Rebranding: How HomeAdvisor Quickly Recovered In Search Engine Ranking, Paid Search

HomeAdvisor has rebranded from ServiceMagic, and redesigned the Web site to focus more closely on services related to home improvements. This migration took skill and patience. It's probably one of the more tactical and successful conversions. While the company conducted research to ensure that the new name would resonate with customers, it took a little more work to guarantee that it didn't lose its place in search engine rankings and conversions.

Changing the 13-year-old name, ServiceMagic, proved risky. The site had more than 10 million content pages associated with the Web site and more than five million unique visitors monthly. A decrease in Web site traffic could seriously affect the company's revenue. Search engine marketing has long been a vital part of its strategy. In fact, the company is the third-largest spender of paid-search ads in the home improvement category.



It took a lot of work to plan early for all three phases of the process -- before, during, and after. The transition began in October 2012, but ran through January 2014. A full recovery for paid-search campaigns occurred in April 2013; and SEO, more recently.

Initially, the move caused havoc for the brand. Ranking performance dipped as much as 20% in aggregate customer acquisitions, according to Brandon Ridenour, chief technical officer at HomeAdvisor. Some ads didn't rank or serve up at all. "We recognized there would be a cost in switching the brand's name, so we weren't surprised, but it was shorter-lived than expected by working with Google," he said.

Since the performance for paid-search campaigns on Google's engine depends partly on account and domain history, switching the brand name from one to another put the site at risk. Aside from the company losing its position in search rankings, it caused costs per click on most words to rise, and sometimes the exact keywords that once ranked well didn't serve up at all.

Challenges on Bing were not as significant. Diana Boyles, director of digital marketing at HomeAdvisor, believes that's because Bing doesn't put as much emphasis on account history.

A six- to-nine-month expected recovery on Google turned into three months because the company followed these best practices.

1)     Plan for the effects on organic search, and use paid search to overcome them

2)     Migrate top-performing keywords first

3)     Test up front to determine the best-performing keywords

4)     Slowly port content from one domain to another, rather than all at once

The results on Google:

1)     24% more clicks

2)     15% increase in click-through rate

3)     5% increased in conversions

Keywords containing the word "home" have higher click-through rates, but convert more poorly compared with pre-redesign days. Boyles attributes this to Google's rule related to relevance. The brand and domain name "HomeAdvisor" represents the keywords more closely, compared with the prior name, ServiceMagic. While the ads serve up more frequently and in higher positions, which lead to higher CTRs, the company does see less relevant clicks due to the prominence of ads in query results, which hurts the conversion rate. Seems like a catch 22.

Some of the keywords include home theater, installation, home inspectors, home appraisers, home window repair, home inspectors, build a home, and home repairs.

HomeAdvisor supports consumers by providing a list of home service professionals such as plumbers, painters, and remodeling experts. It offers references to about 80,000 professionals nationwide who have gone through background and criminal checks.

"Laying Tiles" photo from Shutterstock.

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