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SEO and Social Media Considerations When Rebranding an Organization or Acquisition

  |  September 21, 2011   |  Comments

Netflix is a great example to look at two major SEO considerations of rebranding: migrating to a new domain and acquiring social media profiles.

Rebranding an organization is a major internal decision that requires extensive planning and research for effective execution. It's a decision that results in such a drastic change, that some granular level details can often go overlooked - such as the potential effects and impacts that the changes may have on SEO strategies. The recent announcement by Netflix that it is forming a separate company called Qwikster to handle physical DVD rentals while the Netflix brand will continue to operate the streaming portion is a perfect example to explore two major SEO considerations: migrating to a new domain and acquiring social media profiles.

Migrating to a Completely New Domain

Rebranding a company into two separate identities will in most cases warrant the need for a separate domain for each one's own marketing efforts and strategies. However, it's critical to understand exactly how this type of migration of content can and will affect SEO. An organization's SEO and online marketing teams must be a part of these discussions and should be bringing up the following punch-list of questions, potential pitfalls, and SEO planning efforts:

  • Is the domain name of the new entity currently available? If so, the domain, as well as variations of it, should be purchased before announcing the change in order to protect the brand. If it's not available, are you prepared to acquire it from its current owner or settle on a variation of it? If settling on a variation, it's important to consider the competition that you'll be up against for the same name. Will you be able to compete?
  • Has the domain name been previously used? If so, are there links pointing to it that could be leveraged with strategic 301 redirects? Are there pages currently indexed that need to be removed due to content that you don't want to be associated with or were there deceptive SEO tactics in place that may have caused the engines to penalize the domain? If so, you'll need to clean those up prior to launching.
  • Will SEO best practices be integrated into the new site from the ground up? It's always more efficient and cost effective to get SEO right from the start rather than trying to go back and fix it after the site's launched.
  • Which content will be staying on the current site and what will be migrated to the new domain? It is vital that you avoid creating duplicate content across the two domains as well as develop a 301 redirect strategy to effectively transfer all SEO equity that the current domain has acquired.
  • What happens to content that should exist on both domains? With specifics to Netflix, a movie is a movie whether it is streamed or watched on a DVD. Will user reviews, comments, and ratings be segmented between the DVDs and streaming version or will they continue to be applied to both, or only one? Will the same movie descriptions be used on both sites or will the canonical tag be applied to funnel SEO value to one version of the site?
  • How will site usability and cross-selling be addressed? When multiple domains are being used, it's important that they all work together for the common good - that goal being conversions. Creating a seamless user experience is important to avoid frustration of both old and new users. Creating global cross-domain navigation with a similar layout on each site is an effective way of achieving this. An example of cross-domain navigation can be seen on the Gap.com site and across its five brands - Banana Republic, Old Navy, Piperlime, and Athleta:

 gap-navigation

Acquiring Social Media Profiles

Social media has reached a point that nearly all companies understand the importance of having a presence on at least the mainstream channels such as Facebook and Twitter. It is vital to ensure that social media strategies are just as much a part of the rebranding discussions as SEO is.

With 200+ million users (according to Wikipedia), there is a strong chance that the name you want to use has already been taken on Twitter. As reported by TechCrunch (caution: strong language/imagery), this is a situation that Qwikster/Netflix will need to deal with as the account has already been taken, and its owner is publishing less than appropriate content that any company will not likely want to be associated with. It is against Twitter policies to buy accounts from its owners, so you may need to be prepared to go about this under the table or settle for using an alternate variation of the name. Regardless of which route you settle on for the name, you should take the appropriate steps toward getting the account officially verified by Twitter.

Some are speculating that the rebranding effort from Netflix is ultimately being done in order to push users away from using DVDs and moving more towards what they believe is the future with streaming. Some are even saying that they choose the name "poorly" on purpose to expedite that process, but that's another post for a different blog.

Has your organization been through a successful rebranding? If so, what other considerations did you find important to tackle from the beginning or wish that you had? Let us know your thoughts in the comments area below.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Crispin Sheridan

Crispin Sheridan is the Senior Director, Global Search at SAP. As part of the digital team, he established and leads the search and testing practices at SAP. Crispin is responsible for paid, natural, and mobile search and all online testing. Search and testing at SAP are fully centralized and globally funded and run under a hybrid in-house and agency model.

Crispin has proven that search learnings and keyword insights work hand in hand with social media marketing and together can effectively drive B2B lead generation. Furthermore, the development of the SAP.com Test Lab has contributed significant success to SAP's digital marketing efforts.

A frequent guest speaker at conferences, including SES New York, San Francisco, Toronto, London, Delhi, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, Crispin was appointed to the SES Advisory Board in December 2009. He has also been a guest speaker at the e-Metrics Summit and ad:Tech, and is a member of Google's B2B Technology Council. You can follow him on Twitter at @crispinsheridan and read his monthly SEO column on ClickZ.

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