How is your company’s Online Health?
If you have not taken a look at your business listings and search engine visibility in the past six months, set a few hours aside to perform an online self-exam.
Why is an online self-exam important? Imagine an outdated business description being found by prospective customers. Are your products or services up to date? Have you refined or added to your business services? Are contact details accurate? Is your address spelled correctly?
My first step in what I call the ‘discovery’ process prior to a new business consultation is to go to three major search engines and perform some due diligence. I review the sponsored links, I count all the links in which the business name might appear, I take stock of page density, peruse industry directories, look for yellow page ads, and how many other thriving websites your name may appear on. In my work, I am solicited by international companies trying to sell me advertising, partner with me, share website links, and confirm ‘free listings’ in directories I have not yet heard of. I also subscribe to an excellent online business service that automatically placed my website link on hundreds of sites out in cyberspace, many of which I have yet to scrutinize.
Like many other very small companies, my own listings are the LAST ones I research. For many of the local small businesses I contract, I also look at what the competition might be using to get a leg up in the listings. If you have a lazy Sunday afternoon, do yourself a favor and see if your business listings are accurate and up-to-date.
Finding Yourself: The Process
STEP 1: Type in your company name in Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL search. Follow all the links, notice how many listings appearing on each page, and how many pages in which you can find yourself.
STEP 2: Type in the industry or service + your local area, region, county or town (i.e. “northeastern connecticut”, “central massachusetts”, “new england”, “downtown Boston”). Will all your competitors appear before you? Do you show up at all? You may want to rewrite your website page titles or descriptions.
STEP 3: Type in your website address (URL) in Google or any other major search engine service – then review all the links that appear. Are there any dead links, obsolete pages, incorrect entries? How many pages of links do you dominate? This morning I discovered an entry created for me in a website designer business directory. For the most part this listing was accurate, however the word “tiny” had been substituted for the word “small” in the phrase “small business website specialist”, making me a “tiny business website specialist. I found no photo, no logo, a misspelled street name, incomplete profiles and descriptions of services, and an opportunity to add nice details for a reciprocal link on my website. I claimed this ad and it is now being reviewed.
STEP 4: Look at the websites of your closest competition. Do the pages load in quickly? Are there any dead pages or graphics that fail to appear? How does your website performance measure up? Pay attention to the page titles displayed in the top of the browser on the competition versus your own website. If the competing websites are real class acts with current social media posts, you may need to rethink your online marketing plan.
Help on the Way
Search engines vary in the number of characters or words allowed in titles and descriptions in your web pages. Testing the copy in various analysis services is a must. Most research and discovery sessions to evaluate business/website visibility will take between three and six hours. Corrections to website copy must be published and tested. Often times, the findings require the client to roll up sleeves and claim free listings to update or correct on his own behalf. A client that expects a hands-off approach to his online presence is setting himself up for failure. The internet is 20 years old, and ignorance of computer operation can no longer excuse you. Consider hiring a third party to take appropriate action in commercial directories and/or social media resources.