In SEO, one of the less commonly discussed styles of rebranding is one that simply layers in a new phrase / modifier to complement an existing brand name. For instance, if ‘Tommy Bahama’ changed their names to ‘Tommy Bahama Apparel’.
This is a simple, yet good way for some brands to more accurately represent their product and/or service, while also mitigating risk from potential organic traffic loss.
However, there are some things to consider:
1. Title Tags
Following the traditional SEO best practice guidelines for title tags (Primary Keyword | Brand), an extended brand name will inevitably mean longer title tags.
As it stands, Google allows for about 600 pixels or 50-60 characters. Sticking with the example above and following these parameters, the TB ‘new arrivals’ page for women has approximately 66 characters. This is already somewhat over the standard limit of what’s allowed to display in SERPs; adding apparel’ would put this at 74 characters total, and would ultimately cut off the full brand.
So while they may process the entire tag text, this may limit what users will be able to see in search.
The next and arguably most important consideration when conducting a ‘soft’ rebrand, is the introduction of explanatory text. Add a quick sentence or two in the form of an alert (pre-rendered!) can go quite a long way in informing both users and Google of the new changes. This is generally recommended for homepage only, but adding it to key product/service landing pages may prove beneficial short term as well.
This one’s not always as obvious as it seems, but any rebrand will call for a multi-channel adjustment. This includes everything from GMB and Social Media to Affiliate, Paid Search and more.
The more well planned and systematic of an approach, the better.
Note – This may include how the brand is mentioned in existing links as well (see below).
Next to content, links will also be an important factor in efficiently helping Google and other large search engines recognize a rebrand.
That said, everything from logo alt text and internal links to external citations and affiliates/UGC should be changed according to the new brand name. This includes alt text for external links pointing to logo/images as well as affiliates — (e.g. https://dealhack.com/coupons/tommy-bahama)
Note – For sites with thousands of backlinks, it’s not realistic to comb through every single one and ask for a link change. However, adjustments from a few high profile/authority sites may again help speed things up.
Equally as important of a signal for a soft rebrand includes fresh crawl of the site under the old content format, as well as the new — including the new explanatory text.
Submitting an existing sitemap in GSC will force a new crawl, re-render and re-index of the old brand, and doing the same immediately following the rebrand will help process the change.
Despite doing all of the above, an improper configuration of caching policies can cause crawlers to retrieve and recognize stale content.
Therefore it’s important that caching policies are configured for crawlers to acknowledge the last modified header and/or Etag headers. Both assist in the actualization of new changes in page text/content; and serve up appropriate versions.
Companies often consider these types of ‘soft’ rebrands as a way to avoid any major SEO issues — As a result, the the topic is less discussed.
Structural or not, brand name changes can take Google and other major search engines weeks to process. Considering a few of the above can help avoid potential traffic loss and streamline the adjustment for users and search.