With marriage equality finally legal across the United States, the time has come to take a harder look at the language of the wedding industry. But as WeddingWire Education Expert and Publisher of GayWeddings.com points out, inclusive language is important because it’s part of a larger trend that recognizes the role that both parts of the engaged couple – gay or straight – plays in planning a wedding, not just one partner. No matter what your feelings are on marriage equality, each time you use “bride” instead of “couple,” you’re potentially shutting out key clients who may be the decision-makers. And because most couples are primarily researching online, your website, online listings, or social networks could be the first (and only) impression that prospective clients have of your business.
It may seem daunting, but updating your language in your marketing materials and on your website to be inclusive can be done. In 2014, WeddingWire underwent a major rebrand for our annual awards program, previously known as the Bride’s Choice Awards. We updated the program name to WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®, which is representative and inclusive of all types of couples who submit the reviews that qualify each business. Our hope was to make gay couples feel more included in our brand, but also to make sure that any groom wouldn’t feel neglected or brushed aside by word choice.
From an SEO perspective, the biggest challenge lies in updating your online presence (organic and paid), which is no small feat in today’s world. If you’re an experienced wedding professional, you’ve likely spent years building up your search presence – so it’s important to keep your authority and rankings intact. For those considering a #BridalRebrand, follow these steps to adequately address all the SEO concerns that come with changing your company name, products, or website content.
Conducting keyword research
Your search rankings are likely built upon certain wedding industry keywords that you hold dear. However, most ‘bridal’ keywords have inclusive counterparts that make updating simple. Use the Google AdWords Keyword Planner to suggest alternative keywords for each word or phrase you want to replace. Here’s a cheat sheet with some of the terms that have the biggest impact in making all couples feel included. If you want to transition your language more slowly or offer a variety of terms, you can also add inclusive terms to your website, listings, and other materials and phase out the old keywords more slowly. Learn more about where to start and how to update in our infographic with inclusivity do’s and don’ts from Kathryn Hamm.
Updating your content
Once you’ve decided which keywords you’d like to update within your site content, it’s time to make the updates. Some may be obvious, like your page titles and paragraph text. But don’t forget to update the keywords in your page URLs, the alt text of your images, and the meta titles and descriptions for those pages you’ve been updated. All of these are vital for search ranking, plus they’ll be consistent for any visitors to your site. You should also consider the diversity of your website images as well – if all your images are of straight couples or only brides, it can be off-putting for same-sex couples who visit your website. If you haven’t served any same-sex couples yet so you lack the imagery, consider buying stock photos or simply updating the photos to be general wedding images of your area of expertise: a close up of a bouquet, photos of guests dancing, venue photos, etc.
Building on a new domain name
If your business name includes bridal keywords, you’ll also need to consider your domain name when you rebrand. As long as you redirect visitors from your old website to your new domain, you won’t lose the authority you’ve built up over time. Before re-launching, make a spreadsheet of all the URLs on your current site so you can point them all to the correct corresponding page on the new site. As you build your website on your new domain, match up the pages in your spreadsheet. Have your webmaster enter the pages on your old domain as 301 redirects to send them to the right page on the new domain. This will make it so search engines can still find your new pages, and you won’t have to worry about visitors getting lost along the way!
Changing your social networks
You’ll also have to consider your social media presence across all your social networks. If you’re simply updating your language, be sure to make those updates on your social accounts – in the About section, in your photo captions, and in your posts. Think about the imagery on your social accounts in the same way you think about the images on your website to make sure you’re not driving anyone away because they don’t feel comfortable. If you’ve rebranded your company name, make the same update to your page name on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more. Keep in mind that most networks only allow you to change your name and URL once, so make sure you are certain about your update prior to making the change.
Of course, there are wedding pros who don’t need an entire #BridalRebrand – like bridal shops who truly cater specifically to brides – but be aware that the language you use in person and in your online presence has an effect on prospective clients. The word “bride” isn’t a bad word, but don’t forget about grooms! The goal is to make everyone feel comfortable, so be more thoughtful as you interact with all engaged couples.
For more expert tips and advice on being more inclusive, check out all the posts in the #BridalRebrand series.