The importance of SEO in online rebranding

This month I’ve chosen to delve into the world of online rebranding, specifically in the charity sector. SEO now plays a critical role for any company wishing to rebrand as the new identity of a company will need to be reflected in the keywords it wants to rank for online. Even small changes in a rebranding exercise can have big a big effect on website traffic.

Let’s take Prostate Cancer UK as an example. In June 2012 The Prostate Cancer Charity became Prostate Cancer UK. According to the company website this change in identity was done to get away from the association of a fundraising charity and rebrand as a leading research authority:

“Our research has shown that only three of the top hundred UK charities use the word ‘Charity’ in the name and that the word is associated with fundraising, children, and dependency – not with authority, research, or expertise. Prostate Cancer UK is clear, simple, has authority, and importantly still communicates who we are.”

From an SEO perspective this could have been disastrous, as 6% of all prostate cancer searches in June 2012 contained the word ‘charity’ compared to just 0.45% containing the word ‘research’. By distancing themselves from the word ‘charity’ Prostate Cancer UK was walking away from hundreds of relevant high-volume keywords. However, through smart optimisation the Experian Hitwise data shows that the rebrand has been successful, with a 61% year-on-year increase in visits between September 2011 and September 2012.

Looking at the charity sector in general, rebranding seems to have a positive effect on website visits. I’ve focused on 9 charities that have rebranded in the last 18 months, the net effect being that web visits have increased by 13% year-on-year to this group of websites.

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research is another good example of a charity that has rebranded successfully to attract more traffic to its website. In this case the URL structure has changed significantly from to

You can see the crossover point in the graph above when visits started going to the new URL. Year-on-year this rebrand has resulted in a 21% increase in visits to the charity’s website. In this case the keyword opportunities have expanded five-fold, with the UK making 958 unique search variations for the term ‘blood cancer’ but 4,766 unique searches including the term ‘leukaemia’ or ‘lymphoma’. Including these keywords within the site URL will have contributed to the SERPs for relevant leukaemia and lymphoma terms.

Of course not every rebrand is successful, the International Rescue Committee’s switch to resulted in a 65% drop in visits year-on-year. The crucial point here though is to understand your market, know how people are searching online, and adapt your digital strategy to maximise the search opportunities available.

Until next month.

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James Murray

About James Murray

James Murray is the Product Marketing Manager for Bing Ads EMEA.

3 thoughts on “The importance of SEO in online rebranding

  1. Interesting data James.
    But what about the EMD Update? What are the risks of this tactic now?
    Should be rebranding not only being a matter of keywords in domain name, but something deeper, in order to not fall in the EMD penalized basket?

    1. Great question Gianluca.
      I think the key here is that the EMD update was designed to punish “low quality” Exact Match Domains. Like so many things this is about relevance, so for the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research example this was a genuine way of expressing clearly what they do, as well as being highly relevant to the keywords they wanted to target. Beating Blood Cancers was a slogan so in this case the URL change was not a cheap SEO trick but a genuine rebrand which worked.

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