We live in a world where our doctors use Google to find the name of the medication they are about to prescribe to us – or check how to spell the medication. You get the idea. We joke that today’s students all graduate from the University of Google as the search engine has become their library, laboratory, archive, document storage and their primary tool.
Google’s search engine has become a household name. It’s our Rolodex and our yellow pages, our driving directions and spell check. No matter how many times I’ve gone to my hairdresser I still don’t remember the exact street the salon is located on so I enter the salon’s name in Google to quickly assure that I am on the right street when I walk to get my hair done.
What amazes me is that businesses are still in denial that their customers enter their company name in the search engine way more often than they actually call them. In fact, 9 out of 10 times, Googling your business name is how they find your phone number.
Recently, I consulted a firm seeking a rebranding initiative. They had selected their new brand name, paid top dollar for a premium domain (in the 7 figures) and were looking for advice on marketing and advertising their newly established entity online. For the purposes of this anecdote, let’s call them XYZ Brand – they wanted to reposition themselves in a highly competitive niche business in a very local market. Amazingly, they never even searched to see if there is another business carrying a similar name. To my surprise when I brought to their attention another business named MyXYZ Brand who was currently operating in the same market and providing very similar services, they just shrugged it off – ‘ah, what’s the big deal, since our domain is XYZ.com and THEIR domain is MYXYZ.com’? They truly believed that since most of their business would come from referrals and print advertising, that people would go to their new website solely for more info and rely on people or print ads to find their phone number. It simply never occurred to this business owner that the world doesn’t work that way anymore. Somehow this business owner believed that somehow these new laws of digital information gathering do not apply to them.
Question: When was the last time you actually used a pen and wrote down a phone number of a business that someone recommended to you? Today’s ‘notebook’ is a Google search and a bookmarked webpage on a smartphone.
The reality is that a very small (minuscule) percentage of new customers will actually write down the number of “that guy from XYZ Brand”. They will search for XYZ Brand on Google. And this is where the brand confusion issue applies in this scenario. When faced with two similar company names in the search results: xyz.com and myxyz.com, the consumer will be confused – and likely click on both to determine which is the company that they were looking for. In this case, MYXYZ having already being an established brand and entity already dominates Google search results with their social media profiles and other digital assets. Hence, the consumer will see this company first – and XYZ Brand will potentially lose the business.
So, here is a checklist of things to consider before starting a new business:
- Google your desired business name /keyword BEFORE you buy the URL. Chances are that someone before you already owns it or has some historical activity with that name. You may find traces of information and content such as social media accounts, closed business listings, articles, mentions, etc. Take a moment to determine if these historical listings can in any shape of form be confused with or damaging to your future business.
- Check out the social media channels. If your desired business name is already taken and active on Twitter don’t assume that your consumers will know the difference and will be able to track down your new and cleverer Twitter handle that resembles your brand name (because almost every word on twitter is taken).
- Make sure the domain you acquired does not have negative history with Google. I always use WayBackmachine when evaluating a potential domain purchase. In a recent instance, I discovered that a certain domain was once used for porn and was blacklisted on Google. This discovery saved my client the potential headache of dealing in damaged goods.
When you already own a business and you offer your services at a physical location:
- Google your business name. Make sure that your COMPLETE and ACCURATE PHYSICALL ADDRESS is listed in Google’s Local Listings. I cannot stress enough how many times I see that a suite number is missing or a phone number is incorrect. It is almost guaranteed that this will be the source of info that your potential customers are going rely on and share when referring your business.
- Google your business name on your mobile device. Fact: the majority of your customers and potential customers will look you up on their mobile phones, not on their computers.
- Check if your website is mobile friendly. If it’s not, anyone who goes to your mobile site will be pissed. There is nothing that sets a bad brand experience more than a lousy mobile web experience. Plus, if your site is not mobile optimized, Google will penalize you and remove your search rankings. So, this is key. If you do not have a mobile site, hire a professional who can create one for you.
- Make sure your Social Media properties are discoverable. If you have social media accounts that are NOT appearing in Google searches for your name, do not expect your customers to go and search for them on your website. They won’t.
- Check your online reviews. If your business has low ratings on review sites and these ratings rank on the first page, 87% of your potential customers won’t do any business with you.