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I have a website and would like to rebrand. I have owned the new domain for about 2 years now and I do have about 40 inbound links from my clients that currently link to the old site. When going live with the new website I will of course 301 the old domain to new domain but (how) should I change those inbound links?

My options are:

  1. keep old links and text and let the 301 do the magic
  2. change all the links on my clients pages (I do have access and am allowed to do so) to the new domain
  3. change all the links and also set new texts

What is the best option SEO wise? Is there a difference at all? When setting new texts should I vary or always use the same (I heard the first option is better?).

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3 Answers 3

I am assuming that you are, in effect, abandoning the old domain whether the old domain disappears or not, I am assuming that you prefer the new domain over the old domain. I am working with this assumption.

I am always in favor of taking a bit of pain to create a clean site/scenario. Otherwise you end up with compromises that complicate things for the future.

Having said that, and since you have access to change the inbound links of importance, I would recommend changing the links to point to the new domain and take advantage of your most important keywords to help focus and vary the use of your keywords.

Here is what I mean. Take 2-3 of your most important keywords for your site and use them within the link text. Also take 2-3 of your most important keywords for each page you link to and also use them within the link text. It may be that these are the same if your links all point to the same page. If at all possible, create links to various pages on your site. Vary the links to use the most important keywords for each page (not forgetting the site keywords). This does three things; one- it passes juice to several pages, two- it helps to create importance for your site, and three- it expands the keywords that can drive traffic. Because Google (at least) views a sites importance by how it is linked to, home page only vs. deep links and keywords used, the opportunity to link to other pages helps drive Google's view of importance. Something to consider.

While 301 redirects can pass link juice, there is a 10-15% loss in the process. As well, a link to the older site vs. the new site, does little to support the new site in the future. If you decide to delete the old domain, you will still have to redo the links anyway, so why not get it over with?

Sometimes, the best advice is to take any pain now and get it over with if it is better for the future, makes a cleaner site, and makes a better and more manageable scenario. Based upon how I read your question, I recommend to take the pain now and if at all possible expand how you link to your future site. You have a unique opportunity that not many people see everyday. You should take advantage of it if you could.

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If I were you, after going live with your new site, I would change links from client sites to your new site. If you just apply a 301 redirect from your old site and that's all, you lose a little bit SEO value. For anchor text of these links, the best option would be to choose your brand name. No matters if all anchor texts are the same if it refers to your new brand name.

Procedure to follow:

  1. Going live with your new site
  2. Change links from your client sites to your new site (your new brand name as anchor text)
  3. Apply 301 redirects from all your old URLs to all your new URLs (for backlinks from other sites than client ones)
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301ing will allow you to keep all traffic whilst the search engines re-index, so that is the most important to do. This should be on all pages, not just any that have links.

Personally, I think Option 2 would make for a good signal that the links are still relevant (not, for example, someone buying and 301ing a site just for page rank). However, Google claimed recently that this is not the case : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Filv4pP-1nw

That said, such things are always in flux and I certainly can't see a time when a 301 does better than a normal link and so, if you have the time to do so, I think it is worth changing the off-site links too.

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