Wow, it has been about three and half months since we pushed the rebrand button. We renamed one of the most authentic voices in Tech in Africa from TechPost (www.techpost.ug) to Dignited (www.dignited.com).
As you might already know, rebranding online is a lot different from rebranding offline. Your brand online isn’t just your name, it’s also your domain name. If you think you got a light-bulb moment that got you excited about your idea with that a cool name, better pray that the domain name of your idea also exists. If you want a dot-com, the odds are that it doesn’t exist as was the case with us. If you really need that dot-com domain which was already “taken”, you’ll have to part with an arm and a leg depending on its demand, something we couldn’t afford hence the rebrand.
Rebranding online isn’t a matter of reaching an agreement with your team. It’s not that simple. It turns out, there are other stakeholders you have to inform about you rebranding efforts. They don’t just include your business partners and of course the beloved readers or community, the machines and algorithms are also part of the whole pack. Your readers have to obviously get used to your new brand. They have to know the new url, Facebook page, and Twitter handle among other branding aspects.
Fortunately for us, this was a breeze. Typing www.techpost.ug presents an informative page that tells the users that “TechPost is now Dignited” with a clickable link that enables them to continue to the new website. Those that didn’t get the re-branding messages (like this one and this) will be well informed about the new changes by this page. We still keep it, but soon, we’ll implement an automatic redirect for some time after which we’ll get rid of techpost altogether.
On the back-end, the migration was a bit challenging, but not so much for our engineering team. We had to shift from shared hosting to a shiny new custom VPS (Virtual Private Server) provided by Linode. We chose Linode because of their extensive documentation, support of several server OSes and unbeatable customer support and of course affordable cost. Running Dignited on fully fledged server with root access means the site has more resources which improves on the site response time or speed. However, a custom server also means we can do some cool stuff, experiment new products and do custom product development using whatever platforms we like (yes, watch this space).
One of the tricky things we needed to sort out with the Application itself (WordPress) was changing the old url (techpost) to dignited in our backlinks. However, we managed to solve this with some plugin.
Facebook and Google: How we got screwed up
Even though we were done with our business partners, readers and the application infrastructure, we had the social networks and Google to deal with.
Facebook page changes
We had to change our Facebook page name and url from “TechPost” to “Dignited”. Facebook allows you to change your page name if less than 200 people like your Page, and you’re an admin or editor from your page settings. For us, we had more than 200 likes, so this wasn’t an option. If 200 or more people like your Page, and you’re an admin, you may be able to submit a request to change. However, remember that if your request is approved, you won’t be able to change your Page’s name again. Also Facebook allows you to change your page url, however, note that you can only do this once.
The mistake we made is that we changed the page url to facebook.com/dignited, but at that time Facebook, wasn’t allowing requests to change the page name as long as you had more than 200 likes. We ended up with a “TechPost” facebook page with a facebook.com/dignited url that presented an inconsistent brand. Our solution was as hard as it was simple; delete the entire “TechPost” page to reclaim the facebook.com/dignited. This got us to lose the community we had built for months even though we tried to redirect them to the new page. We also lost content we had crunched for months on the page!
Twitter given its flexibility was easy on us. We could change the username, handle, email address whichever way we liked which is awesome.
Google and the SEO disaster
If you’re into digital publishing, your best friend and worst nightmare is Google depending on how you trade. A huge percentage of your readers discover our content through the search engines. However, that only happens when the search engines know about you.
For us, rebranding was equivalent to starting from scratch when it came to dealing with Google.
We had to pull out techpost.ug from being indexed and submit dignited.com as the new domain. All previous content from techpost.ug had to be pulled down together with their search rankings and “new” content (it was the same really) from the new domain resubmitted.
First, we had to hustle to get Google to re-index the new website. That unbelievably took about 2 months which meant loss of traffic from the search engines.
Once we started being indexed again, to Google, our existent content was as good as new and even worse, unread. This meant we lost the page rankings of some great posts (over 200) that were ranking highly on the search engine and contributing a great amount of traffic to the site. Our page rank (an index out of 10 that shows how your rank on Google) shrunk from 3/10 to 0/10 which is still its current position. This number is not accurate since a website gets a pagerank after about 3 months from the time of being indexed( which time we’ve not yet hit). Judging from our backend analytics, our page rank isn’t that bad which is great news. An SEO audit using SERP Rank Check (we highly recommend it) gives us an SEO score of 80% which is excellent.
Even though we got screwed on Facebook and Google, we are really happy with the feedback we are getting from the readers. From the site design to the responsiveness on mobile and loading speeds that keep getting better. Google speed checker gives us 79% speed on mobile and 86% on Desktop while the mobile user experience is at 99%.
It will still take some time before our rebranding efforts yield some tangible fruit. For our engaged community, we’ll continue optimizing the site for mobile and speed and most importantly deliver timely, original and authentic content. For the brands that wish to work with us, we’ll continue to make Dignited the single most compelling platform to reach a Tech audience in Africa and for the algorithms, we’ll brew the code.
That’s it folks, hope you got you learn from our mistakes. We shall be sharing more as we go along. For now, keep the feedback coming.