DAILY NEWS Nov 5, 2012 7:54 PM - 0 comments

How to build your firm's profile in the digital world

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By: By Carl Friesen

It used to be that when someone searched for information, the search involved paper — an encyclopedia, a phone book, maybe a trade directory. Now, you’re likely to type a few words into a search box on Google, or increasingly, YouTube.

So, consider someone who’s looking for an area of expertise your firm wants to build. Would they find you?

Let’s say that your firm has recently hired someone who is a world-class expert on mitigating the potential environmental impacts of geo-energy systems. A prospective client looking online for that kind of expertise might use any of three ways to search, according to Grant Goodwin of AllRoads Inc., an agency that helps business professionals be better known to potential clients.

They’ve heard of you — but just how good are you?

The first level is a “name search,” and happens when someone knows the name of a potential service provider and wants to find out more about that person’s track record and expertise. They’ll simply enter the person's name into a search box and see what shows up.

They want to know what articles she has authored, papers she’s published, books she’s written, speeches she’s given, awards she’s received, projects she’s worked on, and other evidence that she’s the go-to person to solve their issue.

If your firm wants to make your expert hire look good to someone who is investigating her credentials and expertise, it’s important to support her in developing evidence of her thought leadership. This might include arranging speaking engagements, helping her write articles and papers, and allowing her time to participate in industry functions.

They know what they want — but don’t know who can help

If the potential client doesn’t have a name of a potential service provider, and is conducting a search to find those names, he might conduct a “topic search.” For example, if the prospective client has heard that surface and groundwater contamination are potential issues for geo-energy, their search might include “groundwater contamination geothermal” or “geoenergy precipitated solids.”

If your expert has published information on those topics, and it includes the right search engine optimization (SEO) measures, she should show up as someone with expertise in those fields.

To help someone find your expert, try thinking like a potential searcher — what search terms would you use? Then, make sure that those terms are prominent in headlines, meta-tags, descriptions and the content itself.

They’re new to the idea, and need to find a friend

It could be that the prospective client wants to build green and has heard that for every technology, there are downsides. He doesn’t know much more, at present. So, he types in a “question search” such as, “What environmental problems are there with geothermal energy?”

This is perhaps the hardest kind of search for your firm to show up in, because there are so many potential words and terms that could be used. It’s also the most rewarding, because someone new to a topic will treasure any online resources that answer their questions and could be more likely to prefer your firm when it comes time to finding someone to help on their project.

Paying attention to all three types of searches can pay big dividends when it comes to demonstrating your firm’s expertise to potential clients.

Carl Friesen, MBA, CMC, is principal of Global Reach Communications based in Mississauga, Ontario.

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