Inspired by the very recent news that the ESB is to be rebranded as Electric Ireland I started wondering what the pros and cons of rebranding your website would be.
For starters you are unlikely to €6 to €8 million price tag that the ESB is about to incur. But other than that is there any point?
It really depends on just how much of a rebrand you are talking about. If it is more a restyling than a rebranding then it should not have too much effect on your SEO. If however you have to change domains as part of that rebranding then you should be very aware of the possible implications of that.
Let’s use the ESB as an example. Their website is http://www.esb.ie. It has been that way as long as I can remember. They have a LOT on inbound links to the site, google recognises the acronym ESB as standing for Electricity Supply Board and they are ahead of their competitors forcing them to make excessive use of PPC campaigns.
So what do they stand to lose by rebranding as Electric Ireland?
- They have to start a new domain presumably (electricireland.ie since they have already bought the domain – and .com, .org etc). Time is a factor in the ranking of websites. Established sites that have been around for a few years have gained trust with the major search engines. A year or two back there was much talk of the “google sandbox” where sites were not allowed rank until they had proved themselves a bit. Whether you think this is still the case or not, there is no denying that established sites tend to rank better.
- The new site will have a new look presumably too. To customers that are familiar with the old look this is confusing. It requires a great deal of advertising to get the message out there about the change. Luckily the ESB have a regular mail shot (the bill) to customers that they can use as a vehicle for part of this re-education, but they will also need TV and radio advertising too at the very minimum. In short, it’s going to be very expensive.
- Goodwill. The news of the rebranding is being widely touted as a “waste of money” at the very time when the country is in dire financial shape. Spending that much money on something that is deemed a waste of time by customers is only going to encourage them to go to Bord Gais or Airtricity (the two largest competitors).
- Inbound links. These are the life blood of any website and starting up a new site as part of a rebrand effectively removes all of these. The probable outcome is a site that ranks well below their competitors.
Those are the major problems facing a site that wants to completely rebrand. There are only two advantages that I can think of in the case of the ESB
- They have to do it if they want to be able to set their own prices (Big brother said so!).
- Some people may think they are not the ESB and they may gain customers as a result. (I know that’s a bit cutting, but that’s the sort of country we live in, like it or not)
What I would do if I was the ESB
Once I had my new domain I would do all my css styling to reflect the new brand image and then take the existing ESB site and plop it straight onto my new server.
To say that in a more straight forward way, I would make sure the content on my new site matched the content on my old site but with different logos.
At the same time it would be necessary to 301 redirect (permanent redirect) all pages from the old site to the same pages on the new site. Thus anybody following a link to the old site gets to exactly the same content on the new site.
Then I would start link building like my life depended on it. I would back that up with a ppc campaign that would put Anglo’s debt to shame.
Only after about a year and with plenty of links rebuilt, would I slack off on the PPC campaign and let the site stand on it’s own two feet.
I would start a competition (probably through facebook ads) that in some way encouraged links. I would get out into the blogging community with it too and do the same there.
Most importantly I would cross my fingers and hope that I had not forgotten something vital. Changing domains and branding in one fell swoop is not for the feint hearted.