Company name changes happen all the time. In the unwired world, there are lots of cost associated with it: legal costs, informing customers & authorities, rebranding buildings, full page ads in newspapers and magazines and so on and so on. Today, however, I'll address a much ignored but important aspect of name changes: the Internet presence.
For some reason, many companies seem to underestimate the value of an existing internet domain name (both for website(s) and email), and I have seen many variants of how to deal with the renaming process, so I thought I'd write down some thoughts on how I think it should be done...
Once upon a time, in 1995, the University of Trondheim (UniT), Norway, was rebranded to Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU). They immediately registered the domain name ntnu.no, and started setting up new sub-domain names (where there used to be stud.unit.no for students, stud.ntnu.no was introduced). None of this is revolutionary. What they did very right however, and this applies particularly in the academic world of long publication times and so on, was that they maintained all old email addresses and websites on the old domain names for many many years (as far as I can gather; my old stud.unit.no- address was available at least 5 years after the name change, and mail to it is still bouncing with a "please use ...@stud.ntnu.no-message).
In the consulting world, many of the giant actors have been rebranded recently. Andersen Consulting (AC) became Accenture, PwC Consulting was rebranded to Monday and then bought by IBM. Such rebranding operations are not undertaken easily, but what surprised me in the first case was that if you now try to access the old URL www.ac.com, there's nothing there - not a page informing about the name change, no redirect, nothing... If you try to email people @ac.com, your mail will bounce. They only maintained email addresses on the old domain for a few months; bouncing automatic "our company name has changed"-messages to anyone emailing to them. Now, there may be legal limitations I'm not aware of in this particular case, but in general I'm much more in favour of the NTNU option described above: "backwards compatibility" for a loong time!
So - if you're working for a small or large company or just maintain a website about to change name; how can you ensure that people will still find you after the change? A few tips and thoughts:
In this article, I haven't addressed other relevant topics, like search engine submissions, directory submissions etc. These are obviously also important to keep in mind, but by choosing the redirect option mentioned above, many search engines will already find you automatically, and you will retain users who just remember your old URL!
Additions? Comments? Corrections? Disagreements? Experiences? Examples? Write a comment!
Anders Jacobsen |