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Being highly Google-able (and nothing else) is not an online marketing strategy

Published November 13, 2013 at 8:16 am

It’s not often that plumbers look to academic papers for advice on running their business, but Duke University’s Ryan C. McDevitt has conducted some research that should help these companies make more savvy marketing decisions.

For example, did you know that plumbing firms that advertise disproportionately on Google receive more than 13 times as many complaints from customers through the Better Business Bureau?


In his paper, “‘A’ Business By Any Other Name: Firm Name Choice As A Signal of Firm Quality,” McDevitt writes, “Google disproportionately attracts uninformed customers with a low willingness to search, [so] a low-quality plumbing firm has a greater incentive to appear among the top paid listings on Google.”

Essentially, instead of asking friends for recommendations or doing a deeper level of research, some customers looking for plumbers will seek out the easiest-to-find companies—those with a high presence on Google. This study shows yet another reason why a marketing campaign with limited outreach techniques and mediums is neither productive or efficient.

Brands need to form long-term bonds with their customers to maximize both their sales and the ROI of their marketing efforts. A customized strategy that uses a variety of mediums—online, social, direct mail and more—to target specific segments of an audience is more likely to generate real returns.

In aiming exclusively for the low-hanging fruit—customers who are only interested in Googling “Boston + plumber,” for example—brands are choosing the quick buck instead of the long-term relationship.

There’s nothing wrong with making sure your brand tops the Google rankings, but just make sure that’s only one part of your strategy.

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