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Google autocomplete

I love meeting new small business owners. They’re wrapped up in the excitement of their new business idea. It’s thrilling, I know, I’ve been there (and am quite often “there” actually with all the ideas buzzing around in my head).

New business owners have grand plans for their fledgling business; they’ve registered an ABN and their business name and they come to me full of beans to get going on their logo, business stationery and website. I’m excited, they’re excited. We go through the usual questions about colours, websites and USPs.

Then comes the question: How do your Google results look?

It’s a question I ask all of my new branding clients. Most have a simple answer: great, I checked! And we move on.

For others, however, it’s more complicated.

Either through a lack of research, a change in the business’ reach or simply poor luck, I know of more than one small business who has had to undergo a complete re-brand due to stiff competition for Google rankings from big business. Be it for their name, an acronym or a “did you mean” result.

It can be absolutely crushing to start up a business and then realise the potential of the Google-disaster.

It’s all very well to say it doesn’t matter; I have a great business model and a fantastic product but let’s face facts: it’s 2015, without Google your website isn’t going anywhere. Which is fine if you plan to operate solely off-line but that’s going to seriously limit your business.

I assisted a client to undergo a re-brand when her business name was automatically switched to a “did you mean” result by Google bringing up an overseas competitor’s business!

The client had researched local businesses in her area when she started her business but through her success her brand had gone global and now she was competing on a world stage. Her local business research was rendered moot: she was playing with the big guns and by big guns we mean BIG guns.

So what to do? Erode the brand loyalty she had already gained through her successful business and start again? Not entirely but the original brand was sacrificed for the sake of the Google result – her business simply couldn’t operate without website traffic derived from Google search. It was as simple as that.

At the time this client had established a side business in the same sector but with a slightly different target audience; by funnelling her current audience to the “new” business before her “old” business reached the point of no return we salvaged what we could and moved on with the new brand. Obviously not ideal but it was picked up early and minimal damage was done (and the business is still thriving today, phew!).

Imagine if your business name (or the way it’s represented by your logo or branding suite) was abbreviated to “BHP”? Sorry but no matter how good your SEO, as a small business you don’t have a hope of competing against guns that big!

Another mistake is choosing a word, term or acronym that is commonly used in the English language. People are lazy, especially when Google does a lot of auto-completing on our behalf.

So, when you’re thinking of branding (or re-branding) your business, here are five steps you need to take to avoid Google-related injuries:

  1. Do a simple Google search on your complete business name; i.e. Jane McKay Communications.
  2. Do a Google search on any abbreviations of your business name, i.e. JMC.
  3. Check Google auto-complete results for your business name by typing in the first few letters and seeing what is “suggested”.
  4. Check misspellings of your business name in Google and see if your business name comes up as a “did you mean” result.
  5. Repeat steps 1 to 5 in Bing and Yahoo search.

Step 6? Do some keyword research while you’re there!

If you’re in the clear get excited! If not, don’t despair, branding is meant to be fun! Start afresh. Enjoy the journey of building your new business.