I have noticed that many sole proprietors brand themselves. And re-brand themselves. Is this a good idea?
I’m going to address this from an SEO perspective. And it does take careful consideration. Building your current site’s ranking took time. You don’t want to throw that away because you thought of a new business name you like better. If things have gone relatively well, other sites link to you, and maybe not just to your home page– maybe you’ve got valuable “deep links” to your other content. Search engines have found you and indexed your pages, and are even taking into account the age of your domain.
Let’s backtrack for a minute though. If you are a sole proprietor or sole practitioner, and plan to stay that way, do you really need to brand yourself in the first place? Maybe you should build a reputation for your real name, instead of a brand name. The brand name may sound outdated within a year or two, if trends change, or if your business goes in another direction and, you will find yourself in this re-branding pickle.
Assuming you already went the brand route, and realize now that you chose the wrong brand name, what now? Do not have any illusions here– when you change your domain name, your search engine ranking will be affected, probably for several months, but hopefully there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Think carefully, and choose a new domain name that can be with you for a long time, even if you narrow or widen your business focus, or alter your business in some other unforeseeable way.
- Go through your old site, and make sure you have a record of each and every URL.
- Go to Yahoo.com and type in link:http://www.yourolddomain.com and find out who is linking to your old site, and what pages they are linking to. Use the dropdown menu to Show Inlinks “Except from this domain” to “Entire Site.”
- Think about whether you are going to use the same URL structure (will your about page still be called about.php or is it going to be called about-our-company.php?).
- Launch your new site.
- In your server’s .htaccess file, use 301 redirects to re-direct each old URL to each new one, or if file structure remains the same, you can redirect the whole site to the new domain in one fell swoop. More on this.
- Go to your Google Webmaster Tools account for your old domain. If you never did this before, you need to now. Fill out a “Change of Address form”.
- Get a Google Webmaster Tools account for your new domain, and submit a sitemap of all your new URL’s.
- Contact all the web sites from step #2, and request that they update their link to your site. Even with the re-direct, you should do this, to preserve your “link juice” from those backlinks.
- Don’t wait too long to take your old site down if there is duplicate content. You can be penalized for this.
- Have patience…. several months of patience.
Ask yourself… is it still worth re-branding?