How to Successfully Rebrand Your Website Without Losing Traffic

How to Successfully Rebrand Your Website Without Losing Traffic
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October 20, 2020

If your website is performing poorly among its target audience, rebranding it may place it back on the path to success. Your website's brand is what distinguishes it from all other sites. It allows visitors to identify your website so that they can easily find it. With an irrelevant or unmemorable brand, your website will get lost in the endless digital space of the internet.

Rebranding, however, requires a major overhaul to your website's design as well as its underlying code. You must change your website's domain name, header, logo and all other elements that encompass its brand.

When you make these changes to your website, it could result in a substantial loss of traffic. Visitors may fail to recognize your website, believing it's an entirely new site. Alternatively, search engines may lower your website's rankings or even remove it from their indexes. To keep the traffic flowing to your website, you must use the right approach during a rebrand.

Retain Content

You should retain most if not all of your website's content when rebranding it. Content powers search rankings. A page may feature an attractive template, but it won't rank high unless it has content. If you delete content from one or more pages, your website will generate less search traffic due to lower rankings.

The only content you should delete when rebranding your website is anything that focuses specifically on your site's old brand. An article about the history of your website's old brand, for instance, can be deleted. Keeping it will only confuse visitors as they'll encounter two different brands.

Redirect URLs

Rebranding your website requires the use of a new domain name. Domain names identify websites, so they are essential brand elements. Once you've found the perfect domain name and moved all of your website's content to it, though, you'll need to redirect the URLs.

Redirecting URLs will preserve your website's traffic and search rankings. When you redirect all of the URLs from your website's old domain name to those of its new domain name, your site's backlinks will remain intact. Users who click a backlink to your website's old domain name will be redirected to your site's new domain name. As a result, your website won't lose traffic or search rankings.

The proper way to redirect URLs when rebranding a website is to create a site-wide 301 redirect without changing your site's URL slugs. A site-wide 301 redirect will automatically create a permanent redirect for each page on your website's old domain name that points to the same URL slugs on its new domain name. If you change your website's URL slugs -- the string of characters proceeding the domain name in a page's URL -- you'll have to create a 301 redirect for each page.

You can create a site-wide 301 redirect by adding the following code to the .htaccess file on your website's old domain.

Redirect 301 / 

Notify Google

After setting up the proper redirects, you should notify Google. While Google can typically tell when websites move to a new domain name by looking for 301 redirects, it can only do so by crawling. If Google neglects to crawl your website's old domain or any of its backlinks, it won't recognize its new location.

To notify Google that your website has moved to a new domain name, use the Search Console. The Search Console has a change of address tool, which you can access under the "Settings" tab. With that said, Google requires verification of both domain names to use the tool. You must verify your website's old domain name and its new domain name in the Search Console. Next, select your website's old domain name in Search Console and access the change of address tool. You can then select your website's new domain name by clicking the drop-down box for "Select new site."

Make an Announcement

Let visitors know about your website's new brand by announcing it on the homepage. Depending on what changes you make to your website's design, it may have little resemblance to its previous design. When visitors return to your newly rebranded website, they may assume they've landed on the wrong site, in which case they'll probably leave.

At the top of your website's homepage, add a message explaining that your site was recently rebranded. You don't have to keep this message forever. Instead, let it stay up for about six months. By then, visitors should be familiar with your website's new brand.

If your website has an email newsletter, you can send subscribers an email to announce its new brand as well. Email isn't a substitution for a homepage announcement, but it can smooth over your website's transition nonetheless. Users who regularly visit your website may check their inbox where they'll learn about your site's new brand.

Monitor 404 Errors

Technical errors can occur during a rebrand that cause your website to lose traffic. If a page isn't properly redirected, for instance, users who visit that page or follow links to it will receive a 404 error. Even if you moved the entire page to your website's new domain name, a dysfunctional redirect will prevent users from reaching it.

You can monitor your newly rebranded website for 404 errors in Search Console. Google will look for 404 errors as it crawls your website and its links. If it discovers any, Google will add them to your Search Console account. You can find these 404 errors under the "Coverage" tab.

Most 404 errors are caused by broken links. All links containing your website's new domain name must point to a URL that contains an actual page. If a link points to a pageless URL, it will create a 404 error when followed. Neglecting to find and fix these 404 errors will result in less traffic to your website.

A relevant and memorable brand is your website's most valuable asset. It will separate your website from the countless other sites on the internet. Using these tips, you can successfully rebrand your website without losing traffic.

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