When people search for you, what do they find?
If you run a small business or a non-profit organization, it’s important to do an internet search for the name of your program to find out what people will see. You want them to find you. You’re hoping they won’t find anything that would be confusing or concerning related to you.
So, you need to search for yourself and see what you find! Here’s what you’re looking for:
- Placement of your listing: You are hoping your program comes up on the first page of search results.
- If it doesn’t, be sure to claim your site, and re-write it to be sure it includes the keywords people would look for. Encourage other people to link to your page, as that increases its ranking in the search engine results. (But these should be real links from real people/groups who would refer to you. Don’t link farm.)
- Notice what else appears above you. (If you have time someday, investigate those sites to see if you can puzzle out what they’ve included in their site that helps it rank higher than yours.)
- Other sites where you are listed: You may discover that your business appears on directory sites and review sites. Read below for how to handle those.
- Other businesses with similar names? Will they discover other businesses / individuals that have the same name or a similar name to yours? And if so, could it cause confusion or concern?
How to do the Search:
Choose your search engine: You should definitely do Google. I also check Bing. Here are some other search engines you could check if you really wanted to.
Make sure you’re using a browser in private mode: You could just search like you would normally search. But, it’s good to know that your browser you typically use has stored “cookies” – information about you that let’s the browser guess what results are most likely to be relevant to you. (For example, if I’ve recently searched for lots of stuff about babies, and now I search for the word “burp” it’s going to guess I want to learn about burping babies, not burping the national anthem.) To see search results someone would get if they didn’t search for birth and baby related stuff all the time, you want to take this step before searching, and it will put you in an anonymous mode without all that history. Here’s how to do that for Google.
- In Internet Explorer: click on the three horizontal dots in the top right corner. In the dropdown menu, choose “New InPrivate Window”
- In Chrome: In the top right corner, click on the three vertical dots to get to the menu. Choose “New Incognito Window”
- In Safari, on an iPhone, in the bottom right corner, click on the two overlapping boxes, then choose private.
Doing the search: type in the name of your program.Then take notes on what you find. (See the top of this post for what you’re looking for / taking notes on.
If you know you have a confusing name, you may also want to test out a few common variants. (For example, Great Starts used to be called Childbirth Education Association of Seattle, so people called us Seattle Childbirth Educators, Childbirth Education Seattle, CEAS, SCE, and so on.)
Getting reviewed on sites like Yelp, Savvy Source, Insider Pages, Great Schools, and Patch is really a mixed blessing. If people say great things about you, it’s great marketing. Unfortunately, one cranky person and one bad review can have a very negative impact on someone’s perception of your program. My recommendation is: do NOT actively go out and add your listing to any review website. No sense inviting trouble.
But… if you already appear on a review site with good or bad reviews, then it may be worth encouraging your fans to add reviews there. Now, you can’t ethically ask your best friend to go and write a glowing review of your program. But, it is ethical to share with a group of students who you think liked your class (via Facebook or email or whatever) – something like “check out this great review someone posted about our program! Feel free to add your own review.” Or “I’d love it if potential students could learn more about current families’ experiences. Consider posting a review here:” Please don’t do what every car dealer does and say “Please rate me a 10. It’s really important that you say 10.” Trust that if you did a good job, they will say so.
If you’ve got great reviews on a site, you can use them as a source of testimonials! Put a quote on your webpage, then link to source, saying “read their full review here.”
If you have a bad review on a site, what should you do?
Some sites allow you to respond to bad reviews. Should you? Here are some thoughts: https://biz.yelp.com/support/responding_to_reviews and https://www.brightlocal.com/2018/07/26/how-to-respond-to-negative-reviews/
There are so darn many internet directories out there with business listings (the review sites listed above, and lots more). Again, I would NOT spend a lot of time going out and actively adding your service to any of these sites. It’s not worth it. But, it is worth looking to see where you’re already listed and whether it’s factually accurate. If it is, leave it be. If it’s not… On most sites, you can “claim your business” and correct the listings. Or you could skip this, and just make sure that all the info that is on your site is clear, accurate, and up-to-date. Any student who finds you on a directory who wants to learn more will go to your website to learn more –they’ll always believe info on your site more than auto-generated directories.
If there are errors you find on a directory, you don’t really have to fix it there, but you should make sure the correct info is on your site somewhere. (e.g. for one preschool, one directory says their capacity is 60 students, which would sound like a lot to me as a parent… on that preschool’s website, all they need to say is “in each of our three classes, we accept a maximum of 20 students.”)
Other places with similar names in other places:
You may discover that there’s another program with the same name as yours in Bend, Oregon, and one with a very similar name in Houston, Texas. There’s nothing you can do about it.. But, it’s good to be aware of that, because if reminds you just how important it is to make your location obvious. Even though I’m pretty web savvy, I’ve had times where I searched for something in Bellevue or Kirkland online, found a site and spent quite a while reading before I discovered the business was in Bellevue, Nebraska or Kirkland, Illinois, and not in Washington State as I assumed. Or when I searched for the name of a restaurant and found one with that name that after I read the menu, I discovered that restaurant turned out to be in Cleveland. So, make sure your location is obvious on your site.
Other LOCAL places with similar names:
This one is a little trickier. You can decide if it’s a big issue or not. If it is, and you’re just starting up, you could choose another name. Or, on your website, make very clear who you are so hopefully if people go to your site, they’ll be able to tell the difference between you.
Sometimes you have really bad luck. Like when you discover your preschool shares a name with a sex shop somewhere or something else truly unfortunate like that. Sounds unlikely, but lots of businesses around the world have run into this problem…
You have to decide how concerning it is, and whether you want to change names. Or, just live with it, knowing that if anyone goes to your site, they’ll clearly be able to tell the difference between the businesses.
Check out this article on Essential Information to Include on Your Website.