Do you like what you see when you Google yourself or your business?
Almost every week, I get a frantic call from someone needing my help with their search engine results. Sadly, this is usually motivated by bad reviews and a drop in business.
There are steps you can take to shore up the digital foundation for your business so that bad reviews aren't the first thing people see. Remember, it is much easier to counteract negative search engine results if you already control most of the first page of Google's search results for you and your business. This process is a type of search engine optimization called “reputation management.”
Let’s start with your website. You’d think this would go without saying, but your website should absolutely come up as the first result when someone searches for you or your business. Follow these steps:
1. Make sure your business’ name is in the domain name. If you are a professional, such as a lawyer, you’ll need to own a domain for both your law firm and name. Your website should be www.YourBusinessName.com. Your business’ name should be mentioned on the homepage in words, not just the logo, since search engines can’t “read” images. It should also appear in the title tag of your website and in the meta description.
2. Mention your or your business’ name on the “About Us” page. This is where you’ll get the chance to explicitly state what your business does so the search engine can associate it with keywords that people are actually searching for, such as “Los Angeles dentist." Write a 500-word description of yourself and your business. You’ll need this for the other listings anyway, so get it done now, put it on your website, then set it aside.
3. Put the business’ name again on the "Contact Us" page. You’d be surprised how many people leave this off or bury it on a page that is hard to find. Make a separate "Contact Us" page where you again state the name of your business, then put the address and the phone number. In an era where more and more people are using their smartphones to look up numbers for businesses before calling them, your website should come up in seconds, and your phone number should be clear. If you’re a traditional brick-and-mortar business, including your address and phone number will help the search engines properly match up your website with business directory listings.
4. Update the backend. You’ll want to have a “sitemap” plugin in place so the search engines pick up every page. If your site is built in Wordpress, I recommend Google XML Sitemaps. If not, have your web person build a “site map” page manually.
5. Find the Google Places/Google Plus Local Listing for your business. Claim the page and update the information so that it matches what’s on your website. After you’ve made sure your business’ name and address are prominently featured on your website, your next stop is your Google Places listing. Google Places soon will be combined with Google+ to form “Google + Business,” so you’ll need to figure out where your business listing is and update it. Start here. You can also put your business’ address into https://maps.google.com and update the listing from there.
Related: 5 Social Media Predictions for 2014
If your business is brand new and you can’t find a Google Places listing for it, make a Google + Business here.
6. Now move on to the Facebook Page for the business. Your business should have a dedicated Facebook Page, if for no other reason than you have 10 slots to fill on Page One of Google, and each one should be one you can control. If you haven’t already, set up a Facebook Page here. Be sure to change the username of the page to the name of your actual business for which you’re trying to rank. You might need to have 25 people as fans before you do this, so make a note and go back to http://facebook.com/username once you do. This is important because until the Facebook username is changed, the search engines are unlikely to associate the business with its page.
Of course, there are many other things you’ll need to find, claim and update so that you are in charge of your Google results. Putting a little time into this every day is a necessary part of your business, so don’t put it off!