An interesting viewer question came in: “My client has a website, when they Google their domain name, another website comes up instead of theirs. Why is this happening? How can we fix this?”
Upon investigating, I found a few things out. I’ll keep the information anonymous, but you should get the idea.
Website #1 is the client site of the viewer asking the question. Website #2 is the website that is coming up instead when we Google the exact domain name of Website #1.
Website #1 and #2 both have a business name that is the same or close to the same, as about a dozen different other businesses in the United States. All of these are regional or local businesses.
Website #1 (the one we care about) has a better design than Website #2, and the domain name was registered in 2000. Website #2 has a domain name that only goes back to 2014.
If we Google [the business name + the city of Website #1] then we get Website #1 in the Knowledge Graph on the right hand side of the page.
When we Google the business name by itself, with no city in the search query, we get a third business in the Knowledge Graph, (one of the dozen or so businesses with the same name previously mentioned).
Website #2 seems to publish more original content on their website, and has links to their social profiles in the header and footer of their site. Website #1 has no social links, and does not appear to publish content very often.
Website #2 has a better back link profile, but not staggeringly better than that of Website #1.
Website #1 is not sending enough brand signals. No social profiles, little content, not many back links. If Google does not know what you are looking for, it suggests the domain name of Website #2, because it thinks you made a mistake in searching for Website #1, and you really meant to search for Website #2.
My Prescription for Website #1
Get social profiles, link to them from your site. Publish some more original content on your website and social. Get some more links to your website. Focus on getting links from sites in your industry.
Why do I say this?
Google has said that they want to rank brands, dating back to 2008. Ten years later, the search engine results strongly favor businesses that look like they are trying to grow a brand, and are embracing the things that larger brands do, like social media, PR, link building, content marketing.
Even if you don’t want to grow your company to employ hundreds or thousands of people, it pays to do some of the things that larger brands do.
If you invest in marketing at all levels, and build your name, there will be less brand confusion, and you will not get other companies coming up in Google when you try to search for your own business name.
That is a sign that another similarly named business has created a more measurable brand footprint than you have with your company. The goal is to be the first company someone thinks of when they hear that name.
What If a Competitor Bids on Our Name in Google Ads?
Google Ads are paid ads that appear on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Usually 3 to 5 paid results above the organic search results in Google, with 1 to 3 below the organic results. Organic search results are the unpaid results that include Google Maps and the regular 8 to 10 results. Google Maps can also have one paid result, which is a specific ad campaign in AdWords.
Can competitors bid on your company name? The short answer is yes. Google relaxed restrictions on this in the early 2000s. Competing businesses can runs Google Ads against your brand name, as long as they do not do certain things in the ads themselves.
As long as competitors are not pretending to be your business in Google Ads, and as long as they are not using a trademarked business name in the ad copy, they can run ads against branded searches for your company name.
The caveat is that you can do the same thing for their business, and run ads against their name. Whether you want to run ads against a competitor unprovoked is a bit of a moral and practical question. Running ads directly against a competitors brand name tends to make enemies, and in may industries, this is seen as hostile behavior, a cheap move, and a bit of a faux pas.
Our advice is only run Google Ads against a competitor’s brand name if you see them do it to you first, and don’t run ads against competitors that you don’t want to make a lifetime enemy.
If you see competitors running ads on your brand name, take solace in the knowledge that most of your customers in your local market are searching for a service, not for a specific brand name.