What if you had to change your company name and URL and hope your customers would find you again? Here's how Formspring overcame its rebranding trouble.
Imagine if your business had to start from scratch--not due to a natural disaster or a fire, but from a rebranding that changed your Internet domain name. That's exactly what happened to Formstack, the form-building company that changed names in March 2010. After losing over 60 percent of its Web traffic, the company had to rebuild both business and brand-awareness.
Formstack started as Formspring, but the company had two lines of business. Once it launched the popular Formspring social media product, it found it served a different user base. Formstack, a more business-focused form building product, was left to rebrand to avoid confusion in the marketplace. This meant the company had make customers aware of the new name, the change, and the form-building offerings it had all over again.
Brian Carter, author of the The Like Economy, who is also a SEO consultant, said there are huge challenges when a company changes names online. "You have all these in-bound links, which are effectively votes for your pages from links on other sites," he says. "This is really underestimated by people. When you change the site you can lose that ranking. Imagine every one of your pages is like an address on the street, and suddenly the post office can’t find you anymore. There's no way to correlate the links unless you do a search-engine friendly redirect."
In Formstack's case, with the split of the companies, it was not able to use simple redirects, and was left to start over. In late fall of 2010, it found many of its customers were using the Formstack product to make simple landing pages, or creating forms to include in Web landing pages. (Landing pages are used to help create a lead, make a sale, or generate interest, according to the company).
When brainstorming something that would be useful and appealing to current as well as potential customers, Formstack commissioned an infographic about the perfect landing page, and launched it on December 13.
While infographics are cool, they're not the takeaway from this exercise. The business lesson, according to Formstack's PR and marketing specialist, Breena Fain, is: "The reason the graphic was so successful was that we concentrated less on our product and more on educating people. Our target is small businesses, and we wanted to provide something very useful to them.”
More than 100,000 people passed on the infographic via the StumbleUpon sharing network over the last year. (See this StumbleUpon blog post for some tips to use the site, or read How to use Social Bookmarking for Business). In addition to the stumbles, the graphic got more than 12,000 tweets and a similar amount of Facebook shares, and Web visits via search terms to the company's site grew to from 10,000 to more than 36,000 visits a month over a six-month period. The site also received more than 7,000 links to the info graphic, which helped it be found.
Carter, the SEO consultant, adds: "People share and link to interesting content because they want you think they are quality, smart people. Sometimes, stuff just looks good, but things are actually quality get shared and re-shared. This infographic was something everyone needs to know, presented in a very simple way, that looks good."
Remember, what you share doesn't have to be an infographic. If you can create a video, a white paper, or other useful item with your potential audience and get the word out, smart content will rise to the top, both in search results and in recognition.
HOWARD GREENSTEIN is a social media strategist and evangelist, and president of the Harbrooke Group, which specializes in helping companies communicate with their customers using the latest Web technologies. @HowardGr