Can I change my company name while maintaining my Google ranking?
There may be a good reason to change company names. For example, when you start providing different services or products or you start targeting a different audience. Or perhaps because companies are merging. Changing the company name does, of course, have some complications. Thus, you also need to register the new name with the Chamber of Commerce and record it as an (additional) trade name.
But what about your website? Probably needless to mention: check the available domain names before you announce your new company name to the world. In our earlier blog, we shared tips on what makes a good domain name. In the past, you have deliberately established a domain name under which your current website runs and have built a history by posting (relevant) and current content. Last but not least, Google naturally shows your company in searches. It is very unlikely that you would not want to direct these results to your new website/business. It’s always nice to start with a lead. Right?
Don’t throw away your old url/company name
As contradictory as it may be, it is wise to keep your old url and at most only park or “sell” it to a seriously interested party after a longer period of time. A new business name may be very nice and obvious to you, but it is not always so to those around you. With your old brand, you have built certain values that you may lose with a new company name. Consider brand recognition or trust. It is important to let the customer know who you were before. For the next while, mention your old company name at the bottom of emails or somewhere in the footer of your website. Determine a time period – not too long – for this. Depending on how large your customer base is and the effectiveness of your communication skills, this period could last a few months.
Hackers and scammers also love old domain names that become free. Once they are able to claim and use your old domain name, this can still have a negative effect on your business because you have gained trust with it in the past.
You also created several pages of content on your old website. Once you have launched your new website, you can have the pages from your old website linked to the new pages one by one. This is called an SEO migration: moving the website to a new domain name without losing your Google rankings. This is because with a new domain name comes a new link structure. With 301 redirects, you can let Google know that oldwebsite.nl/page has now become newwebsite.nl/page . So very important! These old pages will still be found by search engines for now, and it is very wise to redirect these pages to a page with the same content. Or possibly to a more general page with more information about the name change, for example, but not the home page. If you change names as a restaurant, it is useful to redirect the url with the menu to the new page with your new restaurant’s menu. The same goes for contact information, etc. Map these referrals in a timely manner and make a survey of the old and new urls. If you are working with WordPress, there are plugins (for example, Simple 301 redirects) available to set up redirects. Otherwise, you can redirect with .htaccess, PHP or ASP, for example.
Indeed, if you do not redirect the organic or paid search results permanently (301 redirect) to the new url, visitors will see a 404 error page. Over time, Google search bots will discover these pages and decide that these pages are no longer relevant to search results. As a result, old pages are removed from the index. The Google search bots will then have to re-index the new pages. Google determines your position in search results based on more than 200 factors. You start again from scratch in that case. Which, of course, is a shame!
Notify your customers in a timely manner
You probably also publish a newsletter or have (email) addresses of your customers to notify them by mail and/or email. Make sure your customers are informed of the new name in a timely manner so they can change the information in their address file. And it’s a great time for a party or opening offer! So reason enough to approach your customers in time and bring the new (domain) name to their attention.
Good preparation is half the battle!
It is extremely important to direct visitors to the right new pages. How quickly Google recognizes the migration from the old to the new urls remains to be seen, as this is different per situation. Indeed, with large sites, this may take a little longer. By properly preparing for the move to the new site, you can avoid a lot of damage and aggravation. So start this process early and involve your website builder.
Don’t forget the socials
Almost every business also has social media accounts to communicate with. These accounts also list your company’s domain name. Don’t forget to update these, as well as your data in Google business. In old social media posts, you may be referring to specific campaign pages. It is then advisable to make sure that people get to a page explaining that you have changed names via a redirect.
Considerations for a website move
- Remove the old instructions in the robots.txt file so Google can find the new instructions for the new site.
- Configure your robots.txt according to Google’s guidelines for the new site.
- Reuse your existing Google Analytics account and associated UA number.
- Customize deeplinks for all your Google AdWords ads.
- Re-direct not to the home page, but rather to specific pages.
- Double check that you have a properly formatted, separate Error404 page.
- After name change, check origin of visitors to Error404 page
- Move all the old urls to the new urls at once. You can do this by mapping the old urls and already determining the destinations of the new url.
- Create a new XML sitemap according to Google’s guidelines and upload it in Google Search Console.
- Also place the old XML sitemap on the new site, so Google understands that there are redirects from the old to the new urls.
- Place the old Google Analalytics measurement script on the new site and check all set conversion goals. This causes the measurement in Google Analytics to continue running.
- Check the Google Ads conversion tracking and, if necessary, place the appropriate measurement script on the new (thank you) page.
- Also make sure to update the new urls in the Google Ads campaigns.
- Also, when the move has taken place, check that the old urls are permanently redirected to the new urls.
- Submit address change to Google Search Console (this is not necessary when moving from http to https).
- Try reaching out to as many sites that link to your old site url (external links) as possible, asking them to manually change the URL.
Fresh (on) start
Now that you are well prepared to change your company name, you can confidently invite your (old and new) clients to a blast party and successfully continue doing business under your new company name with a fresh start.
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