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Old 07-18-2005   #1
stuntdubl
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Question Re-Branding vs. Re-Sandboxing

From a great post by Nacho on 301 redirects and site age filtering, I started to wonder just how valuable a "re-branding" really is. Is it worth a "re-sandboxing"?

I know their are lots of brand evangelists who tout the virtues of brand management...I'm generally not one of them.

I think this is a hypothetical that many SEO consultants will run into in the future (if they haven't already)

The questions:
If you own www. great-traffic-keyword-keyword.com and have built your business in the last few years on search traffic, would you risk an attempt at "re-branding"?

1. What would be your solution if the client HAD to have www. coolbrandedname.com?

2. Would you even attempt it if it was your domain? If so, how long would you be willing to sacrifice G traffic for a strong re-branding campaign?
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Old 07-18-2005   #2
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Wouldn't an easier system be to simply 301 the old domain to the new one on a page by page basis? It may lose rankings for a brief period, but if you're a brand-focused site, you probably won't encounter any sandboxing, as you probably don't have a lot of "un-natural" links, optimization, etc.

Alternatively, I might 301 the new domain to the old one, re-brand the logo, site, etc. and keep the URLs the same - most folks don't really notice or care. I note that many Amazon URLs are at www2.ipaddress.com/crazyfuzzycrap/fuzzyweirdstuff

Once the sandbox issue has died down and search engines are doing really well with 301s (the trend appears to be that they get better and better), you could make the URL switch.
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Old 07-18-2005   #3
NFFC
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>If you own www. great-traffic-keyword-keyword.com and have built your business in the last few years on search traffic, would you risk an attempt at "re-branding"?

On that example yes, without question.

>1. What would be your solution

I would move very quickly to get some content up on the new site, try and get it bedded in. I think there are innovative solutions that involve partially moving some content between domains but that depends from site to site.

>If so, how long would you be willing to sacrifice G traffic

I think you have to establish how much of the overall sites traffic comes from there and be sure of the numbers. Budget for an increase in ad spend and look towards aff marketing to smooth the transition.

What you need are firm numbers and a plan and budget to deal with it.
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Old 07-18-2005   #4
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That is not an easy question to answer. We have a client who had a site that was online for probably about two years and they then decided to re-brand.

Same content and site but better name. This of course required registering a new domain.

Well it took 8 months for the new domain to come out of the Google "sandbox". Now they are doing well and survived the 8 months by doing AdWords.

However, Yahoo has been a bear to work with. They picked up new domain but because it was duplicate content with old domain, a dup content penalty has been accessed. This even after setting up 301 redirect from old to new and removing all files from old domain. Yahoo eventually removed all traces of old domain from its index but still will not crawl past the first page of the site.

So should you rebrand? Depends if you can survive without search engine traffic because with Google, the sandbox theory is in play and with Yahoo, if launching same site but with different branding, you risk tripping a duplicate content filter.

Just a few things to consider. To me, brand is everything so Id rebrand and take my chances. However others may not be able to survive a loss of search engine traffic.
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Old 07-18-2005   #5
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I'd say that it would really depend on what was offered from the site; content or product. A site based on content would not survive re-sandboxing.
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Old 07-18-2005   #6
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Quote:
What would be your solution if the client HAD to have www. coolbrandedname.com?
Frankly, I'd try to buy a little time to think it over more and make the final decison. If the client HAD to have it, then they'd have to have it or they'd never be happy.

I'd leave the keyword-stuffed money making domain as is for the time being, and set up completely different content on the killer branded domain name with a little different type of focus. I'd get viable content up ASAP and give the new branded site some time sitting on Google's time-out chair so the site could properly age and get some quality IBLs.
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Old 09-13-2005   #7
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How to Re-Brand

Search engines are pretty much blind to branding and the visual look of a web-site. If your site is entirely, CSS based, you can brand as many times as you like it makes no difference.
You just need to use Firefox and view the site without any graphics or style sheets, this is what search engines actually see.

SO if you are re-branding you only need to make sure:

- Assuming you have good content, and good site in the first place!

All your old links are persistant.
All your old good content remains, and still accessible
by the same hierarchy and links you had before.
i.e your content/links is identical to before.

You change the look of your as many times as you want, as long as you stick by these rules.

Don't confuse Branding (visual look) with Content Changes.

Google is more interested in Links, hierachy and content of your site - not how it looks, it doesn't even go there, it can't actually see or understand visuals.

So Sandboxing is simply Dubious content in googles eyes, dubious content is spotted by something "not being natural".

So excessive growth, duplicate content, odd linking (link farms), Over Optimisation etc.. Any one of those factors with give google doubt that you are geniune, you will fall on the wrong side of the fence, and cause any *doubt* what-so-ever you will be "sandboxed", google will always go on the side of caution.

Sandboxing just means, you've fell foul of say, duplicate content, and google is giving you the opportunity to fix it, it will still cache and crawl your site, to see if you have improved.

You need to give google *clear signals* that you have improved, if you take 8 months to do that, it will take 8 months to get of the sandbox.

The issues with Sandboxing are very simple - so simple that people over look the obvious!

If you are rebranding, the first thing you need to do is leave your site *EXACTLY* as it was/works, and convert to Pure CSS, and do is properly, without breaking links/breaking content as you go.

Once you have converted to pure CSS/XHTML, you can re-brand your site every day, with CSS, and it'll make no difference to google - as long as your content remains as sound as it was. As what you see in Firefox with graphics, and CSS removed is actually exactly the same - so google doesn't see any change. But users see a big visual change.

- Yes, it's that simple - no need to overcomplicate things. You priority always is on content, first.
So going by the above rules, buying a new domain, and have two domains with identical content, is clearly not a very smart move, and clearly one or both of those will get sandboxed, probably the newer domain, because it has no history or links, so on the side of caution, the new duplicate domain will be sandboxed. Just don't do it.

Treat live sites with traffic with respect, and uprade and migrate to a new visual brand with proper planning and thought, and slow migration.

If you are changing to a new hierarchy and content altogether, you need even more planning and thought, to avoid duplicate penalties.
In short you can change brand and do it very successfully if you know what you are doing.

Last edited by BillionNamesofGod : 09-13-2005 at 11:58 AM.
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Old 09-13-2005   #8
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I just did this with my site, so I'll go ahead and share my experience. Rebranding for us was not essential but I do think it was important. We have been online and in business for 6 years as Pole Position Web and decided to change our business name to Pole Position Marketing as it, quite simply, better reflected what we do (SEM).

Initially we simply 301 redirected all the old URLs to the new ones, page by page. We immediately lost all our Google rankings and Page Rank, but still maintained a number of them in Yahoo and MSN. Actually, there was a page we forgot to 301 and that page maintained it's Google rankings. Go figure.

This may or may not have been a bad thing, but at this time we simply rebranded our name but the site was still undergoing a major over-haul to match the new brand. About three months after the URL change we then rolled out the new site which included pages being removed and relocated to different folders, as well as changing extensions from .htm to .php. 301 redirects were again put in place from old pages to the new pages in their new locations.

We are still in the sandbox but we recently noticed that Google has combined our backlinks from our old domain and the new. I'm hoping this is the first step towards getting de-sandboxed.

It's still a work in progress, we'll see what happens.
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Old 09-15-2005   #9
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From my own experience, rebranding is not a short-term pain, but a short to mid-term one.

As many will probably appreciate, Google does not like new domains full stop - you really need to develop some kind of online history before a new domain will really have a chance in Google for commercial keywords.

301's are no good as the benefits of the previous domain are not attributed to the new one for some time. And if the previous domain enjoyed a good number of links in volume then you could be looking at real problems at getting out of the sandbox regardless.

But, really, the core issue is one of brand vs presence - if you are looking at branding a domain name, then you're basically looking at SE traffic as a bonus to existing marketing, rather than a sole requisite (IMO), in which case loss of search traffic from the original site is a smaller price to pay for the long-term benefits of having a strong brand you can build on.

However, if you rely on search traffic as a main source of business, you absolutely have to factor in losing that traffic for a good 6 months - and additionally factor in that the new site will not be allowed so strong a presence in Google until it has developed it's own "reputation".

Ideally, if you're looking to rebrand, then my personal advice would be to set up the new domain, populate it with content, and provide some basic momentum for itself for as long as possible, and make the change in stages where possible.

2c.
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