When you need to find a new hair salon or hire a plumber or book a caterer for your wedding, how do you do it? Chances are, you do what most people do and head to Google.
What happens when you Google your company name? If the first page of Google includes negative reviews, links to your competitors’ websites, and irrelevant information that has nothing to do with your business, you’re essentially sending customers away. You need to “own” your brand’s search engine results, so that when someone searches for you, they find your website, your social networks, and good reviews about your products or services.
There’s no definitive way to actually own your brand’s search results – i.e. to ensure that your site appears on the first page when someone searches for your business name on Google or any other search engine. Any search engine optimization (SEO) company who promises they can do this is lying to you. However, you can “own” these search results in the sense that you can put a few tips in place to make it very likely that you’ll rank high when someone searches for your brand’s name on Google.
Start with creating a website if you don’t have one already.
Your URL should be as close to your company’s name as possible, and a .com, rather than a .net or other extension. Make sure you add some content to this site, including an about page and contact information, and sprinkle the name of your company within this text on your website.
You probably already have a website, so what can you do to make it even stronger? First, link your name to other places online where your business is mentioned, like Yelp. Make sure that you’re directing people from third-party sites to your own website, because this also helps Google understand the connection. You essentially want to tell Google, “Hey, this is information about my company, but my main site is somewhere else.”
Consider starting a blog on your company site. Blogs are not online diaries, as some people may think. In fact, what you’re reading right now is a blog. They are simply a way to post information regularly in an organized manner. For example, if you own a restaurant, you might post your weekly specials, information about drink deals, and even fun recipes that people can try at home. Google likes websites that are updated often, and a blog gives you a way to do this.
Next, sign up for social networks, again, using a name that is as close to your business name as possible.
Use the same name across all networks if you can, which is helpful for brand recognition. It also helps to use the same profile picture for your business across all networks.
Even if you think you don’t have time to use them, start claiming your name so they appear in Google’s search engine results. Fill out the bio information with a little about your business and, if nothing else, a link back to your main website. Again, this tells Google that there’s a connection.
Once you have your website and social networks set up, it’s time to start building a web presence. You want your name out there in conjunction with your industry as much as possible so that when someone searches for “Harvey’s Cupcakes” they don’t get a few links to your website/social networks and then a bunch of links to irrelevant pages, like pictures of some kid named Harvey who had cupcakes at his birthday party. Here are some of the best ways to build your web presence:
- Comment on other blogs in your industry. Leave meaningful comments, and always remember to link back to your own site. This tactic doesn’t typically drive tons of traffic, but it does allow you to show up on Google. Keep in mind that some bloggers don’t like it if you comment as “Fun in the Sun Tanning Salon” instead of a name because it looks like spam. Instead, comment as “Jane from Fun in the Sun Tanning Salon.”
- Get mentioned by others online. Do interviews (HARO is a good place to find opportunities), offer guest posts, and write blog posts that incite debate.
- Start creating YouTube videos. This one takes a little more effort, but since Google owns YouTube, it can bring you a lot of search engine traffic if you create a channel there. Google loves showing videos in search results.
- Mention your presence on review sites. Most sites like Yelp discourage asking for reviews, but you should mention that you’re on these sites so that customers take a minute to leave a review. Sites like Yelp have a lot of weight with Google, so they’re likely to show up on the first page.
Google doesn’t change instantly, so give your efforts a few months to take effect. If you’re still not appearing on the first page when you type you name into Google, you may need to dig a little deeper to figure out why. This is where an online reputation management company or consultant can help you, though remember that anyone who promises results on Google is not telling you the whole truth, since no one can promise those results.
Some people devote their entire lives to search engine optimization, so this blog post is just scratching the surface. For most small business owners, scratching the surface is all that is needed. If you want to learn even more, talk to a reputable search engine professional about how you can turn Google into a lead generation magnetic.