Avoid the negative effects that come from changing your store’s brand name, domain, links, or content.
A few years ago, I was called in by an established store that was experiencing a major drop in their traffic.
They had just completed a rebrand of their store a few months ago and their traffic looked like every store owner’s worst nightmare: great one day, gone the next.
Their rankings reflected the exact same thing: they went from ranking well for their product keywords and generic search terms to only showing up when they searched for their new brand name.
Years of effort. Gone overnight.
Literally the worst nightmare of every store owner I’ve spoken to.
They were searching for an SEO consultant who could help them understand what had happened to their traffic and rankings and what, specifically, they could do to get their traffic back (they were even thinking of completely undoing the rebranding and migration — but had they done that, they would have had a whole other set of challenges).
Thanks to a referral from Kurt at Ethercycle.com, we connected, and started a Search Engine Optimization Audit project together to understand what had happened — and what exactly they should do.
The Risk In Rebrands and Migrations
Switching domain names and restructuring your website links both have major effects on your ability to rank for product keywords and generic search terms.
You can think of it like a heart transplant. You’re doing major surgery on your store.
You need to plan ahead, know what to expect, and know what to do before, during, and after the migration to minimize the shock to your traffic and rankings.
Thinking ‘Bout Links
When you switch domain names, you have to consider all of the links pointing to your old domain that are no longer pointing to the new store.
Working with the Ecommerce store who had lost their traffic after a rebrand, we discovered all of their links — links they spent years earning through relationships, blogger reviews, press, and hard word — were pointing to the old site, not the new store.
They were essentially starting over from scratch in the link building department.
Site Age Is A Real Thing
When you do a rebrand and migration, your have to consider that one of the factors Google looks at when ranking sites is the age of the site. A site that has been around for 3 years will score higher on this factor than a site that has only been around for 3 months.
When you flip the switch on a migration and switch over to a new store on a new domain, your store can appear as a completely new site with new content to Google.
That all translates to it taking more time to rank. You need to take time to age your site.
The Real Cost of Redirecting Pages
As a matter of best practice during a migration, you’ll want to redirect (using a “301 Redirect”) all of your old pages (products, pages, posts, etc.) to the matching product, page, or post on the new site.
Even when you follow this best practice, some of the value from the links pointing to your site will be lost.
If Google sees the new site and starts ranking it immediately (which it won’t – it takes time for the site to be crawled and start to rank) it will take time for the redirected links to help your ranking.
Now, this all assumes that the content on the new pages on the new site matches the content of the old pages on the old site.
That is, other than the URLs, every other aspect of the site is remaining exactly the same: page titles, content, images, everything.
If you’re doing a rebrand on your site, you’re most likely changing page titles, content, images, and internal links.
All of those changes have their own effects on rankings and traffic. Depending on how you’re linking to products and pages in the navigation, footer, or page content, you may see additional changes.
A rebrand often affects the content and that carries major implications to your ability to rank.
Minimizing The Risks of a Rebrand
Changing your domain name will affect your rankings and traffic.
Redirecting links pointing to your old site to the new site will affect your ability to rank.
Changing your copy and link structure will affect your ability to rank.
A rebrand touches page titles, content, images.
There are so many ways that it can affect your traffic and rankings.
With the client, we identified 17 major changes they needed to make to minimize the negative effects of the rebrand.
Within a month, their traffic was up to 50% of their old levels. Improvement.
Over the next 3 months, their traffic continued to climb. 4 months after working together, their daily traffic passed their previous high-traffic amount.
But if they didn’t take action? It would have been like starting over from Day 1 in terms of SEO.
How To Avoid The Negative SEO Effects of Rebranding Your Store
The best bet is to get out ahead of it: have an action plan to preemptively make changes to minimize the ‘shock’ of the rebrand.
Even with a strategic plan you will see a 1-3 month shock to your rankings and organic traffic, but with the right SEO Migration Plan in place, you can minimize the length and strength of that shock to your traffic and rankings.
If you’re working on migrating your store and/or changing your domain name, store name, or content, then it is incredibly important for you to have an SEO Plan in place.