On October 28, 2021, Facebook announced that it was rebranding itself as Meta Platforms, Inc. The official reason claims the name will better reflect their new “metaverse” rather than reflecting the name of only one of their social media platforms. However, this change comes during Facebook’s increased scrutiny for allegedly standing by as misinformation and inflammatory content flooded news feeds, and contributing to the deterioration of teenage girls’ self-images. The name change only applies to the parent company and will not affect their social media apps (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp). Facebook as a social media app will still exist as is, and most users will not notice anything different.
Facebook follows several large businesses that have rebranded themselves when facing bad press or focusing on a new part of their business. In 2015, Google’s parent company rebranded itself as Alphabet, which has financial interests outside their search engine. In 2018, the Priceline Group rebranded to Bookings Holdings when people lost interest in priceline.com and booking.com began to rise in popularity. There are many reasons for a company to rebrand, including going international, repositioning itself in the market, distancing itself from bad press, mergers and acquisitions, changing markets, and staff and direction changes.
But what does rebranding mean for your search engine rankings and your paid advertising efforts? Will search engines and searchers have a harder time finding your company and services? Let’s find out.
How Will My Website and Search Engine Rankings Be Affected?
If you rename your brand, you probably want that name to be reflected in the website URL. For instance, www.meta.com redirects you to about.facebook.com/meta. In this case, Facebook bought the meta.com domain before they announced their name change. However, they decided to keep their main company domain facebook.com, so they redirected any traffic that went to meta.com back to facebook.com.
If you are considering a name change, check to see if that domain is available and purchase it before making the announcement. Depending on your competition, you may want to also purchase very similar domain names to keep competitors from using them.
Most companies that change their name want their website URL to reflect that new name. They want to get rid of the old name, which means moving all of their website content to a new domain address, at the very least. Often businesses also want to update the content on their website to reflect both their new name and new direction. They want to eliminate any mentions of the old name or links to pages on the old site. While this makes sense in the rebranding process, it can wreak havoc on your authority and rankings in the search engines and the ability of customers to find your new website.
Even if you do everything right during a site migration, you can expect lower traffic and keyword rankings for at least a few months, depending on how much content you have changed on your site. A site migration that transfers all pages and content directly to a new domain will be less disruptive than one involving completely new content and structure. It takes time to rebuild your authority in Google’s eyes and for the search engine to rank your new content correctly against competitive content.
What Should My Business Do about the Old Brand Name?
By erasing all mention of the old company name on your company site and listings, you may no longer rank number one for your old brand name in the search engines. Old customers or people who have heard of your old brand may still be searching for that brand even years after the rebrand takes place. This gives your competitors a chance to move in on that keyword in their paid advertising and SEO efforts.
Since you still want to bring those customers searching for your old name to your site, we recommend that you continue to show ads for that old brand search in your paid search campaigns. Paid search campaigns that target your old brand name should include both the old name and the new name in the copy of the ad (Looking for Old Name? We’ve Rebranded as New Name) to increase the quality scores of your ads and reassure customers that you still exist, especially if it was a radical name change similar to Facebook.
For SEO, we recommend that you create a page on your new website about the name change, allowing that page to still rank for the old brand name and transition customers to the new name at the same time. Including both your new and previous name in your homepage page titles for search engine listings can also help customers to make the connection (Homepage | New Name (formerly Old Name)). We also recommend hanging onto your old website domain and the old trademark for your previous branding so that competitors cannot obtain those or abuse your old brand name to trick customers.
How Will My Customers React to the Rebranding?
How your customers will react depends on how well you communicate the change to them. Make sure to communicate the change well, along with the “why” behind it. Also, communicate how the change will affect them. Will they need to re-register with the new site? Are any of your products or services changing as well? Is your pricing changing? You want to make sure your message is exciting, positive, and reassuring.
Some company rebrands failed in their messaging, and customers were either unable to find the new brand or never adjusted to the new name and kept using the old name. Change can be confusing or even scary to consumers. A rebranded company needs to emphasize the new name and positive changes with the rebranding to be successful.
Does My Business Need a New Name to Rebrand?
Nope! Your business can rebrand in ways that do not change the company's name or its website address.
Some other ways to rebrand include updating your company logo, changing the style of your website and publications, changing the tone of your advertisements to reach a new audience, updating your company mission statement, reorganizing your company, etc. Many well-known brands are hesitant to change their name because it is so recognizable, and the change would be very difficult.
There are some cons to changing your company name, including a loss of website traffic and keyword rankings, possibly losing some customers confused or scared of the change, giving competitors a foothold because of confusion, or changing your name to something that turns customers off or even causes ridicule. Changing your company name also includes legal, PR, HR, and operations/website ramifications.
Rebranding can be a complex process. Make sure that you have a complete strategy and plan in place that involves all parts of your business so that nothing slips through the cracks.
Work with an agency with rebranding and site migration experience to make sure that you do not lose all of your hard-earned SEO traffic to your website in the change.