You have put a lot of time, effort and in some cases, money, into your website and the hard work is paying off – you have a respectable number of site visitors, an ever growing social presence, and your brand ranks high in search results. Life is good.
Then, for whatever reason, a rebrand has to take place. Maybe your company has changed directions or, as in my case, you move from a big city back to your hometown and your lifestyle blog, prominently featuring the city you’ve called home for two years, needs a makeover. I’m in the midst of rebranding my blog and along the way, I’ve learned a few things that will hopefully come in handy should you ever find yourself navigating a rebrand.
My first instinct was to create a fancy new layout, but I knew a facelift was only the very beginning. Once I’d settled on a name, I secured the domain and made a list of every facet I could think of that would need updating: URLs, links, social media outlets, navigation bar… I’m also a member of several blogger networks and have buttons spread throughout blogland. Tracking those down and requesting updates was also on the list.
If at all possible, keep your domain name. If a change in domain absolutely cannot be avoided, have a redirection plan in place to keep traffic loss at a minimum. Set up 301 redirects BEFORE you move to the new domain. This will keep inbound links from landing in nowhereland and you from losing SEO credibility. While you’re at it, set up a 301 redirect from the http:// and http://www versions of your domain, since they’re *technically* two different sites.
Step one (in this process) should be updating your website to reflect your new name. An explanation or ‘welcome message’ on the home page for visitors is a good recommendation to follow – let them know they are, in fact, in the right place. From there, comb every page of your site and update your brand name throughout. Look in the headers and the footers. Then, dive in and look at the title tags and meta data. And while you’re at it, update your contact information (everywhere!) too.
But don’t stop at your own site! Spend some time revisiting links from other sites, other bloggers, news sites, directories – any inbound link you can find, send a message and see if the site owner would be willing to make an update.
Social media is imperative in today’s society. Go to each and every channel that your brand has a social presence on, even if it hasn’t been used in a while, and update with your new name, log, URL, About Me, contact information – anything that might reflect the ‘old’ brand. Then, put out a message letting followers know about the change, perhaps pointing them back to the homepage to read a full message about the rebrand.
In the midst of a big change, it’s easy to overlook those that matter the most – the people who actually visit your site, purchase your products or read your material. Keep them informed of the process. Let them know ahead of time, if possible, what your plans are. Throughout the process, keep an open conversation going on social networks – perhaps give ‘sneak peaks’ at new elements. As a bonus to doing this, you’ll also be able to monitor social conversations for natural feedback. Do they love it? Hate it? They’ll let you know in Facebook comments and tweets.
This is, at most, a basic guide to what you should consider when rebranding a website. Before you jump in with both feet, think long and hard – is this REALLY what you want (or need) to do? If so, plan accordingly. It’s a process, but if done right and carefully planned, negative impacts should be minimal.
Do you have any tips or tricks to consider when rebranding a website? I’d love to hear about them. Tweet me your thoughts or questions @Sarah_Wyland or leave a comment below.