I’m not a search expert, but it’s important to note the impacts social media and search engine results have to your online strategy.
Google Results Is Your Real Corporate Homepage
Corporations spend a great deal of money and resources to make sure that their corporate homepage looks great. What’s a corporate homepage? It’s the pro-company, pro-brand homepage that highlights what the company does, and it’s latest product campaign or initiative. It’s the starting point in what I call the Irrelevant Corporate Website (and the community has translated this post into 10 languages).
Fortunately, this is NOT the corporate homepage, as many overlook that the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for your brand is the actual corporate homepage. The same amount of effort should be spent to ensure that the company is shown in the right light after someone does a Google search for a brand or product.
While most companies spend money on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make sure that their irrelevant corporate website comes to the top of the Google results (and most succeed). Some are unaware of how social media sites (blogs and twitter) can start to bubble up.
For example, take this research from Cornell University that indicates that approximately the top three results of any SERP are clicked on 75% of the time.
A Blog Rant ranked above official Corporate Page
Have you heard of “What the F*ck is wrong with Dell Technical Support” Of course, he didn’t use the asterisk. While it’s an older example, and a case study of success, let’s quickly talk about Dell. Imagine you’re a customer and you’re having issues with your company. A quick Google query for “Dell Support” at one time yielded above the fold a post by former Yahoo top blogger and former developer Jeremy Zawodny (now at Craigslist) way back in 2005.
At one time, I remember that the top three listings were 1) The official Dell Support site, 2) Jeremy’s post and 3) another Dell Support page. According to the Cornell eye tracking research, Jeremy’s post infiltrated clicks by 13% and were sure to be seen by many on the SERP. Fortunately for Dell, Jeremy’s post has moved down from the top results but is still on the first page, and ugly scar for us to all remember.
While most would rarely Google negative information about a brand when trying to seek them out, try entering your brand name plus the word “Sucks” you’ll be surprised what you’ll find. When I was at Hitachi (but at a different division) I remember how shocking it was to see this blog post “Hitachi Hell”. Now if this prominant gaming blogger had chosen to single out a specific product, it could easily have risen to the top of the search heap. Therefore do searches for all of the following for each of your product names too.
For some, Wikipedia is a starting ground
Other common search results? Wikipedia, and as you know, it also scores high in search results. When I was at Hitachi, I was surprised when I interviewed an executive to learn that he used Wikipedia as a way to make business decisions –well at least to see all the players in a particular space, he found it objective. Wikipedia isn’t a place you can put your irrelevant corporate content, although it’s far from perfect, it strives –but doesn’t always succeed — to contain objective viewpoints from the crowd. If you’re not sure how to engage Wikipedia, Charlene Li has published this report.
Impacts to recruiting
What we do online echoes for years, Google has a memory like none other, in fact this Tech CEO prowls through Google search results before hiring some candidates: “CEO Curt Finch will most likely spend some time on the Internet finding out what he can about you, including where you went to school, what your political leanings are, who your friends are, if you’ve run any marathons, and anything else he can lay his eyes on”
Summary: Don’t neglect your Google Search results for your brand, product, and name In summary, be cognizant that your homepage isn’t the website you own and manage, but actually Google Results. While you can shape that first few entries with search marketing techniques, but note that a influential blog can cause havoc or be a positive endorsement.