Rebranding or redesigning your website is an exciting process, however, it is a complex and delicate operation that requires much planning.
In this article, we will focus on why SEO should be a focal point throughout the rebrand or redesign journey, and how to avoid common mistakes that could impact your site’s performance.
What is a website rebrand?
A website rebrand is when an entire website is changed by altering code, design and general presentation.
Website rebrands often work hand in hand with a redesign, which focuses on adapting the site to drive more traffic and increase user engagement.
Why is it important to maintain your SEO during a rebrand?
When your website is undergoing a rebrand or redesign, you must embark on a hefty planning period to avoid a complete SEO disaster.
For example, if your internal links are not properly updated, your old content won’t work, resulting in a huge traffic loss. If you lose traffic, inevitably, you will lose business.
If you undergo a rebrand, and your SEO efforts are lost, you risk starting from scratch.
What should you do before a migration?
Before going ahead with a migration, it is crucial that you take the following steps to ensure your SEO efforts are maintained and to avoid any other complications.
Below are some considerations you need to make before you start the process.
There are likely specific reasons that you are undertaking a website rebrand.
Whether for a marketing initiative, or to improve user experience, whatever the reason, it is important to create goals to ensure your project is successful and can be managed effectively.
Taking the time to follow a well thought out plan or methodology means that SEO can be represented and considered at every stage.
Focus on content and information architecture
Content is one of the most important factors on your entire website. Not only is content one of the main ways your website can rank in the SERPs, but it is also what gives your site context.
When changes are made to the information architecture, or sitemap in a rebrand or redesign, SEO must be involved to help drive and maintain traffic.
When focusing on content, you must make sure that important pages are not left out of the new site in the future, especially if they carry SEO value.
By using crawling tools such as Screaming Frog or DeepCrawl, you can find all your pages and work closely with a team to see what requirements your new sitemap will need.
Ensure your redesign is done on a temporary URL
When undertaking a redesign, never do it on your existing website. Not only can it cause issues with users on the site, but it can also give you big problems in the long run. By copying your site and using a temporary URL, you can start making changes without any large risks.
Optimise for SEO pre-launch
Before your new website is up and ready to go, you need to ensure the SEO is up to scratch. If you launch a website that isn’t optimised, you are setting yourself up for failure and a huge lack of traffic.
Here are some examples:
- Ensure your content on all pages is optimised to the highest standard with the keywords you want to target.
- Make sure you have some blog posts ready. By providing well-optimised and actionable content you will are likelier to receive useful traffic in return.
- Ensure you have a solid internal linking structure.
Concentrate on redirects and avoid 404s
For all pages on new URLs, you must ensure you map out 301 redirects. Users should never have to experience a 404 error page if it can be avoided.
If pages that are being linked to show 404 errors, you will lose any link equity that you have. All your pages that have links pointing to them should be properly redirected.
Often, redirects can be the most time consuming and important part of a redesign process. However, if you fail to plan for your redirects, it can damage your entire site and result in being penalised by search engines.
For example, if during a redesign you have slightly changed a URL, you must have 301 redirects to make sure both URLs work. By doing this, you don’t lose any of your SEO efforts.
If you don’t create a solid redirect plan, you risk pages losing their authority which will result in a drop in rankings. Not only would this impact individual pages, but it would also give your entire site less authority due to a damaged internal linking structure.
How to preserve brand traffic through a rebrand
When a website is redesigned, a rebrand can come with it. When undertaking a rebrand, therefore, you need to avoid losing important traffic.
It is crucial to consider SEO to avoid losing brand-related rankings and traffic during any level of a rebrand.
Alongside keeping the relevance towards the old brand while becoming relevant to the new one, you also need to avoid losing any existing popularity on any well-established pages.
Below are some ways to preserve brand traffic when your website is undergoing a rebrand.
Identify core landing pages
Once you have completed the research and created a list of branded queries, you need to identify your core landing pages that drive traffic. This can be done using Google Search Console by searching for specific queries.
Often, the homepage or about us page will be the ones driving the most amount of branded traffic. However, it is important to check in case search engines are prioritising other specific service pages.
Assess content for features that drive branded traffic
When you have found the landing pages driving your branded traffic, you need to see what features result in interest from the SERPs.
Commonly, the features could be an element of the page structure, such as H1s, meta titles and the optimised on-page content.
By transferring these features to your new and rebranded site, you can target the same queries to maintain your branded traffic.
What should I avoid during a website rebrand?
When you’re rebranding your website, there are some things you should avoid, so you don’t end up in a traffic loss disaster.
Below are a few things that you should try to avoid.
Removing any content optimisation
From day one, you must keep all the previous keyword optimisation on your title tags, content, header tags, and meta descriptions.
By having a clear keyword mapping strategy when relaunching your website, you will easily see which pages you want to rank for certain keywords.
Ignoring timelines and goals
In the digital world, things can change extremely quickly. If your website rebrand process takes years, your final result may no longer be relevant to the current time.
By focusing on timelines and goals set, you can be aware of the everchanging world and alter your strategy when required.
Forgetting to capture your data
Whether you’re redesigning your website or going through a rebrand, you need to closely monitor performance and assess your data.
From both your old and new website, you should be focusing on the total traffic, which pages are getting organic traffic, usage metrics (e.g. bounce rates) and conversion rates.
If you forget to capture your data, you will have no real insight into how your website is performing and whether you need to make changes.
Excluding optimisation for different platforms
It is crucial to your rebrand and redesign that you don’t assume your audience is on a desktop when they view your website.
A huge percentage of web traffic will come from mobile devices. If your website is slow and doesn’t work well on a mobile browser, then your bounce rate will increase rapidly and you will lose out on traffic.