In 2018, we changed our brand from Zen Optimise to Tribe SEO. Of course, our domain name changed too. Moving from one domain to another is bit like moving house: it’s scary, emotional and it can cost you a lot of money.

It’s not something you want to do regularly—and we did it twice in nine months!

But before I share the impact this had on our SEO (hint: it wasn’t good!), I’ll explain why we felt the need for a change and the lessons we learnt.

No One Actually Wants a “One Size Fits All” Solution

For five years, we were known as Zen Optimise. In that time, I clocked up over 10,000 hours teaching folks face-to-face about SEO. I loved it—and we got many glowing reviews—but something didn’t feel right and for a long time, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Then it clicked. The in-person SEO training that I was providing wasn’t very personal.

With a bunch of people gathered into a room, I had to aim the content at the average person. And this didn’t feel personal at all.

Even the one-to-one training I provided didn’t feel quite right. The course structure had been designed for the average person—and while I could deviate, I felt it wasn’t enough.

Here’s the important thing about SEO: being average just doesn’t cut it. You need to be the best and that starts with being truly relevant.

Now, what if a web developer wants to learn SEO? Or a copywriter? Or a CEO? What does a relevant course for them look like?

One designed for everyone? Or one designed specifically for their job role?

This got me thinking. I began to wonder how an educator, especially an SEO training provider, could become more relevant.

Providing the Minimum Effective Dose

To be truly relevant, we need to figure out what’s essential for our students on a person-by-person basis —whether they’re a copywriter, marketer, developer or CEO—and eliminate (or at least defer) what isn’t.

The next step is to build a system to make the execution of SEO as effortless as possible.

Tim Ferris popularised the concept of the ‘minimum effective dose’: the smallest dose that will produce a specific outcome. For example, in his 4-Hour Work Week book, he shares that:

“To boil water, the minimum effective dose is 100 degrees Celsius at standard air pressure. Boiled is boiled. Higher temperatures will not make it “more boiled.” Higher temperatures just consume more resources that could be used for something else more productive.”

So, by providing the minimum effective dose for SEO, each student efficiently learns the essentials to get the desired result they want:

  • A copywriter gets their content read by people and search engines alike.
  • A web developer creates beautiful code that is search engine friendly.
  • A CEO can see that SEO is being done right and is contributing to the growth of the business.

However, in a classroom environment, serving the minimal effective dose of SEO is tricky, because not everyone’s requirements are the same. Some may want to study SEO in-depth and for a day, two days or more at a time—but many will not.

That’s why we switched our focus from offering in-person SEO training to online-first SEO training. That way, you can select the modules and courses most relevant to you, and learn SEO at your own pace.

Being online-first is great for teams too: developers can focus on the technical side, copywriters or social media experts can specialise in content, and managers can reassure themselves that the SEO is being done right.

It’s also easier for us to keep our courses up-to-date—but more importantly, it’s easier for you to stay up-to-date. And as search engines rely on artificial intelligence more, there’s an increasing need to keep up with their ever-changing algorithms.

So, is there a place for in-person SEO training still? Absolutely—and after we’ve set up all our online-first SEO courses, we plan to restart face-to-face SEO training too.

And now for the rebrand…

All About Our Rebrand(s)—and the Impact!

Providing the minimal effective dose for SEO required a complete rethink. We wanted to be seen as SEO focused, relevant and delivering the essentials for SEO, fast!

And so we re-branded to Learn SEO Fast. It was January 12th 2018, exactly a year to the day that I publish this post—and I cautiously pushed the switch to change our domain from zenoptimise.com to learnseofast.com.

It was meticulous planned. We’d set up page level redirects, told Google Search Console about the name change and done everything else required for a smooth domain migration.

Except, everything didn’t go smoothly. In fact, things went drastically wrong! Page one rankings for terms like ‘seo courses’—that had taken years to build up—vanished overnight.

There were a lot of restless nights for the days and weeks that followed, as I agonised over what could have gone wrong.

Then two months later, key rankings started to pop up on the second page of Google—one after another. It was the progress we needed.

We had to wait six more months, though, before they appeared back on the first page of Google—which coincided with an even bigger gamble…

We’d rebrand and change our domain again!

We felt Learn SEO Fast was a great name. But it didn’t feel like a brand name, so it became the name of our signature SEO course instead.

In October 2018, I flipped the switch, redirected the Google train and migrated from Learn SEO Fast to Tribe SEO. And guess what happened?

Another two months of despair! I couldn’t believe it. Rankings fell off a cliff again—and this time it felt more personal. It was worse than before and, for a time, it didn’t feel like there was even a glimmer of hope.

But finally, just before Christmas, rankings started to improve. We’re now on the second and third page for many important keywords. We’re trending in the right direction but still have some way to go to regain the rankings we once had a year ago today.

So, if this happened twice, firstly, is this typical with re-branding and domain migrations? And secondly, why did it happen to us?

No, it’s not typical. I have been involved in dozens of migrations and when carefully planned, you typically expect a small drop-off in traffic in the short term. This is because search engines de-index the old site, re-index the new one and then pass all or nearly all of the reputation built up from the previous site to the new one.

So, why did this happen to us, twice?

“Generational cruft: there is never a new site when there’s history.”

Dawn Anderson put together some fantastic slides on the generational cruft in SEO. It concludes “there is never a ‘new site’ when there is history” and there lies what I believe to be the route of the problem.

The domains tribeseo.com and learnseofast.com had both previously existed for a number of years. Neither had bad backlinks as such, but the former was parked on a domain auction site, and the latter had filler “Lorem Ipsum” text. So, it seemed like Google sandboxed or filtered our two newly re-branded domains (Learn SEO Fast and Tribe SEO), for an inspection period.

Although this is hard to prove, this was likely due to historical cruft that was associated with the ‘new’ domains. They may have felt new to us, but Google knew they had previous histories and both sites needed to re-prove themselves.

So, what can we learn from this?

  • Lesson #1: Only change a domain name when you are absolutely sure—and definitely not twice in a short space of time like we did!
  • Lesson #2: Transferring to a domain with no history will likely simplify and speed up the migration process.
  • Lesson #3: If you have correctly migrated to a previously used domain and notice a significant drop in traffic, your site may have been caught up in an inspection period that you need to ride out.

What You Can Expect from Tribe SEO

We’ll soon be launching our Learn SEO Fast course, which will cover all the essentials needed for SEO success. If you hop over to our upcoming SEO courses, you’ll see that that you’ll soon be able to personalise what parts of SEO you wish to learn.

We’ll be adding a community aspect to the course too, so you can share your experiences and learn from fellow Tribers who are studying SEO alongside you. And, we’ll be posting more frequently on this blog too.

To hear about the Learn SEO Fast course as soon as it launches, make sure you’re get on the waitlist.