The business model you start with isn’t always the business model you end up with—and for good reason. Market conditions, a new competitor, or unanticipated challenges might force a founder to pivot, offering new products and services or completely changing the brand.
For example, lighting company APPARATUS transitioned into creating a range of lighting fixtures and designer furniture once it saw the opportunity in the space. Suzuki changed from producing looms to manufacturing cars and motorcycles when the industry changed. And you might be surprised to learn that YouTube once started as a video-based dating site before it pivoted to the model that captivates all of us today.
These are changes that can keep a business alive through tough challenges, but they’re inherently problematic for search engine optimization (SEO) and content marketing. Both strategies rely heavily on a brand’s identity, and target keywords specific to the brand and product.
So what happens when those company fundamentals change?
Where to Start
You have a few options to start the process of recovery. The first is a total tear-down, and is ideal if you plan on gutting the company. If you’re going to have a new brand name, a new product, and a new team, you’ll essentially be a new company. If that’s the case, there’s no use trying to preserve your old site, other than maybe to redirect users to a new site.
But let’s say you’re keeping at least some things intact; you might keep the company name, logo, and existing branding, but change what types of products you offer, or the target market you’re catering to. If that’s the case, you might feel the need to rebuild from the ground up as well, but there are significant assets you can preserve and carry into your new SEO campaign.
Preserving What You Have
Using these strategies can help you make the most of your existing SEO and content assets:
- Make your pivot clear to legacy users. Your first job is to make sure all your incoming visitors understand that you’ve made a transition. If someone visits your website from a bookmark, an old link, or even a search and expects to see the company you used to be, you’ll see a huge bounce rate—and a lot of confusion in your most loyal customers. Include some information on the homepage that explains the transition, and keep it up for a period of several months—just in case you have some delayed visitors.
- Rely on your existing brand authority. Your website’s domain authority is going to remain intact, even if some of the core content of your site changes. For example, if your site starts at a DA of 60 and you make some significant changes, you might drop to 45 or 50. That’s certainly much better than starting a new domain from scratch, with a DA of 10 or less. Keep your domain the same, and focus on continuing the power of your brand name.
- Restructure your onsite pages. Take a look at your top-level navigation, and see if there are any pages you can keep. Foundational pages like About and Contact Us can usually stay, but pages related to your previous industry are going to need to be retitled or deleted altogether. This is your chance to build a new navigation, with a stronger collection of pages related to your core products and services.
- Set up 301 redirects. You’ll likely go on a deleting spree as you find more and more pages that are no longer relevant, so don’t forget to set up 301 redirects. These will help you preserve the authority and referral traffic from links you’ve built in the past, and can ease confusion on legacy users who may not be aware of your transition.
- Edit your old content worth saving. Don’t automatically delete every piece of content that was relevant to the old version of your brand. Instead, consider whether you can edit it to make it relevant to your new brand. In many cases, a handful of new sections, sentence-level deletions, and topic tweaks is enough to salvage an otherwise exemplary post.
- Keep and use your existing guest author accounts. If you have guest accounts for your core brand or personal brands in place, keep them. They’ll be the perfect launch pad to build a new backlinking strategy.
SEO and content marketing require a long period of investment to start showing results, but once you build that equity, you can maintain it quite flexibly—even if you’re transitioning your brand to an entirely different industry. Do some spring cleaning to get rid of content and links that are no longer relevant, but don’t throw everything away; you might be surprised to learn how much you can salvage.