Your Corporate Homepage is Really

I’m not a search expert, but it’s important to note the impacts social media and search engine results have to your online strategy.

Google Results Is Your Real Corporate Homepage
Corporations spend a great deal of money and resources to make sure that their corporate homepage looks great. What’s a corporate homepage? It’s the pro-company, pro-brand homepage that highlights what the company does, and it’s latest product campaign or initiative. It’s the starting point in what I call the Irrelevant Corporate Website (and the community has translated this post into 10 languages).

Fortunately, this is NOT the corporate homepage, as many overlook that the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for your brand is the actual corporate homepage. The same amount of effort should be spent to ensure that the company is shown in the right light after someone does a Google search for a brand or product.

While most companies spend money on Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) to make sure that their irrelevant corporate website comes to the top of the Google results (and most succeed). Some are unaware of how social media sites (blogs and twitter) can start to bubble up.

For example, take this research from Cornell University that indicates that approximately the top three results of any SERP are clicked on 75% of the time.

A Blog Rant ranked above official Corporate Page
Have you heard of “What the F*ck is wrong with Dell Technical Support” Of course, he didn’t use the asterisk. While it’s an older example, and a case study of success, let’s quickly talk about Dell. Imagine you’re a customer and you’re having issues with your company. A quick Google query for “Dell Support” at one time yielded above the fold a post by former Yahoo top blogger and former developer Jeremy Zawodny (now at Craigslist) way back in 2005.

At one time, I remember that the top three listings were 1) The official Dell Support site, 2) Jeremy’s post and 3) another Dell Support page. According to the Cornell eye tracking research, Jeremy’s post infiltrated clicks by 13% and were sure to be seen by many on the SERP. Fortunately for Dell, Jeremy’s post has moved down from the top results but is still on the first page, and ugly scar for us to all remember.

While most would rarely Google negative information about a brand when trying to seek them out, try entering your brand name plus the word “Sucks” you’ll be surprised what you’ll find. When I was at Hitachi (but at a different division) I remember how shocking it was to see this blog post “Hitachi Hell“. Now if this prominant gaming blogger had chosen to single out a specific product, it could easily have risen to the top of the search heap. Therefore do searches for all of the following for each of your product names too.

For some, Wikipedia is a starting ground
Other common search results? Wikipedia, and as you know, it also scores high in search results. When I was at Hitachi, I was surprised when I interviewed an executive to learn that he used Wikipedia as a way to make business decisions well at least to see all the players in a particular space, he found it objective. Wikipedia isn’t a place you can put your irrelevant corporate content, although it’s far from perfect, it strives but doesn’t always succeed — to contain objective viewpoints from the crowd. If you’re not sure how to engage Wikipedia, Charlene Li has published this report.

Impacts to recruiting
What we do online echoes for years, Google has a memory like none other, in fact this Tech CEO prowls through Google search results before hiring some candidates: “CEO Curt Finch will most likely spend some time on the Internet finding out what he can about you, including where you went to school, what your political leanings are, who your friends are, if you’ve run any marathons, and anything else he can lay his eyes on”

Summary: Don’t neglect your Google Search results for your brand, product, and name In summary, be cognizant that your homepage isn’t the website you own and manage, but actually Google Results. While you can shape that first few entries with search marketing techniques, but note that a influential blog can cause havoc or be a positive endorsement.

58 Replies to “Your Corporate Homepage is Really”

  1. Yes and No.

    Yes – the same amount of effort should be spent to ensure that the company is shown in the right light after someone does a Google search for a brand or product. For all the reasons you state.

    No – Google results are not your real corporate home page (unless ALL your web traffic comes from Google). Less than half the traffic to our corporate website comes from organic search, so whilst Google (and others’) search results are important, they are not the be all and end all.

    What this points to is the need for companies to understand that “web site” does not equal “web presence”, and it’s time they spent as much resource on the 99.99999% of the Internet they don’t control as they do on the 0.00001% they do (and no, that’s not intended to be an accurate percentage calcuation).

  2. Good rebuttal Niall, but is it safe to say that for many first time visitors, they use google at least the first time to find a product, searching for keywords based on a problem or lifestyle. Not every brand has the luxury of being ‘first to mind’ in any given category.

  3. Good post Jeremiah. In Radically Transparent we say that Google is not just a search engine, it’s a “reputation engine.”

  4. Good post with a lot of important points.

    I do think there are two different ideas of “home page” at play here. If you define a home page as the first page a visitor sees, then you’re bang on — the traditional corporate page is losing importance. But in my experience at least, it’s gaining importance as a second page, which I think is an important distinction.

    A user who has found you via a google search or a blog post or some random link will often wind up deep within your site, sometimes on a page that was never meant as a landing page at all. That can be disorienting, and many users (at those who don’t immediately click “back” and leave) will instinctively click that “home” link. Our site sees a pattern of users coming in through all sorts of links and to all sorts of pages, some deep within the site. But our home page is still our most visited page by far, as users eventually make their way to the top of the hierarchy before diving back down again.

    So I’d suggest that site managers stay focused on the home page — just don’t assume it’s a first impression. And that should mean less high-level marketing fluff, and more straightforward “here’s what we do and why you should stay” content.

  5. Jeremiah –

    Great big picture view of how Google should be positioned to help a company.

    Social media engagements can be the ‘depth of the team.’ Just like the strong players who come off the bench and help a team win the championship – they shouldn’t be forgotten and need to be used wisely.

  6. great post. just included the importance of search to a preso I’ll be giving to senior management on Monday, so this is nice validation. While I do think corp pages are important as a center for correct, factual information (investors and researchers still go to the source) I agree it’s important to know what’s in your search neighborhood.

    Found this interesting tidbit in April alone over 10.6B searches were conducted.

  7. We have been telling clients “you are what Google says you are” for years. That means paying very close attention to how clients, vendors, and everyone else you talk to perceives you. If my popular blog labels you untrustworthy, and it comes up in Google ahead of your site (which has happened)…then, you are what Google says you are, and Google says…you are untrustworthy – since my blog gets more Google juice than your “lame” site.

    I find that a lot of people don’t get this concept… they continue to believe that their website is an adequate representation of them and their business. A one-way conversation. Sad.

    Thanks for the great detailed explanation. Maybe this will convince folks we know what we’re talking about.

  8. Good point. And we also have to keep in mind that lots of users use the Google search field as a browser adress field… Depending on your brand awarness, some Google sourced visits are not depending on search, but only on the way people use their computer… You’re right with this “reputation engine” Andy.
    And thanks to get us on this point Jeremiah!

  9. To me the realization here is that there’s just no strategic advantage left in not behaving anymore. Because if you don’t behave, people will know. They will talk. And through Google they will blow your cover.

    Wouldn’t it be great if Google – albeit inadvertently – could play a significant role in improving the behaviour of people and companies?

  10. Good post. A couple of thoughts.

    – This is only true of course for visitors who are searching before they come to your site, which is 50-60% of most corp sites traffic.

    – This also very much emphasizes the importance of buying PPC for your brand terms, because YOU can control the message (and several studies have shown that CTR and conversion rate improve when you are on first page for both paid and organic).

    – Another factor I’m seeing a lot lately is very diffuse entry pages for the corporate site itself. Meaning, if Google is the “home” page, the second page may not be the corporate home page either. For sites with a lot of content and good optimization, really any page on the site could be the first page the visitor sees, making immediately intuitive navigation schemas that much more critical.

  11. Jeremy: I’m going to have to send some of the members of my online community to this post. What you said about your history remaining on Google is something that people really need to understand. I have users contact me asking me to delete their profile or “wipe them clean” from and I try to make them aware of the fact that my simple deleting will do nothing for them if they are trying to erase some serious mistakes. It’s my reasoning for not taking the time to delete content.

  12. Jeremiah,

    An excellent timely post on how important Digital Asset Optimization for any businesses. Digital asset optimization, this is SEO 2.0. It combines search engine marketing with social media marketing.

    Companies need to focus on search marketing so that their actual corporate homepage is easily found on search results and have a sound strategy to optimize and manage their brand via social content (Wikipedia pages, videos, images, blogs etc.).

    As social web becomes mainstream, more and more consumers will learn about your brand through social media and search engines will give more and more weight to social media.

  13. This is really only an issue, because Google is so noise polluted, in a real database-like search engine, queries are much more relevant, and a passing comment on some long-forgotten blog (or splog) wouldn’t even make the first few pages. Companies have to clean up Google’s trash for them. Sigh. Needed yes, but only one method, making it to their bookmarks, and staying there, is more important than just Google searches.

    I think people are purposely overestimating, particularly in the SEO industry, the impact that such “web-lint”, has, as most of the comments come off as lacking detail, shrill and ill-informed rants, which is why a well-produced, highly findable, indexed and easy-to-use corporate website is hardly irrelevant, it’s vital.

  14. Some of them don’t even want to have a corporate website, let alone a half decent one.

    I mentioned to someone that its really important to have a corporate homepage and get it up and running with SEO and SEM straight away because it is important to have her company’s voice heard over the internet. Sooner or later, no one is going to solely rely on “recommendations”. Background checks can easily be made on Google or other search engines. The reaction was one of “We have no time for this.”

    Well what do they have time for? Its going to be bread and butter for them, that if they don’t get smeared out of existance first or lose their business to their competitor who utilizes the power of the long tail.

  15. “We have no time for this”

    They might be telling the truth, some companies have more demand than they can ever supply, and a full-fledged website, might not be central to their core needs. Some companies want to stay family-based and local, only dealing with a few accounts, small but high margins divided among fewer hands, over big, bureaucratic, with debt, high pressure and low margins.

    Not something I would advise, personally, as anyone can benefit from a corp. website. But without putting myself in their shoes, it might actually be a waste of resources.

  16. It’s ironic that your best example is Dell — obviously having negative posts in their top google search results hasn’t stopped them from being one of the top performing companies in the last two decades. Who knows — maybe Jeremy works for Dell! I doubt his post had any impact on Dell’s business — and if anything it was a positive impact.

    Remember not everybody wants to engage in online communities – not everybody spends all their time surfing the web — there are many segments that simply have a problem, and need a solution — and for those people corporate websites are and will remain highly relevant, even with their traditional site structures and marketing driven engagements. Conversational marketing has relevance, but let’s not hype this in the other direction — every business has a unique way of reaching their customers — and there are no absolutes here.

  17. John, I work for Forrester Research as an Industry analyst, I do not work for Dell.

    We agree on ‘not everyone’ participates. In fact we’ve provided free data to indicate this. Those listed as “inactives” are not going to use any of these tools.

    Yet for Dell, if we cut the data for their technology savvy audience, the inactives would be considerable less than many averages

    see below

  18. First off all I must say that, “Your Corporate Homepage is Really” is a wonderful definition..
    As an interactive marketing consultant, and partner of an interactive agency for 10 yerars in Istanbul/Turkey, we always told our customers “Content is the most important thing” In our projects, we saw as statics, if you have fresh content related with your services, products or target customers, they search in google, Find you, And come to your web site.
    If your web site is good at content, and a good SEO you will see that 70-80% of your visitors come from google.
    Of course finding and coming is start point. It’s nice to have visitors become fans. But if not, its ok too.
    Because searching and finding circle goes on google. Every day, every hour, every minute, every second…

  19. just for clarification, when I wrote “jeremy works for Dell” I meant the original Jeremy Zawodny who posted the “dell sucks” rant that you reference in your article, not you. I know you work for Forrester and not Dell!!!

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