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7 Steps for Rebranding Your Online Business Successfully

It's almost exactly a year since we rebranded as HostPresto! Originally we (Enix Ltd) had several UK web hosting brands spread across different web sites, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to manage all of them. We were ending up with many weaker brands due to how diluted our time was between each one.

Our largest brand was dream-hosting.co.uk, not an ideal domain name (hyphenated - read more about this further down), and not an ideal brand name due to another large hosting company who share a similar name. We never chose dream-hosting.co.uk but rather inherited the company when we purchased it in 2006 from a friend. Our second biggest brand was knethosting.co.uk, again, not chosen but inherited.

We had many reservations about rebranding; the largest of which was retaining our search engine positions which we relied on for new and potential customers to find us. We also were worried about losing the reputation we had built up for each brand over the previous 9 years.

After 12 months we now know for sure that rebranding and consolidating our brands was the best thing we could have done - we're now stronger than ever on all fronts. So here are my tips on how to successfully manage your rebrand.

1) Rebrand for the Right Reasons

For HostPresto!, we rebranded for two main reasons, the first was to consolidate our smaller existing brands into one larger, powerful brand. The second was that finally we got to choose our brand name and domain name - one that we really wanted, was memorable, unique and provided us with a good image, rather than one which was forced upon us.

I would consider these the right reasons to rebrand. The biggest wrong reason would be to run away from problems, and the one that first springs to mind would be reputation - if you've ruined your reputation, don't run away from it, fix it and keep at it, you'll be surprised how quickly you can change people's minds, and how quickly those negative reviews will be swamped by a mass of positive ones.

2) Choosing a Brand Name and Domain Name

For us this was the hardest part, we spent hours agonising over it - short list after short list, research, rinse and repeat. It's very difficult to choose a good brand name because between the trademarks and domain name registrations finding something you really like that is available can be difficult to say the least.

A brand name should be unique, memorable and not have ambiguous spelling possibilities - when you tell someone the brand name over the phone they should be able to spell it without help.

So, to start come up with some ideas and check the domain availability (I like to use whois.sc for domain checks). Next, check the trademark registrations on the UK Gov Site. Finally check the UK company register at companies house just to be sure.

You may also want to consider buying a domain name through a marketplace such as sedo.com - in many cases you can actually use this as a good starting point as it might give you some good ideas for brands from the domain names people are selling. Be careful if you go this way though, it's too easy to fall in love with a domain you've seen only to find the owner wants 5 figures for it!

3) Choosing a Logo

For HostPresto! we wanted a logo and a mascot to reinforce the brand. These came from 99designs - we ran some high quality competitions, worked with designers (a lot) and got a good result from them - exactly what we wanted.

If your budget won't stretch to 99designs then there are plenty of free, or near free logo sites out there where you can pick an off the shelf one, and if you're (or have a friend who is) handy with Photoshop, ask them nicely to drop your text on it.

4) New Website or just a Change of Logo?

With HostPresto! we created a new site as our current websites were dated, and with the strong 'magic' theme we were going for a new site was the only option, as all of our older sites were much too corporate looking to fit with the more fun brand we had in mind.

Take a look at your current website - does it feel like it belongs to your brand? Can you see your new logo on your site? If not then change your website - and this doesn't have to be expensive, there are thousands of themes available for less than £20.00 that fit on Wordpress, Joomla, Magento. Or, if you're handy with a bit of html and css, you can get ready made sites where you just need to copy and paste and add your content etc. Our favourite for themes of all types is ThemeForest.

5) Customer Relations

Tell your existing customers - send them an email a month before it happens and give them a date and tell them your new name. Send them another mail a few days before telling them it's imminent, and then again just after it happens - not only will this get people talking, it will make sure they know where to find you should they need you again.

6) Helping People and Google Find You Again

One of our biggest concerns is what will happen to all those people search our old brand and domain name - will they still find us? The answer was yes (fortunately!). To do this correctly you need to do a couple of things. First create a redirect, and secondly, tell Google.

Your new brand (and maybe website) will be on your new domain name and you definitely don't want to lose all of the reputation and history your old domain has built up over the years. If you create a 301 redirect to redirect your old domain name to your new one not only will this redirect people who visit your old domain name, but it will tell Google you have moved too, and Google will very kindly carry all of your domain history over for you. Lastly, use Google Webmaster Tools to notify them of your domain name change.

The other thing I would suggest doing is leaving a couple of mentions of your old brand name on your website as this will help Google and users to know who you were - on HostPresto! you can see we have 'HostPresto! was formally known as Dream Hosting' on our homepage.

7) Handling the Social Side

Once we decided on HostPresto! we made sure we reserved the Twitter name and Facebook name. We did this by signing up new accounts before hand to ensure no one else got there first. On changeover day we renamed both accounts to something else, and then renamed our current social accounts to the new brand name. This way we kept all of our followers, tweets and shares, but we securely changed the brand name too with no risk of someone stealing it before the day.

I hope these steps give you an idea in what's involved in rebranding, and should you ever decide to go ahead, good luck!