons behind the decision for a company to rebrand. This could be due to acquisition or a business decision to change the company and domain name, which does come with risks to your organic search visibility.
The following article will address some of the key SEO factors that you need to consider when executing a successful rebrand migration, including:
- Strengthening site signals
- Recovering lost authority
- Site architecture decision making
- Protecting your branded SERP
Strengthening signals between your old and new brand name
Every website migration comes with a period of turbulence immediately after launch, so it’s important you start to provide signals to Google and users about the change of company name at the earliest possible stage – and also in the post-launch phase. There are various ways to do this:
- Written blog material about the rebrand
- Ensuring your old brand is used in your meta data for your new website (page title, meta description). This is a temporary fix and is something that should only be in place for 3-6 months once Google fully acknowledges the connection between the old and new website
- Promoting press releases about the rebrand – usually handled by your traditional PR agency
Adopting the above practices will alert search engines and users to the change in domain name and will be something that will need continuous work over the first 3-6-month period, to fully establish the new brand in your online marketplace.
Recovering lost authority from your previous domain
Over time, powerful online brands acquire a high number of external links pointing to their domain. Protecting and restoring these links when you decide to change domain name is a task which should be high on the agenda as all of these will currently be redirecting, causing slow loading times and not passing full authority to your new website.
From an outreach point of view, this is usually a high-converting method as changing links on third-party material to the correct working destination will help out the site owner and their readership too. As a result, your new domain will start to acquire powerful links, which will also aid ranking performance over time. This is a quick-win opportunity.
Away from external links, be sure to update all of your internal links to their correct destination as this will help Google’s understanding of your newly built structure and quicken indexation. If left, your new rebranded website will contain legacy links pointing to your previous site structure, causing a high number of redirects and resulting in slow loading times and a frustrated user experience. Map this exercise out on the development website to ensure all links point to working destinations prior to launch.
Decisions around site architecture
Every successful migration should include a lengthy exercise around keyword research and what exactly your new domain should target, as well as examining your desired audiences. With a rebrand, there can be a tendency to strip everything back and start again, but we recommend trying to retain a similar URL structure to help Google when indexing your new website.
Changing content, URL structure and internal link equities will take a considerable amount of time for search engines to register and will usually result in a turbulent period for traffic and conversions.
Another vital part of strengthening the signals for Google is the mapping and implementation of 301 redirects. This activity tends to be the most problematic for any migration as incorrect redirects can hinder your organic visibility and lengthen your recovery time after a migration. Therefore, retaining a similar structure will ensure the redirect mapping is seamless, with the domain name change being the only obstacle.
Protecting your brand SERP
Companies with a strong brand following need to ensure their branded search result page reflects their new name. Depending on the niche and the size of your company, some of the following criteria may not be applicable but can be used as a guideline to protect your brand SERP:
- Updating your Google Business account
- It’s important that you update your title, website link and ensure the latter is being correctly tracked through UTM tracking. This will show you the full journey when someone has visited your website via your Google Business profile.
- Updating directories and other local websites that will be referencing your old brand name
- Name, address and place (NAP) consistency is critically important as Google will start to register the new domain name through these third-party mentions
- Other third-party platforms (if applicable)
- For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, updating your TrustPilot or Feefo accounts to reflect your new brand name as these tend to rank prominently in your branded search result
- Updating knowledge graph entities
- This is a prominent feature displayed for large/global organisations. You can find a knowledge graph in the top-right corner of your desktop search result
In conclusion, when embarking on a rebrand migration, it’s important you work on strengthening the signalling to Google and your readership before and after the migration launch. This should combat any lengthy turbulence following go-live. Still, adhering to the fundamentals of SEO like 301 redirects, keyword research and more will also ensure a seamless transition. So speak to your SEO and web development agency at the earliest opportunity if a rebrand is on the horizon.