Bottom line for any individual, business or institution working with or reporting to the public is that an internet presence is necessary for survival.
The reasons are very simple:
- As of June 2012, according to InternetWorldStats, 78% of US residents have access to a computer.
- As of 2013, 56% of those same residents, according to Nielson, use smartphones to access the internet – up from 31% two years ago.
- Also according to Nielson, 33% use eReaders and tablets.
Beyond collective activity at social and media sites on any given day, people have come to rely on the Internet in the same way we used to rely on the Yellow Pages and our local newspapers.
Stop and think about how you use the internet for minute, then imagine its importance to your business brand.
|PEOPLE USE THE INTERNET TO:|
Cautionary tales abound about the importance of managing one’s Internet image and identity.
When left unattended, one’s brand on the internet can be damaged seriously by a single bad review, a letter to the editor, and/or ruthless competitor sponsored search ad tactics.
From a marketing perspective, following a couple of basic rules is all that is really required for any business to control its own identity.
Rule Number 1 is to Own Your Brand Across as Many Channels as Possible
“Googling” oneself is no longer a vanity exercise, but a neccessary personal and business practice. The first few items displayed for a person or company in the organic SERPs at Google, Yahoo or Bing can mean life or death from a business perspective.
Neither Google nor Bing – the top two search engines – permits direct control of one’s SERPs, but one can fairly take solid control at other sites that the search engines use to generate SERP listings.
In addition to creating a branded website and establishing accounts at popular social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, YouTube, and Pinterest, business sites like Google+, LinkedIn, BBB.com, Yelp, HealthGrades.com, Realtor.com, IMDB.com, and so forth are good places to start.
The best way to identify additional sites important to your brand is to run searches related to your name and your professional category.
SERPs vary by the words used to run the search. The exact name of a physician, for example, might produce a list of HealthGrade or Yelp links, whereas typing “doctor referral” may produce a list of local hospitals or insurance websites.
Best results are like those for the veterinarian who successfully treated my dog for cancer last year. The procedure was expensive, so finding a trustworthy vet was important to me for the sake of my dog and my financial well-being.
I chose the vet based on a combination of her Yelp reviews and the info posted at the website for her pet clinic.
To test my point for this article, I ran two types of searches: one for the doctor’s name, the other for “Burbank veterinarians,” Burbank being the city where her office is located.
In both instances, the vet’s presence was strong and consistent. Her clinic website showed at the top for her professional name, and was second in line for vets in her area. Her Yelp reviews also showed up, along with a few listings for her at referral sites.
Once you’ve identified places where you should show up professionally, set up accounts at the relevant sites, publish your business contact info, and post as much positive, truthful information about yourself as time allows. Graphical logos and photos also help.
Rule Number 2 is to Own Your Brand in Sponsored Search Advertising
On a different level, owning your brand in the sponsored search ad sector plays an important role in your brand’s ability to compete.
Business listings can post organically at multiple levels on Google and Bing – by geography, by category, by product (if an online catalog exists) and by brand.
However, the top left and right sidebar areas of both engines contain sponsored ads linked to purchased keywords.
Competitors will and do purchase keywords of other company names to post ads and thus attempt to steal competitor branded traffic.
The best way to counter such mercenary practices is to buy one’s own branded words in as many iterations as possible, and to pay the highest PPC bid required to hold on to top positioning.
If your personal name is well known in relation to the brand, purchase keywords for your own full name, too.
Good examples of purchased brand keywords are:
- Brand / Company name
- Brand / Company name misspelled
- Brand / Company + product / service
- Brand / Company + product / service category
- All of the above with qualifiers like “price,” “buy,” “new” etc.
Conversion on branded keywords, when linked to the actual brand, can convert at ten times the rate of non-branded keywords.
Owning your branded keywords also adds an air of legitimacy and viability to your business.