Not many companies have everything figured out the moment they launch their website. On the contrary, almost 50% of small businesses don’t even have a website, let alone a brand image that they want to develop. The good news is you don’t necessarily have to have it all figured out right off the bat. When you’re just starting out, the most important thing is precisely that – to start. You always have time to make changes and rebrand. As a CMO of Domain.ME, operator of personal .ME domain names, I witness small and big rebranding projects on a daily basis.
The causes behind these projects vary. Some people are simply forced to change their brand’s name in a merger, or it may have something to do with the brand’s current image, and some companies just want to experiment!
No matter what the cause is, one thing is certain – you want to keep your business running through the rebranding. But how can you keep your regular customers coming through the door when you’ve changed the sign, the name, the color, and everything they would find familiar?
It’s key to make your customers part of your rebranding. Engagement and constant feedback from your audience is the most important factor to a successful transition. Ideally, your most loyal brand advocates will serve as a test group for your new look. Listen to them, conduct a poll if you believe you can receive some productive feedback, and allow them to truly become a part of your business. People appreciate being involved and they are even more likely to recommend and advocate for your brand if they feel like they’ve helped you build it in the first place.
What About My Website?
Keeping your traffic and your hard-earned rankings in the process of rebranding and changing your domain name will definitely be tough. Prepare yourself for the fact that you will most certainly lose some visitors (and some sales as well) due to this undertaking. However, the end result may make it all worth it and a well thought out transition can minimize the damage. These five rules will get you started:
- Know your traffic sources – You will need a detailed overview of where your current traffic is coming from (this information is easily accessible through your Google Analytics Tools). Pay close attention to the channels that are driving the highest amount of traffic – and absolutely ensure that their respective audiences are informed about the rebranding and domain change. Take the time to develop a strategy that will target these particular channels and inform them about the change promptly and effectively.
- Keep visitors on the same page – Ever heard of the 301 redirects? These redirect site visitors to a different URL than the one they originally entered into their browser or clicked from a list of search results. This helps make sure your consumers who are initially unaware of your rebranding and domain change get driven to your new site. After you generate a backlink report and establish which sources are mentioning your website, you’ll want to make sure all of those URLs point to your new web address. You might want to hire a professional for this step.
- Pull the plug – After you’ve checked everything twice and your audience has been properly informed about the transition, the next step is to launch your new website. At this point, you will want to have your Google Analytics account and your Search Console connected to your new domain. (Check out Douglas's domain change checklist here!) Not only that, but you will also need to keep the old brand lingering in the meta tags and text copies of your new asset so that the search engines can figure out and index the change properly.
- Update your links & listings – All of the business directories featuring your site need to be updated – and if you’ve invested in local SEO and have hundreds of links on business directories throughout the internet, it’ll be time-consuming. Backlinks, like those on business directories, are indicators of your relevancy and your presence on the web. Reach out to the websites that have linked to you in the past and ask them to switch their link to your new URL so you continue to perform well in search engine results.
- Promote, promote, promote – Leverage PR, guest posting, email announcements, PPC and all of your digital marketing channels to let the people know you’re there with a brand new image and domain. This expense might even win you over some fresh leads, and it will definitely help the search engines to index your information and file your change properly. A rebranding project without a marketing campaign is simply a waste, so count on that investment as well.
Change is normal in the business world for both new and established companies. Knowing how to survive and thrive through those changes is pivotal, so make that extra effort to present your business in the very best light.