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How To Rebrand Without Killing Your SEO | Ep. 1

How To Rebrand Without Killing Your SEO | Ep. 1

Keyword On The Street

Episode Transcript

Woman: Welcome to Keyword on the Street Podcast. Presenting the latest developments in the world of SEO and digital marketing. Keyword on the Street is brought to you by Lance Montana, a digital marketing agency based in Brisbane, Australia.  

Laurence: Hello and welcome to Keyword on the Street, a podcast delving into the ins and outs of SEO presented by Lance Montana, a Brisbane-based digital agency. Keyword on the Street is an amazing name that was made up by my compatriot right here, Grace Wright. Welcome, Grace.  

Grace: Hello!  

Laurence: Grace works at Lance Montana. She wears many hats. Sometimes a black hat, sometimes a white hat, a little inside joke there for the SEOs out there. And today in our very first episode here, we’re excited to be talking about how to execute a successful rebrand or business name change without losing hard-earned search rankings. This is a super important and oft-encountered issue for SEOs and something that bears a fair bit of examination by small and medium-sized businesses before they get into it. So, without further ado, Grace.  

Grace: So, Laurence, you’ve helped a lot of businesses rebrand in the past. So I’m really interested to know, if a business is considering a name change or they’re about to undergo one, is there anything you’d recommend they do beforehand, purely from an SEO perspective?  

Laurence: All right, well, slightly outside of an SEO perspective, I’d recommend that they step in front of a mirror and ask themselves if they really want to do it. All jokes aside, it’s a huge task and that filters through to all aspects of a business, so it’s definitely not a decision to be made lightly. But once you have, kind of, committed to a name change and a domain change and all that that entails from a brand and print and event and every other perspective, when you get into the SEO side of things, the first thing that you have to do is ensure that you’ve got somebody qualified and experienced to assist you to do so.  

And once you get an SEO professional on board, if you don’t have somebody internally at your business, you need to hire an agent, you know, or a consultant at an agency. The first thing they’re going to do is run a really comprehensive site-crawl audit on your website. Grace, you’ve run a few site crawls, do you have a favorite tool?  

Grace: Definitely, Ahrefs. It’s a brilliant one for site crawls. It’s super in-depth, really easy to use.  

Laurence: Cool. So, Ahrefs is awesome. I’ve been using it a few years and it’s really, really well supported. Tim Soulo is the [Head of Marketing] there. He’s totally on it and always improving that tool. It’s actually pretty good value, too, if anyone out there is either, kind of, in or outside of the industry but you want to have more SEO power at your disposal, Ahrefs, A-H-R-E-F-S, https://ahrefs.com/, is a great tool to get on top of this. There’s some other really good ones out there including Majestic and Screaming Frog, which are probably a little bit harder to get into from a non-technical perspective.  

Also Alexa, alexa.com is great, but it’s quite expensive. However, if you’re willing to spend the money, it’s pretty easy to use for a non-tech as well. What is a site crawl? Well, basically it’s going to tell you what pages exist on a website, all the links that exist between those pages and all the links that are inbound from external websites. There’s other things that site crawls can pick up, but those are really the key things that we’re interested in when we’re setting up benchmarks and a starting point getting prepared for a business name change.  

There’s another important thing that you can do at this stage in preparation for a domain name change or a business rebrand, and that’s thinking about, you know, whether you want to include more search-optimized keywords into your URLs. Now, they could be right at the very top of the game in your actual name in the URL. Say, you were thinking about rebranding from Grace’s Fine Hats to Grace’s Millinery and you’ve done a little bit of research and found out that there’s a whole lot of people searching for, you know, black hats, you might want to think about rebranding to Grace’s Black Hat Millinery.  

So it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but it is gonna yield a whole lot more search traffic once you actually make that change to your domain. There is a little bit of a contentious point about using exact-match keywords in URLs. Google – our friend and foe, they are absolutely adamant that it is not that important to have an exact match URL to a keyword. However, all of the research out there by all the big players and certainly in my experience suggests that it’s actually a really important factor.  

So if you want to rank for a certain keyword, it really does help to have it in your URL. So, Grace, if you go into the hat business, you might want to think about that.  

Grace: That makes sense.  

Laurence: It’s not always logical to do so but, you know, it is something that can help your search engine rankings in the future.  

Grace: And, so in terms of website traffic, I guess the first thing that comes to mind with a business name change is that you could potentially be losing some customers if they are typing your old business name into Google and they can’t find you anymore. So what can businesses do to avoid that or to, you know, protect themselves from that?  

Laurence: That is a legitimate concern and, unfortunately, it is something that has, you know, struck down quite a few businesses in the past, but it’s really a super simple solution. All you need to do is not give up access to your old domain, don’t just burn it and move on. You need to retain at that domain, and you need to retain access to the management of it, whether you’re using Crazy Domains or Melbourne IT or whatever domain manager, and just put in a redirect from the old domain to the new domain.  

Grace: And how long roughly should you have that old domain up for?  

Laurence: Listen, really, you should have it up for a quite a long time, because even though the Google index is updated really regularly these days in almost real-time, every few weeks you’ll see pretty significant updates within the results in Google index, if a website is very large, very entrenched, has a whole lot of backlinks to it, you’re gonna see results in the Google index in Google search for the old domain, you know, for many months after a domain name change.  

So don’t be stingy. It only costs about, you know, $20, $30 for a couple of years of domain name registration, so keep it active for a couple years and redirect for that one.  

Grace: And you mentioned backlinks. So for all the backlinks that exist to a site, we know that you need to put redirects in place if you are gonna change your domain. Now, that could be a really, really big task. It can take a long time to get all of those redirects in place properly.  

Laurence: So are you talking from experience there Grace? It’s a fun job.

Grace: Yes, definitely. So, is there any advice you have about maximizing the use of your time when you’re redirecting?  

Laurence: Drink lots of coffee. But seriously, there is a few things you can do here, but essentially any shortcuts you take are going to compromise the overall quality of the project. In a nutshell, if you redirect one page on a website to a new specific page on another website, that’s the best thing you can do from a quality perspective, and what you’re going to do is capture, you know, upwards of 80% of the link juice of that old page to the new page.  

Grace: Link juice? Just remind us. What’s the official definition of link juice?  

Laurence: Official definition of link juice is the value passed to a page by all of the backlinks out there in the directing back to that page. So what you can do if you’re trying to save a little bit the time is redirect a whole lot of different pages on your old site to one page on the new site. This is a kind of strategy that you’d put into place if you don’t have a new page on the new website that you’re creating which is an exact replica of a page that exists on the old site.  

So, for instance, if you don’t want to put all of your old blog articles, as good as they might be, maybe they’re a little bit cringe-worthy looking back in the past, if you don’t want to put them all up on the new website, what you might do is just redirect all of those old blog posts that, you know, you’re happy to have redirected to the new site but don’t really want anybody reading any more to your blog category page or your blog root page. Does that make sense?  

Grace: Yes, that’s sort of a blanket fix.  

Laurence: Exactly, for sure. And then that leads us to the last dirtiest shortcut of all you can take when redirecting from your old site to your new site, and that is essentially saying any kind of URL on the old site that isn’t picked up by the previous two rules should be collected and pushed towards the home page of the new site.

Grace: So bigger blanket.  

Laurence: Bigger blanket, that’s right. Still nice and warm, still collecting some link juice but less value, you know, you’re gonna pick up, say, 10%, 20% of the link juice from those individual pages that you’re redirecting through to the home page. Better than nothing and doesn’t break the UX either, so that if somebody does find an old page in the Google index and they click on it, at least it goes somewhere and not to a 404 page.  

Grace: Because that can be very detrimental SEO.  

Laurence: Totally. Google hates 404s, because people hate 404s, nothing worse.  

Grace: Google is getting a lot closer to an actual person.  

Laurence: Knda scary, isn’t it? Google Duplex was just revealed at the latest Google I/O and damn, I’m not gonna be booking my own restaurant bookings anymore.  

Grace: Definitely not. So, once you’ve got all your redirects sorted, what are the top priorities to make sure that your new website turns up in Google?  

Laurence: Look, there’s a heap of stuff that needs to be done, getting on top of your NAPs is super important. That just means taking a little break at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. No, obviously it doesn’t. That’s an acronym that stands for name, address and phone number and, you know, there’s a whole lot of directories and websites out there that include this information. Things like yellow pages, you know, all of the census sites and Google uses these NAP listings, name, address, and phone number, to determine that a website is associated with a particular business.  

So you need to make sure that the new domain, the new business name, is updated and correct in all of those NAP listings out there on the interwebs so that Google knows what’s going on. Google’s smart but needs a bit of a heads up here and there. So citations audit is the technical term we use an SEO land to do this work. After you’ve got your NAPs consistent out there on the interwebs, you need to just get stuck into some on-page optimization. Things like making sure that your page titles are mapped up with your search engine strategy and your metadata, like your meta descriptions, image, alt text, descriptions and titles as well are important.  

Grace: And that’s where it would be really important to have a good keyword list as well, wouldn’t it?  

Laurence: Yeah, totally. A keyword list needs to be implemented before you can do your on-page strategy. I mean, realistically your keyword list should have already been in place before you even started to think about rebranding and getting a new domain name happening, but it’s a really valid point, Grace. All of your SEO activities needs to be drawn back to a master plan for what are the most important search phrases that you’re targeting out there.  

Grace: And how about from a technical perspective?  

Laurence: You want to get the boffins involved in site speed. That is potentially the most important ranking factor, determining where your website appears in search engine results. People are gonna give up if your website doesn’t load in three seconds or less and the faster the better. So there’s a lot that can be done there. The server is super important from a foundational perspective, making sure that your images are optimized and low file weight, but other than that, it’s the architecture of the site itself which determines your site speed, how well it’s built. So make sure you engage web developers that do custom lean coding. You don’t want a big, bloated theme bought off the shelf that’s got a whole lot of excess JavaScript and, you know, loads pages in six or seven seconds.  

Grace: And along that train of thought, how about things, like, whether your site’s mobile-friendly, does that play into it much?  

Laurence: Mobiles? No, it’s not important at all. I don’t think anybody uses their mobile phones. No, it’s all about desktops. For sure , obviously, Google introduced a pretty large scale update in April of last year which promoted mobile-friendly websites in their search results, and then this year they have made the even stronger, you know, declaration of how important mobiles are by promoting a mobile-first index. You absolutely need to have a mobile-friendly website which means essentially that the layer of the site is going to reconfigure and, you know, break down to a one-column lay out, and you might serve different content to people on a mobile to make sure that it’s fast enough for people to view on a mobile device over, you know, mobile data.  

All right, Grace, it is the time to test whether you have been using NAPs to actually take a nap or update your name, address and phone number. Let’s see if you can give me, and audience here, three key takeaways that they should take with them to remember what are the most important things to do from an SEO perspective when rebranding.  

Grace: So there’s been a lot of great stuff today. The three takeaways that I had, number one. Before you launch your new business name and website, you need to collect as much website traffic data and keyword rankings as you can, so that if any problems do arise with your new site, you can monitor and fix them really quickly. You also need to be thinking about possible keyword inclusions in your new business name where it makes sense. Second thing I took away from today’s content was that external to your new website, you need to leave your old website up for a long time as long as you can it’s not very expensive to do so.  

Laurence: More than a couple of weeks, for sure.  

Grace: As you said…with some clear information about your new business name and your new address. And then, you also need to do as much work as you can with accurate redirects and NAP listings, name, address, phone number, to send really strong signals to Google.

Laurence: And all those directories out there that people find and click on to go through to your website like yellow pages and white pages etc., etc.  

Grace: And the third thing that I took away from today is, internally, on your new website you need to pay attention to whether your site is healthy in terms of site speed, fixing up 404s, making sure your site is mobile-friendly, very important and then paying attention to on-page optimization. I think that was about it.  

Laurence: All right, all right, you passed the test. You haven’t been napping. Well done. All right, everybody that’s a wrap. Grace, thank you very much. That is a first episode of the Keyword on the Street by Lance Montana. You can follow us at @Lance Montana on all the important networks. Please feel free to review, tell us what you think. Subscribe. Get in touch. Peace out.  

Woman: Thank you for listening to the Keyword on the Street podcast. This has been a production of Lance Montana, a digital marketing agency based in Brisbane, Australia. For more great free resources go to lancemontana.com.au.

Show Notes

Topics covered in this podcast:

  • What a business should do to prepare for a business name change
  • What a site crawl is, and our favourite resources for running site crawls
  • Why you should consider including search-optimised keywords in your new business name
  • How to protect your business from losing customers after a name change
  • Why you need to redirect backlinks and how to do this in the most effective way possible
  • How to get your new site showing up in Google ASAP

Resources mentioned: