As small business owners, we rarely have the time or the resources to make informed decisions about the content of our website, let alone to understand how those decisions could affect our search ranking.
After spending significant time and money building your organic search ranking through backlink strategies, online networking, competitive research, and more, it’s fair to say that you are invested in growing your online presence.
So what happens when it’s time to change your business name?
Why would I Want to Change My Business Name?
Business names change all of the time for a multitude of reasons. This is not something that we should fear. In fact, in terms of SEO, a well-planned business name change can often improve your visibility on the web (and your overall public recognition). After all, not many of us thought in terms of SEO when were dreaming up our business names.
Only after we start digging into our marketing strategies do we begin to realize that, “Hey, maybe this name is too long for a business card?” Or maybe…
- The name meant something to me, but it’s ultimately un-relateable
- The business name is too close to another business name
- Your name is too general
- Maybe your business is named after people who are no longer involved
- Perhaps another business with a similar name has a bad rep, and you get mixed up in their search results
- Your business model is changing and the name no longer suits it
You get the idea. The list goes on and on and nothing is set in stone.
So How Can I Change My Business Name, Without Hurting My Traffic?
With a little attention to detail, a business name change will have very little effect on your website traffic. Sure, you may see a temporary drop in traffic in your Google Analytics account, but as long as you’re covering your bases, there is nothing to be afraid of. And if you think things through before you make the name change, you may even find that your search ranking will benefit from a refresh.
It’s All About the Redirects
Whether you are changing your business domain name, changing a popular product URL, or integrating two sites, your site search equity is safe – as long as your pages redirect correctly. A properly formatted 301 redirect passes the same link equity.
What Is a 301 Redirect?
A 301 redirect is a method of redirecting from one URL to another permanently. This is telling search engines that the page should no longer be indexed at the old URL, but should be indexed at the new URL instead.
So how does this help retain your search traffic when you switch your domain name?
301 redirects pass 90-99% of link equity or ranking power to the redirected page. In most cases, the new page will have the same ranking power as the old page, assuming that the content is the same. This means that all of that traffic going to your old URL is not only being redirected to the new URL but that the new URL will also perform in search engines as well as the old URL.
Of course, when you are changing your domain and business name, there may be changes in website platform, content, headlines, images, server speed and other myriads of creatures to watch out for that can also affect search rank and need to be taken into consideration. However, you can rest assured that if you are properly redirecting your pages, your page authority will be carried over nearly identically in most cases.
A Few Other Considerations…
Though 301 redirects are the primary method for passing search rank from old URLs to identical pages at new URLs, there are a few other things to look out for when changing your business name.
Update Your Business Listings
Google and other search engines use your business name, address, and phone number as factors contributing to your local rankings. You’ll want to make sure that you update your business name and any other changes on all of your business listings, including your Google Business page, Bing Listing, Yahoo, social media listings, Yelp, Yellow Pages, Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau…you name it. If your business is listed online, keep all of it up to date. It all ties together, and it all contributes to your domain and page authority in search ranking.
Consider Adding a Location Keyword to Your Business Name
No one wants to try to fit a location name into their business name. However, if your business depends on local traffic that location keyword can benefit your business in local search rankings. If it’s too wordy, consider trademarking the shorter and longer versions to include your location so that you can get more people in the door.
Do a Little Competitive Research
In some cases, even the most clever of business names have already been conceived. Make sure that you can own your business online by doing a little competitive research. Don’t forget to check social media to make sure that a business on the other side of the world doesn’t already have the market cornered for your business name.
Remember Your Off-Page SEO
Before you decide to rebrand your business, make sure that you are communicating with your existing customer base. Use social media outlets, direct mailers, radio advertisement, and whatever other channels you use to access your audience to inform them of the coming brand change ahead of time. This will help to retain your customer base and your website traffic after your big change!
By all means, change your business name when it makes sense to do so for your business. Do not let SEO worries hold you back. Just make sure that you do your research and cover your bases when planning your rebranding efforts.