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Issue: 55 - Jul 15, 2013
Search Me: What Would a Potential Client Find?
By: Maureen Blaney Flietner
Mavourneen LLC/MBF Communications

You may spend hours each week getting your message out to the online public. But how often do you check to see what people are finding about you when they perform a search?

It’s a good practice to routinely check what’s out there. After all, that’s what others are finding. What you find may then help you tweak your ongoing online presence.

Here are some tips to consider:

1. Don’t limit your “search” to your favorite search engine and assume that the same results come up everywhere.

A search is actually a query of a search engine’s index of information for that moment. That index has been put together using an algorithm or formula specific to that search engine. Simply put, the information has been gathered by software that searches the Internet on a regular basis to compile lists of words according to specific directions. The search engine than ranks the websites according to the formula.  

For example, I recently searched for my name on Google. The top three sites that came up included a website for my illustration work; a web page of an equine publication featuring an article I had written; and a Houston newspaper’s website featuring a blog that mentioned an article I wrote for an e-newsletter for pet owners.

I then searched for my name on Yahoo. The top three sites that came up included a financial trade association web page featuring an article I wrote; my website for illustration work; and a membership web page for an organization that I have not belonged to for years.

Quite the difference! And those were just two search engines. There are other popular search engines such as Ask, MSN, AOL and Bing to check. Each search engine also typically allows you to search for images, news, blogs and more. If you have the time and curiosity, don’t forget to check those areas as well.

2. Recognize confusions that may arise when a search brings up other websites with your name or one similar to it.

Names are tricky things. If the name of your community is in the name of your business, that can be a good marketing idea -- if another veterinary practice in town doesn’t already include it. Choosing an  odd spelling for your business to make it “unique” can create difficulties for those trying to spell it in a search.

If your clinic’s name is more common – animal wellness, animal care, best care, for examples – or sometimes even not so common – MBF Communications, my website, for example, -- a search may bring up many businesses with those words as part or all of their names. Imagine my surprise when I found there is another business with the same name, doing almost the same work.

If you see business names similar to yours coming up in a search, check the distinguishing information below each name and URL. Having your location in the two-line description – “providing veterinary services throughout (Name of) County in (Name of State),” for example, will be helpful to those looking for quick, specific information.

Compare that to a website with a similar name but with, for example, its mission statement in the description lines of a search

GHI Pet Clinic

GHI Pet Clinic is a full-service animal hospital in ABCTown, Anywhere, USA. We provide caring, personalized service in the (ZIP code) area Call 123-456-7890.


GHI Pet Clinic

“We practice top-notch personalized veterinary medicine in a caring environment. Our veterinarians and staff are committed to your pet's health.”

Sure, if someone clicks on the wrong site, they would recognize rather quickly that this is the site for a clinic a few states over and not the local one they wanted to know more about. But why add some aggravation to their day when you want them to have good feelings about your business?

3. Consider the generic terms that people might use.

Use your imagination or ask your staff for words to use in a search for a veterinary business. Which words would you use? Perhaps “veterinary clinics in (Your Town, State)” or “animal hospitals, (Your Town, State)” or “veterinarians near (Your Town, State).” Or maybe their search would go another direction using such words as “veterinarian,” “pet vet,” “dog vets,” “cat vets,” “bird vets,” “horse vets,” “large animal clinics,” “veterinary center,” or “animal hospital.”  

With the results of those searches in mind, you may want to tweak your online presence. You may decide you want to include the names of some neighboring communities that you serve, emphasize the focus of your business, or provide other differentiating information.

4. Check for reviews of your business.
Many of us check review sites for opinions about hotels, restaurants, movies. Some people also look for reviews of veterinary businesses. What would they find about yours?

Reviews of veterinary businesses can be found online on such sites as Yelp, YellowPages, local yahoo, wellness and CitySearch.

Those who check reviews typically have their own methods of filtering comments. If it’s a local business, they might check the names of reviewers for people they know. No doubt some wonder if the reviewers are the owners, family members or staff members of the business.

Questions may pop up if every review of a business is glowing. While over-the-top comments might be honest views of actual clients, readers will wonder if the posts repeatedly are signed by Anonymous,  with only first names or, worse yet, the unusual spelling of a known staff member or owner: Mary Johnson becomes Mari Jonson, for example.

If you do find negative comments on any sites, you may want to respond. Think about it. You don’t want to get into a public argument. People have a right to their opinions. At least you will be aware of what is out there.

Or you could take the comments as an opportunity to see how your business might find a way to improve. You could review in-house the person’s stated complaint to determine how the situation – looking at it from the client’s perspective -- might have been improved.

In searching hotel or restaurant review sites, for example, I have found an occasional owner or manager acknowledging a complaint in a considerate matter – making lemonade out of lemons. It gives me a better feeling toward the business.

Maureen Blaney Flietner, a former journalist, is a fulltime freelance writer,copy editor and designer/illustrator. Learn more about her services at