Rebranding Your Merchant Name on the Internet
By Mark O'Neill
During the years I have been writing for EcommerceBytes, I have written about a variety of ways to brand yourself online, including Facebook Pages, Twitter and most recently URL shortening services. However, what if one day you decide to do a complete U-turn and change your online name and brand? You might think that doing so is a hugely reckless move, resulting in years of hard work being thrown away, but that isn't necessarily so. Switching the name of your online brand could be easier than you think.
This is a very timely topic as Ina and David recently changed their online brand from AuctionBytes to EcommerceBytes. So that may have got you thinking about doing the same for your website and business. So lets start with why you would want to rebrand yourself. What possible reason would you have for throwing away all your hard work of building a unique brand and starting again from scratch?
Most probably the reason why you would want to is that the focus of your business has changed. If you were previously selling widgets and you're now selling washing machines, then you might want to update your business name accordingly. Makes sense right? Or maybe you're just plain bored of the brand name and you feel like starting over? Although that isn't recommended, it's still certainly your right to do that if you want. It's your website and business to do with as you please.
Note that changing your domain name has ramifications for search engines. You must set up 301 redirects on your old site to send visitors to your new site - you'll want the help of your webmaster or programmer and get advice from an SEO expert (search engine optimization) before you think about tackling such a project. You'll also want to make sure your new business name does not violate anyone else's copyright.
So, assuming you've made your decision to proceed and have the technical aspects in order, let's take a look at how you can quickly change the rest of things over with a minimum of fuss.
Your Website and Marketplace Identities
Before deciding on your new name, make sure it's available in the WhoIs directory so you can purchase the matching domain name (ecommercebytes.com, for example). DomainTools.com is a handy way to look up domain names, and Go Daddy is an easy way to purchase domain names - even if you buy a domain through Go Daddy, you don't have to use its web-hosting services. (Even if you don't plan on immediately publishing your own independent website, you should buy the domain name so no one else can set up their site using your name, and you can redirect it to your hosted store or marketplace profile page.)
You should also look on major marketplaces including eBay and Amazon to see if your new name is available. Here's how to change your User ID on eBay. On Amazon.com, you edit your business information in order to change your business display name.
Facebook Pages now gives you the possibility of changing the name of the page, without losing the page itself, along with all the people who liked it. You just have to change the name, the logo, and then let your Facebook followers know what's going on. However, you can only change the name of a page once, so make sure you really want to change it, and if you do, make the name change a good one.
First, go to the top of your Facebook page and click "Update Info."
On the next page, under the "Basic Information" tab, then under "Username," you will see a link that says "Change Username" - click on it.
Important - if you have more than one Facebook page, make sure the correct page is showing on the left. Then in the box on the right, enter your desired new name and click "Check Availability." Facebook will then see if the desired new name is available for you to take.
If it is, click to confirm, and it will be changed for you. If the name is not available, keep trying with different variations until you find a name that is free.
Then all that remains is for you to tell your Facebook followers and update the page header and logo.
By comparison, Twitter makes it much easier. Simply go to the above link in your Twitter account and you will see the following:
That is obviously my username there, obviously you will see yours. Just change it to whatever you want it to be and save the changes. If the username is available then no problem. Otherwise keep choosing until you find something acceptable both to you and Twitter.
Your Website Domain
Changing your site to a new domain is far and away the most complicated part of changing your online business identity. If you have owned a website for any length of time and want to change domains, you may be sacrificing search engine placement, backlinks, etc., that you have acquired over the years. As a cautionary tale, read this New York Times article about online retailer NutsOnline.com, which hit just about every pitfall imaginable in changing its domain to Nuts.com.
If you don't want to entirely disappear from Google search, you will have to follow certain guidelines, including notifying Google of the domain name change, setting up permanent 301 redirects from the old domain to the new one, and even contacting sites that may have linked to you in the past and asking them to update their links. Matt Cutts, Google's search guru, created the following video that you may find helpful.
Make sure you change all the rest of your marketplace and social networking names, and remember to update your promotional materials, email newsletters - even your voice mail or answering machine! - and anything else with the company name on it with the new brand details.
Obviously this is a very slimmed down condensed version of how to change a brand name but we hope it has made you see that, aside from a new domain name, it isn't such a big deal if you decide to go down that route.
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