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'A company's corporate homepage is Google.com.'

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The title of this post is a quote by Dell's VP of Communities and Conversations, Bob Pearson (care of Forrester Analyst Jeremiah Owyang).


Bob's quote really struck a chord with me because it's a simple reality that many organizations are either overlooking or ignoring today. People are starting to view the Google search bar as their URL entry box. Instead of typing "www.zappos.com" people are simply typing the world "Zappos" into a search form. An excellent piece on ReadWriteWeb provides further insight into this rising habit.
What this means for companies is that their homepages should no longer be considered the most highly trafficked resource for people looking for their product. Consumers are becoming savvier, and an unfortunate consequence (for brands) is that people are more likely to trust third party resources vs. the brand themselves.
Because consumers are no longer spending as much time on the tightly controlled environment that brands build themselves, companies, more than ever, need to be fully aware of the search results that are sharing space with them and hopefully taking steps to make those neighbors ones that raise the value of their real estate.
your brand.JPG
Is Google the Big Winner Here?

Does the above situation translate into a need for all of a brand's paid listings to pop up when users search for them? To Google's dismay...not necessarily. A brands biggest concern should not be that their competitors sites are popping up in paid listings next to theirs, their biggest concern should be the negative pages that show up in the results organically. Those are the listings that are much less in Google's control and more in the hands of consumers/brands.
Shopping for groceries is a great example of the above. You go down the canned food isle. You see that there are diced tomatoes being sold by Dole and Del Monte. They are both about the same price, size, and are located on the same shelf. If you don't have a preference, you'll end up just randomly picking one. Next time, you'll pick the other. Now let's say the situation is slightly different. You walk through the same isle and on the way to the tomatoes you see a small sign on a now empty shelf that says "Del Monte canned peas have been recalled due to a case of E-Coli." The peas probably have nothing to do with the tomatoes you want to buy, but odds are when you get to the tomato shelf, your decision on which tomatoes to buy is no longer a 50/50 split.
But my tomatoes don't have E-Coli!
There are great brands with great products. So much time, money, and resources are put into creating those products and then getting those products into the hands of consumers. That effort should not diminish when the product changes hands.
Just because there are people who are writing about your product on Yelp and GetSatisfaction, doesn't mean you have to sit back and watch your search results get contaminated. No one is barred from producing content on the web. A brand has just as much right to talk about their great qualities and respond to those who disagree.
It may not be possible for a small team to compete with the entire voice of the internet, but it can definitely help. People want to engage with the brands they use. If an irritated customer posts a review on a site it may get a handful of comments, but if a representative of a brand posts something, it will be dramatically more populated. Those subsequent comments may not all be positive, but they all lead to an initial thread in which a brand got to voice its honest thoughts and show that it took an interest. A thread which in many situations will show up higher on a search results page than a very negative post that has just a few responses.
Reacting to others isn't the lone remedy either. Creating great content around your product in pivotal to your organic search success. A big part of Google's secret formula for organic search is traffic. If you build it (something great), they will come. The better something is, the more traffic it gets, the closer it will rest to your ideal search results.
So a microsite isn't enough?
The key takeaway here is that when planning out budgets for consumer facing entities, the microsite simply cannot take the full budget anymore. The microsite certainly serves a purpose (as does investing in SEO to bring it higher up), but the majority of brand/consumer interactions are taking place in the domain of the consumer's choosing. Subsequently the brand has no other choice but to focus a larger chunk of its efforts to optimize the content being created by their consumers and their critics.


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Len Kendall is a Chicago native with a passion for technology, advertising, and film.

Len is a Digital Supervisor with GolinHarris within the Dialogue Group. The digital/social practice of the agency. His client work includes Mercedes-Benz, Allstate, McDonald's and Walmart. He is also the CoFounder of the3six5 project, a collective diary of 2010.

In Len's downtime he can be found blogging at www.constructivegrumpiness.com tweeting at twitter.com/lenkendall and sharing random thought nuggets at lenkendall.posterous.com

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Comments

  • by Robert Brady Tue Apr 21, 2009 via blog

    Occupying as many places on the first page of SERPs for your brand name is a big deal in internet marketing today. Social media is really hot these days, but an additional benefit is the potential to occupy more 1st page real estate. With a little work a company can have their Twitter profile, LinkedIn profile, Facebook page, etc. all ranking on the first page for their brand name. Add in a microsite and a blog and you own over half the first page already.

  • by Alan Wolk Tue Apr 21, 2009 via blog

    Excellent points all around Len-- particularly about negative posts vs competitive text ads. Consumers also google your product after they see an ad, but before they go to purchase. So your ad claims better be valid. And funny you should mention Zappos. Because while they are (rightly) lauded for their social media efforts, they also do a heck of a job with search (type any kind of shoe into Google and see what comes up)

  • by Kyle Hendren Tue Apr 21, 2009 via blog

    Great points about keeping tabs on your company's brand within search results. Case-in-point, Domino's recent headache on April 13 in Conover, NC concerning a video prank on YouTube. An article in the NY Times on the 15th stated that 5 of the 12 references on the first page of Google was in response to the video posting. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/business/media/16dominos.html?_r=2&th&emc... And the Twitter world was all a-buzz wondering what Domino's was going to do about the situation. Unfortunately, Domino's missed the opportunity and responded a little too late. Company's, and even individuals, should be monitoring their brands and finding ways to increase their footprint on first page results.

  • by Rob V Thu Apr 23, 2009 via blog

    huh! our local primary school teach that the only way to enter any URL is through the Google bar pitiful - we've made things idiotproof and they go and breed bigger idiots!

  • by homefreeorg Thu Apr 23, 2009 via blog

    these days, saying "Google me" is just like handing someone a business card, if you've put the time into making sure you show up in the first page of Goog. For example, if you google "Home Free Organization" you can see all of the latest news and updates regarding our nonprofit to help the homeless.. thanks for the info!

  • by Matthew T. Grant Fri Apr 24, 2009 via blog

    Great, well-written post. It's a powerful reminder that spending money on an overhaul of your website is meaningless if you are not devoting time to cultivating, nurturing, and maintaining your web presence.

  • by David G. Wed Apr 29, 2009 via blog

    Really insightful article. We wrote a recent op-ed piece that was featured in a PR/Crisis Communications Journal called Bulldog Reporter. You and the other readers might find it useful. http://tinyurl.com/bulldoggoldman

  • by Anders blogger in websites Fri Jun 19, 2009 via blog

    I have with great interest studied your comments and do agree that it is extremely difficult to establish and maintain a good ranking. It is also a question how to make the site interesting to the visitors in order to keep them long enough and hopefully turn them into prospects. In order to do so a very close dialogue is needed in order to make the website informative and appealing. Most likely it is not always easy to make the clients understand the importance of proper maintenance of the site.

  • by California Game Design College Wed Jun 24, 2009 via blog

    If an irritated customer posts a review on a site it may get a handful of comments, but if a representative of a brand posts something, it will be dramatically more populated. Those subsequent comments may not all be positive, but they all lead to an initial thread in which a brand got to voice its honest thoughts and show that it took an interest.

  • by Game Design School Wed Aug 12, 2009 via blog

    It is also a question how to make the site interesting to the visitors in order to keep them long enough and hopefully turn them into prospects. In order to do so a very close dialogue is needed in order to make the website informative and appealing.

  • by catl Wed Oct 21, 2009 via blog

    Great, well-written post

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