Once upon a time, just for fun, all of us would search our own names in Google just to see how we ranked. The act of ego-surfing was done on the sly so we didn’t come across as caring whether we could find anything about ourselves in the first few pages of the rankings.
Today, not taking the time to Google ourselves and our companies is simply irresponsible. Controlling what searchers find and claiming your business name on the major search engines is part of an effective online reputation management (ORM) plan and makes perfect business sense.
So where should you begin? The first step is actually knowing how your firm looks online when families are searching for you. This is the initial stage of your ORM Plan. Yes, this takes more than a few minutes and can be quite extensive but the following steps can help get you started to assess your current online reputation and determine what needs to be done to improve your funeral home’s online presence.
Step 1: Preparing Your Online Audit
Start digging. The purpose of this is to determine where your firm’s name is listed and whether there are any negative mentions or sites out there that list your business that you simply were not aware of. When you put your company name, city (Ex: Smith Funeral Home, Syracuse) you will likely find directories, social media sites, forum and review sites, and potentially companies that are taking your online visitor traffic. You simply don’t want to be unaware of those things, do you? Knowing is the first step in preparing a plan of action. What you don’t know CAN hurt you. So, let’s make sure that doesn’t happen to you!
Don’t stop at Google. Check the Yahoo and Bing search engines as well. Start with your funeral home name and then search your competitors’ names, common keywords your families would be entering, and then the names of the last five obituaries you posted.
You may be surprised at the results. Did you find any of the these?
- unclaimed directory listings
- community reviews
- your obituaries posted on other websites (where often revenue is generated)
- your name in places you didn’t know existed (that could contain incomplete information or worse, they could be claimed by your competitor)
While this may be a time-consuming process, it’s well worth every minute. You want to know and manage everything that your families see online as it relates to your company and funeral service in your community.
Important: Claim Your Google Places Page
You likely saw a feature, similar to the one on the right, for your funeral home when you were doing your online audit. If you did not, type your company name in Google. It should be at the very top of the first page, but hey – that’s not my main point behind why I am writing this. On the right, you should see a profile of your company with a map along with an image, address, phone number, and hours of operation. If you see none of that, or worse – if you see a random picture that does not represent your firm well (and trust me, I have seen it all – from someone lying on the floor to a picture of a casket) – then you need to claim your Google Places Page. This right hand listing is often what your community sees first when they look for your firm online. If they are seeing a random picture being pulled automatically from your website or one of your memorial tribute pages (of God knows what), that’s not a good first impression. By claiming this business page, you can upload a nice picture of your facility or logo and complete the business listing.
This process takes minutes with a Google Account. Verify that you own the business and then add your contact information and hours of operation. Done! These painless few steps will ensure your company is found and profiled properly on Google Search, Maps, Google+, and on mobile devices. All of this can be done for free.
Step 2: Take Action to Make Your Firm Look Great Online!
Take ownership of your local directories. Claim your company name on such sites as GetListed.org, Yelp, and City Search.
If your obituaries are posted on sites without your permission, contact those companies immediately. If you aren’t submitting a copyright notice with each obituary, then start doing so. If you need a copy of your copyright notice, email me directly and I will have our copyright notice sent to you. This is something that every funeral home needs to pay attention to and understand.
If your firm’s name or funeral services for your city are listed on any third party scheme or broker sites, contact those companies immediately to remove all references. If they do not cooperate, consult a lawyer.
Set Google Alerts. This handy service will alert you, by email, based on anything that you want to monitor. If you set up an alert with your company name, any time your company’s name is mentioned, you will be notified. If you find negative comments, don’t act impulsively. Determine who is responsible and then respond in a friendly manner, acknowledging their comments and asking for further communication. Don’t ignore the negative because it just won’t go away on its own.
Build on the Positive
If you’re lucky, you might not see anything online that portrays your firm in a negative light. On the other hand, other than your funeral home’s website, you might not see any references to your funeral home at all. You could sit back and be pleased with the fact that you’re ‘safe’ but online reputation management should also focus on promoting the positive… the good things that your company does in and for the community.
This should be the time to determine your online goals and then develop a plan that identifies opportunities, next steps, and how best to monitor your brand online in the future. Online reputation management is something to build. The process to develop your ORM Plan will take time and the information we’ve posted is simply an overview of the initial steps for creating a proactive approach to protect and promote your reputation.
I speak on this topic no less than 15 times each year. So, if you need to talk some of these things out, please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be happy to help. The last thing I want is for any funeral home to look bad online or worse, have their online visitor traffic and profits be taken out from under them – without even knowing it’s happening.
We’re curious to know how your initial searches turn out. Write in the comments section below about what you find.