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Protecting Rankings & Traffic During A Rebrand: SEO Expert Tips

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Protecting Rankings & Traffic During A Rebrand: SEO Expert Tips


What SEO considerations should you factor into your rebrand planning process?

This question comes from Tyler, who attended a recent SEJ webinar and asked,

“Recently, we had a client rebrand and change their brand name and URL. We saw an absolutely massive fall off with rankings and traffics.

Could you give some insights into why specifically changing the brand name/URL would affect all of these pages that essentially didn’t get changed content-wise and had the appropriate redirects in place?”

Doing The Prework For A Successful Site Rebrand

“Changing a URL/domain means a completely new page or website for Google. This is a classic challenge in a website migration,” says Ludwig Makhyan, Co-Founder of Mazeless – Enterprise SEO.

He suggests, “You have to take some crucial steps to ensure your migration process runs smoothly. If you do everything right, you’ll avoid losing your rankings and will save a lot of revenue.”

Suggested Solutions:

“First things first, there is a ton of prep work to be done,” says Makhyan.

“The easiest way to play this will be to follow a good website SEO migration checklist. In general, the whole process will be broken down into the following main stages: Pre-Migration, Launch, and Post-Migration.”

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Some of the most important things you have to do at the Pre-Migration are the following:

“After that, you have to run a bunch of tests on the staging environment. You have to make sure that all the redirects are set up properly. Some important mistakes to avoid are broken redirects, redirect chains, and loops. In a perfect world, you want to make sure each 301 redirect has no more than one hop,” reminds Makhyan.

“To recap, after the migration you have a brand new page for Google. Now you want to transfer all the pre-existing page values here. To do this, you have to let Google know that this new URL is the logical new version of the old one.”

See Mahkyan’s ‘Site Migration Issues: 11 Potential Reasons Traffic Dropped‘ to learn more.

Resist The Urge To Execute All Changes At Once

Harpreet Munjal, Founder of LoudGrowth, says that the biggest mistake that many businesses make is not due to a technical error, but a process error: executing all changes at once.

“This can make things complex and reduce efficiency, especially if you have a large website,” he adds.

Suggested Solution:

To avoid this, Munjal advises that marketers “divide your rebranding and domain changing process into different steps.”

“For example, first tackle website design changes without changing your content, web hosting, or anything else. Then give it some time to see any effects. If everything looks okay, move forward with other changes,” he says.

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Make sure you keep a backup of your older website, he adds. In case of serious site issues, you can always revert back.

“If you have to recover by using your backup, determine which issues were affecting rankings and traffic. Then, start over by planning the right strategy and implementing changes one at a time. Track changes and give each enough time to evaluate the results,” Munjal explains.

Get Your Redirects In Order

Adam Riemer, CEO of Adam Riemer Marketing, recommends that when rebranding and changing a URL, “You must always set up all redirects properly.”

In this case, Tyler is certain his redirects were done correctly – but it never hurts to double check.

Suggested Solution:

Riemer emphasizes that, “All pages – especially those with quality backlinks and that get traffic from social media – need 301 redirects.”

Additionally, he notes that, “It’s also important to update your sitemaps, and point all canonical links from the old URL to the new URL, so as Google is crawling, it will see the new URL and where the page now exists.”

“Next, contact any relationships you have backlinks with and ask them to change out the old link for the new one. Then, send an email blast to customers letting them know about the new brand and begin building buzz,” suggests Riemer.

Keep Optimizing & Monitor For Traffic Changes

Himani Kankaria, Founder of Missive Digital, shares her insights on why specifically changing their brand name/URL would affect these pages.

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“Usually, the authority is attached to each domain name so even if you have the redirection done right, with all the canonical and internal linking in place, the site can lose traffic because of the lost domain authority,” she advises.

Suggested Solutions:

What can be done in this case? Kankaria recommends the following:

  • Make sure you’ve waited a month or two to see the real impact before making any changes.
  • Do some PR activity or link building campaigns for the changed name.
  • Do some content optimization for the top-ranking pages each month.
  • Make sure you’re not linking to any pages with the old URLs.
  • Crawl your website in Screaming Frog or Sitebulb to see if there are any major technical issues to be resolved.
  • Constantly monitor the change in the traffic for each important URL.
  • If a well-known business is involved, you can reach out to Google for help.

Takeaways & Working Backwards From Post-Rebrand

For Tyler, it’s too late to go back to planning. But the considerations above provide a framework to work through; if any of the above steps were missed, that’s a good place to start.

Check your redirects, ensuring you haven’t inadvertently created any broken redirects, redirect chains, or loops.

Reevaluate web design and content changes that were executed at the same time. See if you can identify high-value, most trafficked pages that were hit hardest. What changed? What can you change now and test to recapture that traffic?

Do a technical SEO audit to identify any major issues that could be negatively impacting rankings.

Evaluate your link building and content activities. Did you put other SEO tactics on hold to focus on the rebrand? If so, kick it into gear again and get rebuilding.

A few other potential issues and questions that come to mind include:

Did the site architecture change?

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Is it possible PageRank isn’t being distributed as optimally as it was? Has your site hierarchy become more difficult for users or crawlers? Are important pages now more clicks away from the homepage?

How long has it been since the rebrand?

There may have been some initial confusion for search engines, especially as the domain name changed. If the rankings and traffic losses are site-wide, it’s a possibility. Sometimes these things settle out and rebound.

Did they change anything on the backend?

…such as removing/not properly setting up a CDN, or making design changes that introduced code bloat, reduced mobile friendliness, or impacted page speed?

Did you explicitly inform Google of the domain change?

Submit a new sitemap.xml file and use Google’s Change of Address tool to tell them about the change.

Did you update directory listings to reflect the new URL?

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This is particularly important if you relied on local organic traffic. You won’t lose the traffic from the listings themselves if your redirects are accurate.

However, when Google sees conflicting key business information such as mismatched phone numbers, hours of operation, or a website address, it has to determine which is true.

Your site may not seem trustworthy if suddenly every other place the business is listed online says the domain is something else.

Did you check for issues with the new domain’s history?

Hopefully, the new brand name and associated domain were investigated thoroughly before the migration. But if not, check now to see whether there are any unresolved manual actions in place.

You may need to do some cleanup and submit a reconsideration request.

If all has failed, work through this list of other reasons a site might suddenly see rankings drop.

More resources:

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Featured Image: Gearstd/Shutterstock





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SEO

How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer’s Landscape

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How Data Is Reshaping The SEO & Digital Marketer's Landscape

There is a new data revolution happening, and it’s sweeping across the industry so quickly that many SEO and digital marketers are struggling to make sense of the insights and intelligence at their disposal.

To utilize this opportunity, marketers need to evolve their mindsets and use technology to analyze multiple data formats and understand the new opportunities it can bring.

SEO marketers of today and digital marketers of tomorrow will need to extract, structure quickly, and manipulate data to drive the most critical business outcomes.

Data has always been mission-critical to digital decision-making.

The Economist, back in 2017, declared it the world’s most valuable resource.

Fast forward to today and the future, and we can see that the exponential growth of data fuelling this revolution is staggering.

According to the IDC, the amount of digital data created over the next five years will be greater than twice the amount of data made since the advent of digital storage.

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Think about that for a second!

Flash drives, for example, were introduced in 2000.

This means that in the next five years, marketers will have to analyze and make sense of 2x the data created in the last 22 years!

The Data Revolution Means More Sources & Complexity For SEO

The data revolution has gone on for some time now, and it’s changed our concept of what counts as “data,” rightfully so.

In the past, we thought only numbers mattered.

But, in this new digital world where everything is converted into ones and zeros, data is broader and contains text, audio, and visual information – all bits waiting to be processed!

  • Machine-based and human-generated data are growing at a rate of 10x faster than conventional business data.
  • Machine-created data is increasing exponentially at a 50x the growth rate. This data revolution is primarily marketing-driven and consumer-oriented who are “always on.”
  • In just the last 18 months, the volume of site processing data we have been generating at BrightEdge has increased by 11x!
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As a result of these increasingly demanding trends, SEO and digital marketers need to adapt and become more like data analysts and scientists in approaching the extraction of structured data insights and business intelligence – without adding more manual work.

Fortunately, SEO is well-positioned to take advantage of this new data revolution.

  • Increasing your keyword universe – More keywords mean more data points to look at with reporting and fuelling insights. While focusing on conversion rate metrics is very important, it wouldn’t be possible without opening the scope of your audience and getting more people in the door. SEO has drifted away from writing for a primary dedicated keyword and is now way more advanced with advancements in search engines like Google’s understanding of intent of searches through RankBrain and BERT.
  • Increasing your search footprint – will also help you discover unexplored of informing your future content strategy or ideate new keyword ideas. However, sometimes you might miss the boat, like the transition of Content Management Systems slowly turning into “Experience Platforms” as they offer more functionality to meet the needs of today’s webmaster or marketer.

Read More On SEJ

Data Is The Currency Of An Accelerated SEO & Digital Age

By 2025, Worldwide data will reach 175 zettabytes.

But unfortunately, the human brain can’t process, structure, and analyze all that data.

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So technology engines have to help, and digital marketers should be the driver.

There is a massive opportunity for companies that can utilize data to create more engaging experiences.

A recent study showed that 95% of business leaders recognize this as their biggest growth lever over the next three years, which means there’s plenty at stake here!

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Robust data analysis ensures decisions are evidence-based and have more accountability.

Drawing on existing and new data sources to fully integrate business acumen and analytical skills into decision making, sourcing, managing, and analyzing large amounts of unstructured data will ensure continued use and success.

SEO began with data and has evolved.

From the introduction of real-time SEO in 2019 and Page Experience Updates in 2021, SEO’s future lies again with data and the creation of intelligent systems. Here marketers can leverage combined data sources that structures data for them.

As a result, they can achieve business objectives and stay ahead during all data and digital transformation stages.

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Technology & AI Are Helping SEO Evolve

Advancements in technology and, in particular, AI and Natural Language Processing has meant that SEO and digital marketers can become data analysts without having to become an actual data scientist.

This is key to unlocking structured insights from your company’s big data to make more precise predictions about what is coming next based on existing information.

Digital marketers can evolve, understand key trends, and learn in new areas such as:

  • Predictive modeling of future trends and forecasting based on multiple types of data.
  • Real-time identification of opportunities and intelligence.
  • Digital research at scale with both historical and real-time data.
  • Leveraging automated visualizations for various stakeholders.
  • Improved data security and compliance.
  • Market and business intelligence at a macro level.
  • Consumer behavior at the most granular level.

SEO and digital marketers can learn critical skills such as statistics, data analysis, data visualization, and strategy.

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AI, NLP, and machine learning are helping them do this without needing expertise in computer programming and software applications.

What digital marketers must do is combine their communication skills and analytics skills with stakeholders who cannot think outside of the advertising box.

Read More On SEJ

Data Analysis & Intelligence As Competitive Advantage

The application of technology will be the driving force behind the next generation of data analysis technology.

Therefore, SEO and digital marketers of today should learn how to better utilize insights from data analysis.

It’s becoming more apparent that the marketing platforms of tomorrow will require the capabilities of data analysis and science infrastructure at their core.

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The future of marketing will blend technological know-how, business sense, and an understanding of data analysis.

The next generation of SEO will touch all components of marketing, from video, email, and voice, to digital performance of content.

SEO and data science will converge into one evolved discipline that drives omnichannel acquisition and democratizes data.

Marketers who embrace this new era of SEO will be well-positioned to succeed in the years to come.

Data is reconfirming its role as the new competitive advantage, and as SEO and digital marketers, you must evolve if you want to be part of the future.

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Featured Image: ra2 studio/Shutterstock

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