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Rebranding is not child’s play: how can a change in business name affect SEO?

Apple Computers was founded way back in 1976. It was the brainchild of Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne. In 2007 the company decided to drop the “Computers” from its name and became Apple. No big deal, right? At least for a company as big and well publicized as Apple. True.

But imagine a smaller company who has a dedicated client/customer base who looks up the services and reviews online. Right now, almost 72% people look up business and services online before physically checking in. for example – if a company is called “Jimmy’s Fried Chicken, Cleveland, Ohio”;its customers can look it up by using “fried chicken in Cleveland”. This kitchen/restaurant could rank #1 for the clever use of a common adjective and the location in the name. One fine day, Jimmy’s son takes over and decides to change the company name to “Jimmy & Sons, Cleveland, Ohio”. Seems like not much of a change – but, in reality, this is a rebranding move that can cause this business to give up the #1 spot.

1. Just don’t do it –

If your friends and family are insisting on changing the name of your business establishment, it is time to change your friends and family but not the name!There are more SEO pitfalls than you can count on both hands for companies that have gone on to change their business names.

But if it’s something you absolutely need to do, then keep reading.

2. Do NOTHING to your domain name–

Domain names are the main anchor of your search engine traffic. If you change your domain name to match the new company name you will be in deep trouble. Not changing domain names automatically means that you retain your original traffic and you don’t have to redirect your URL.

In case this is absolutely unavoidable you should ensure that you have a good PR plan. Having a strong and experienced PR team will make sure that you get new links and social sharing options with the domain change.

Make sure you have a paid search campaign in place before you go for the domain switch.

3. Business contact data needs to be updated everywhere –

NAP is used as a key signal by Google to determine your local rankings. Your NAP data needs to be homogeneous everywhere and in case it’s different in places it can be detrimental towards your business rankings.

4. What happens to your website?

Once you update your domain name and business name, you need to make the changes on your website as well. This means you need to change the name on your website before you update the listing on Bing and Yahoo Local to avoid confusion and legal issues.

5. Get an idea about what Google is thinking about you, right now?

This is actually a good idea before you go around making changes to your business. A great way to make sure everything is shipshape is to do a “business name” + “phone number” and a “business name” + “address” search in Google from time to time. You can instantly see the citations Google has indexed under the given name. You need to check all prevalent listings before making a new listing with your brand new business name.

You must remember to push out old information from citation locations on the internet before inserting new information. Some lower level directories will give you a lot of trouble in case you have to change any information. It is very necessary to remove any kind of duplication issue that might arise in the long run.

6. What’s the place of a keyword in your business name?

Will Scott of SearchInfluence says that including a keyword to your business name is a great idea for Ranking By SEO. For example – if the owners are changing the business name to “Jimmy & Sons” it pacifies the new owners, works out nicely for the family, but for the people looking for “fried chicken in Cleveland” it won’t do much good. If the new name was in the line of “Jimmy’s Family Fried Chicken” things would have looked up for business purposes. Not much reworking would be needed for SEO strategies and social media plans could have remained the same as well.

7. Keep your customers in mind –

Most businesses start targeting new customers after rebranding. They try launching new products and services. But what about the people who were looking up to your services for all these years? The new products and services will simply put them off since they won’t have any idea about what’s going on. Dev Basu of Powered by Search says, “Give your customers a heads up about the changes coming their way.” Rebranding should not be an unpleasant surprise for your customers since almost all people totally detest sudden change.

8. Monitor your customer feedback closely –

You will need frequent sneak peeks into your customer’s world to know the future of your business. You can accomplish this via Facebookfan pages or via Google+ as well. Do not forget to use social media tools that help you listen in on customer chatter like Hootsuite. Customer feedback will help you directly understand the progress of your business and what they think about your new business name/rebranding efforts. It is always better to make your customers feel involved; so we insist – propose the change in name well in advance, on social media and monitor customer reaction to gauge your next step.

You must think rebranding is a difficult game with almost no idea about the end result. Well, that’s the absolute truth. A simple change in your business name can cause your sales to suffer massively. Changing a name does not end at that, it involves your SEO, local business listing, customer traffic and sales. So, if we have managed to intimidate you with our post, it’s possibly a good thing. Rebranding is not meant for the faint hearted. And you should not attempt it if you do not have someone beside you with a couple of years worth experience in SEO or unless you have tons of money that you can afford to lose in the coming few weeks. 

This is a YourStory community post, written by one of our readers.The images and content in this post belong to their respective owners. If you feel that any content posted here is a violation of your copyright, please write to us at mystory@yourstory.com and we will take it down. There has been no commercial exchange by YourStory for the publication of this article.
Lalit Sharma is an SEO consultant who runs a SEO house called Ranking By SEO. He is specialized in link building and other SEO related activities. You can also find him on Twitter, Google+ and his personal blog.

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