How familiar are you with your business’ online presence? If you think just because you don’t have a website and haven’t put anything online about it means your business has no online presence you may be quite surprised by what you find online about your brand, whether or not you have a website. And, if you haven’t done anything online about your business it’s essential you do because the reality is the activities of others online could be severely damaging your brand without you even being aware or in control.
One of the services offered by CJ’s Business Solutions, but a job that doesn’t require any special expertise and can be done yourself, provided you have time, is an online audit. As well as ensuring there isn’t anything online damaging your brand already, you can also take advantage of opportunities to promote your brand online positively, often for no charge. Be warned that the online audit can be a laborious and lengthy process and may need to be undertaken in stages, but it’s definitely worth the effort or the investment.
Before you start I advise you to create a Word document or Notepad document that includes all of your business contact details (including your business name), the ABN for your business, opening hours, key search words people might use to find your business online (ranked according to importance) and a short and long description of your business. This will save you typing them over and over again and reduces the risk of error. As well, have a file setup that includes your business logo and some photographs relevant to your business (ensuring that you have the permission to use them online).
The following are the basic stages for your audit:
- Open a Google search and type in your business name. If you have changed business names or there are variables you might need to do these steps for those names too. Consider consolidating these names into single entries to avoid brand confusion and dilution.
- Every entry that mentions your business name needs to be looked at. This can be done by leaving the search page at (1) open and opening each reference in a new window. Look at news entries and determine if they require an answer or indeed if they can be answered at all (some may be quite old), social media entries may need a reply, online directory entries need to be consistent so check the details you listed before you commenced the exercise and copy and paste in these details if missing or incorrect. Claim every online directory listing that mentions your business, that way you have control over what is included and prevents an imposter from claiming it.
- Make sure you record any user names and passwords for the free directory listings and that you also record all directories that you have a listing on (in case you have changes in the future). It’s also handy to record the type of information you include eg some directories include trading hours and others don’t. If you record this information it will cut the workload down if only your trading hours change in the future. Most online directories include a basic free listing so take up these opportunities but always read the terms and conditions so you know what you’re agreeing to.
I generally go no further into the Google pages than the fourth or fifth page.
You should then do the above three steps using:
- Your business address and then also your phone number to ensure no one is squatting or old business information is included.
- Key word searches most likely to be used. This is also where you can see your competitors’ listings, so make sure you’re also listed in these directories, particularly those early in the Google search.
- Your competitors’ business names and ensure you list your information where their information is listed.
If you find while doing this exercise that there are directories that have bad reviews about you the best advice is to print out the review and carefully consider your response. Do not respond immediately because it’s likely to be an emotional response and definitely do not ignore the review. Do not take a poor review as a personal attack (whether or not it is). Sometimes the best advice is to acknowledge a problem may have occurred and respond accordingly. Don’t forget to respond to positive ones too with a thank you. If you aren’t normally a diplomatic or tactful person perhaps run the response past a friend or colleague who might be better equipped to provide a suitable response.
You are best advised to undertake this exercise at least annually, but smaller versions can be done on a more regular basis as Google searches are changing constantly and new opportunities/directories being added all the time. Diarise when you should undertake the audit again so you don’t forget.
The number of online directory opportunities available is virtually endless. As a bare minimum your business should be listed on Google+, Facebook and as a business owner you should also be listed on LinkedIn as you will see these come up prominently in searches.
*Written by Carolyn Jeffrey, the principal of CJ’s Business Solutions. For more help with any of the matters covered in this blog visit www.cjsbusinesssolutions.com.au or call 0435 432 203.