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Does Google Think Your Brand Name Is A Local Search?

I’ve been wanting to document this for a some weeks, but between awesome clients, the awesomeness of Moz work and other engagements, I just haven’t been blogging here much. I’ve not seen this topic covered on any of my favorite Local SEO blogs, and wanted to jot it down here in case you should ever run into this situation.
The Scenario
So, you’ve founded your new company. Maybe you’re a media firm or a non-profit support group or a spiritual center. You’ve named your venture ‘New Doors’. Has a nice ring to it.
The Problem
When you search Google for your business, you are baffled to see results like these coming up:
example of local serps
The trouble is, none of these local pack results have anything to do with your business. Your business may, in fact, be local in nature, or it may be a completely virtual or national brand, and Google doesn’t seem to get this. Most worrisome, you realize that anybody doing a branded search in Google for ‘New Doors’ probably isn’t finding your company. In some cases, you may find an entry for your business thrown into the mix of the results, or you may be nowhere at all on the first page of results.
Why Is This Happening?
I first came across a case like this a couple of months ago, and while I can’t share the name of the business, I do want to share what I’ve learned in the ensuing time. If your business name is generic enough and could be mistaken for a query with local intent, you may find yourself in a situation like the above. Playing around with the SERPs, I’ve been able to surface other instances of this. Here are some more examples of business names that Google might confuse with local searches:

  • A national copywriting firm named ‘Ink Cartridge’ battling with local results for office supply stores
  • A local restaurant called ‘Hamburger Place’ battling with every hamburger restaurant in town, including national franchises
  • A national marketing firm called ‘Skylights’ at odds with local home remodelers
  • A self defense academy called ‘Boston Fencing’ at war with the city’s fence and deck contractors

The Moral of the Story
If you’re naming a new local or national business, be sure the name of it cannot be confused with some generic object Google might view as having a different intent. I have a personal weakness for clever business names, but I wouldn’t want to be in the position of having very weak branded search results for my name because Google thinks my customers are actually looking for ink cartridges or skylights.
If your business isn’t new and you’ve found yourself in a position similar to the one I’ve described, I’m not going to suggest that you re-brand. Rather, your best bet is going to be in the long haul of building as much authority as you can around your brand name so that Google feels increasingly certain that users are looking for your business.
After all, Google is so convinced when I am searching for a local toy store purveying the game of ‘dominoes’, that what I actually want is the national pizza chain, Domino’s, that it is auto-correcting my spelling.

local search example of domino's restaurant

Jack In The Box gets the same, confident treatment.
For smaller businesses, without millions to sink into branding, this scenario is going to be more a problem.
I’d like to know: have you run into this dilemma with your business or with your clients? Have you overcome it? If so, how?