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I have had the chance to help many companies successfully manage their PPC campaigns through rebranding. While similar to a site redesign, rebranding an entire site changes your processes in some key areas. In this post, I’d like to outline some best practices of transitioning paid search accounts from a legacy site to a new brand website. There are plenty more issues that could come up depending on your site or your brand’s situation, but the following tips should help guide you though the most common situations involved with running PPC through a rebranding.

1. Timeline & Expectations

It’s important to get a good sense of the rebranding timeline. Some extremely complicated PPC campaigns no doubt took a while to build out, and you won’t be able to use exactly the same PPC account structure you currently have in place. Make sure you know how much time you have and schedule your work appropriately.

While first discussing the project, find time to address the implications of rebranding from a search marketing perspective. Will the client get the same results? How long will it take to build out the campaign? How long will it take to meet or exceed ROI of the old campaign? Discussing these points now will help temper expectations throughout the process, which can be all things from exciting to stressful.

2. New Accounts or Old?

This will often depend on the state of the old accounts. If your AdWords quality score is looking healthy and the legacy site will be coming down and redirected completely, then you can use your old accounts and transition everything over as the new site goes live. When using legacy accounts, I would recommend creating an annotation in your Google Analytics account to ensure everyone involved is on the same page and can easily understand where the transition happened. Keeping the same account also makes it very easy to compare any old data vs. new data in analytics.

If the legacy site will stay active, however, but your quality scores and other AdWords factors are looking good, I would recommend creating a new Analytics account. Once you create a new analytics account you can simply link your existing AdWords account to the new analytics account and not skip a beat.

Finally, if the legacy site is staying live, and your current AdWords account can be described as woeful, then I highly recommend creating new AdWords, Bing and Google Analytics account. In this scenario, creating new accounts also means you’ll have a nice, tidy place for all of your legacy data to be stored for future reference.

3. Use Your Old Work

Depending on the architecture of the new site, you may be able to salvage certain pieces of your previous PPC accounts. Leverage your old PPC account wherever it makes immediate sense. Your destination URLs will all need to be changed, and there may be some keywords or ad groups that will need to be added or subtracted, but borrowing from your earlier efforts can help you work smoothly within the timeline you’re given.

Transitioning old accounts to new accounts is easier than ever through AdWords Editor and Microsoft’s adCenter Editor. I recommend making all changes and additions in your new AdWords account, and then exporting the final product to a .csv from AdWords Editor. It’s then easy to upload that file to adCenter through Microsoft’s editor. Through this process, you’ll have a perfect correspondence between your new accounts. This correspondence will all change once new metrics begin to pour into each account, but it will be easy to trace back to where you started.

It’s also important to make note of any key differences between your current AdWords and adCenter accounts. Some keywords or perform better in adCenter than in AdWords.  Make sure to keep tabs on these areas and leverage them as it seems necessary.

4. New Opportunities

Sometimes a new brand will also mean new products or services. Make sure to do your due diligence to research and understand these new markets. Consult with all parties involved and see if these new opportunities are opportunities they are interested in pursuing through paid search. If these will have any foreseeable impacts on projected campaign budget, share this information immediately.

5. Bid on the Old Brand

One tactic to help orient your existing audience to the new brand is to use PPC to bid on the legacy brand’s branded keywords. In your ads, I’d suggest using an approach like, “Looking for X? X is Now Y!” This style of ad can help people make the connection between the two brand identities and this tactic can be particularly helpful if the legacy site or sites have been redirected to the new brand’s website.

Once the new brand is firmly in the market, you may see a decline in the amount of the now defunct brand’s search traffic. I would suggest keeping this campaign intact even so, just as long as your target metrics for the legacy brand stay in the range you are looking for.

6. Calls to Action

Often (though not every time), a new site will be an improvement on the past. You should always be aware of any new call to action – there may be more conversion points within the new site than in the legacy site. Perhaps there was once only a contact page whereas now there is a contact page, a free quote, a newsletter signup, a whitepaper download, etc. Make sure all of these points are accounted for in your analytics account. If you can’t attribute a conversion to your PPC efforts, your ongoing optimizations will probably not be as successful as they could be and your hard work may not get the credit it deserves.

7. Conversion Paths & URLs

This goes for any site launch, but you will always want to make sure that all conversion paths work and you should always confirm that any tracking code is properly implemented on every necessary page before launch. Don’t distrust your development team, but this is always the PPC manager’s responsibility to double check that all necessary coding is in place. If you can’t track and attribute a conversion to your efforts, then it might as well not have happened.

Also, much like any new site launch, you’ll need to ensure all URLs are functioning correctly. A lot can happen during site development, so make sure you take some time out before you launch your new accounts to confirm that all the pages to which you’re sending traffic are working well, loading quickly, and resolve properly.

8. New Ads

Sometimes the messaging of the new brand and old brand coincide, other times they won’t. Perhaps the new site offers free shipping. Use this, as it’s a powerful value-add to test in your ad copy. In the case of new conversion points, test them – maybe a simple request for contact will work better than request for quote, or vice versa. Perhaps the old site had a 30 day money back guarantee that didn’t make the jump to the new site. Make sure this messaging is not included in ads moving forward.

Additionally, assuming you have leveraged your past work, comb over your ads to ensure that the legacy branding isn’t part of your new marketing message. A brand faux pas can mislead or confuse your consumer and should probably be avoided.

9. Bidding Strategies

If you change your URLs you’ll get new quality scores, if you get a new account you’ll get new quality scores. For these reasons, you may have to bid a bit higher on many of your keywords just make sure you achieve a similar position to what you were achieving with the legacy site’s accounts. I have raised my bids by 10-20%, generally, and start to adjust bids based off of the new account metrics as they accrue.

Another thing you may see with a new site is that it (fingers crossed) converts better!  Don’t rely off of your old data that led you to delete or pause certain keywords. Several times I have found that the poor performing keywords of the past suddenly become excellent performing keywords in their new environment. You may also find, as I have, that some of your top performing keywords from your legacy accounts haven’t quite made the jump. It’s hard not to be guided by the past, but follow the new data as it comes in and work with it to make the best decisions in the new marketing climate you’ve entered.

10. Data Analysis

Perhaps most importantly, make sure to monitor conversion and engagement rates of the old site vs. the new site. Many clients and companies will expect an increase in conversions when they create a new website or a new brand. This will not always be the case, and will seldom be the case with an entire rebranding, especially in the first few months. Use your new data to tell the story to your client and to help guide down the path of next steps.

To Wrap Up

By following the guide I’ve laid out, you should be able to position a PPC campaign for success while achieving a company’s core rebranding goals. Starting with goals and a timeline, then ending with data analysis, is a solid way to run any online marketing initiative. It’s the details between the first and final steps that serve to differentiate a rebranding campaign from a standard PPC account build out. Focusing on the similarities and key differences between the two brand entities will help you launch your new marketing efforts while meeting your expectations.

This is a guest post by Nathan Pabich. Nathan is the Director of Paid Search at Digital Third Coast in Chicago, Illinois.  Nathan has been working in the search industry for the past 5 years, and was fortunate enough to be taught a thing or two early on from Brad Geddes.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Certified Knowledge. If you would like to write for Certified Knowledge, please let us know.

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