Marketing for private investigators has changed a great deal. The old staple of the Yellow Pages and small ads in the back of magazines is now obsolete. Private Investigators eport spending up to a thousand dollars a month on huge Yellow Page advertisements only to get zero calls from these ads.
Today the first place people look for businesses and phone numbers is online, either directly on their computer or through a mobile phone. This is where it gets interesting; almost everyone that searches online for a business does so in different manners and using different search terms. Some use what they began with- AOL, Yahoo, or Ask.com, but most use Google.
Despite healthy competition, Google’s the biggest and baddest. They continue to invest in things like mobile phones and social media platforms—not because these things are profitable but because it’s a way to keep people using their number one product: their search engine.
Google is a mysterious and difficult company to do business with. They expect you to follow a lot of rules and guidelines, but they don’t always tell you what those are. Or they bury the policies in pages of legalese that almost everyone ignores. So the only way to keep the Google gods happy is to be constantly testing and researching. Testing means trying different things to see how it affects your business rankings in their search engine. Researching means reading the materials they publish frequently and staying up to date with other experts in the field through blogs, online magazines, and podcasts. This can quickly become a full time job that most private investigators have no time for.
You can outsource the business of getting clients from the internet, often times called Search Engine Optimization (SEO), but this is a costly and never ending exercise that small firms or solo investigators do not have the stomach for.
If you want to own the search rankings for your niche or just get your phone number out there, the place you should start is Google Places. Google Places is the single most important place to be on the web today. It’s the modern day basic Yellow Page ad.
Google’s recent model appears to be focusing on local first. Their theory is that when people search for something like “private investigators,” they want to see a listing of local private investigators and not links to Magnum or Pinkerton. This is consistent with our theory that private investigators are like plumbers. When someone needs a private investigator, they’re going to hire local—especially when they realize how much we charge for mileage.
Getting listed on Google Places is easy and free, but it takes a few weeks. You tell Google your address, phone number, website, and a few other business related details and they will mail out a special code to verify that you are really at this address. You receive a small post card about a week or two later, return to Google Places, and enter this code. Your listing then goes live.
Your information will show up in the search results for people located near you or searching for a private investigator in your area. It’s amazing Google is able to determine this through tracking of their searchers’ physical address and years of perfecting their search algorithm.
If you work from home or use a post office box, don’t worry. Google allows you to use these addresses and hide the physical address from the search results, but will still show your phone number and website to nearby prospects.