0th Impression Management
Mia Major

The 0th (zero-ith) impression: new words for new threats. We're coining this one.

Finalsite Manager of Consulting Services Red Abbott recently dropped the term or 0th impression in casual conversation. Completely puzzled by the phrase, I asked for clarification and he replied, "Google any school and you'll see what I'm talking about."

Challenge accepted.

After spending my lunch break Googling school websites from all over the country I could see clearly what the 0th impression means: when coming from search, your website is no longer your first digital impression.

Hold the phone — I'm kidding, right? Nope.

We spend so many hours perfecting taglines and calls to action on our homepage to capture a user's attention in seven seconds or less that we completely forget how users are actually getting there. And most commonly, it's through search.

What's the big deal? In short, search engines like Google are getting more and more sophisticated. And as they become more sophisticated, they pull a greater amount of information from your website directly into search results — meaning searchers are learning about your school before they even get a chance to visit your website.

The 0th impression: the impression before the intended first impression.

Within search results, searchers can see your social media pages, display ads, directories, ratings, rankings, bad press and so much more — just on Page 1. So if they see something they don't like? They may never even visit your website — yikes!

Charlotte Country Day Search

Lucky for you, a lot of what searches see in page results are in your control. Here are some steps to ensure that your 0th impression doesn't hinder your ability to make a killer first impression.

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Take control of your Google and Wikipedia pages.

When you search for a school by name, a box appears on the right side of the search results, showing photos, a map, school attributes, and even social media links. That's part of the Google Knowledge Graph. You have some control over what is displayed here using Google and Wikipedia.

As much as teachers tell students to never use Wikipedia for research papers, Google actually loves to use the online encyclopedia to quickly generate a slew of information about your school in search engine results. That means you need to take ownership of your Wikipedia page to ensure it is complete with accurate and consistent information.

Similarly, you need to take ownership of your Google MyBusiness Page and create a Google+ page. Entering the same information in your Google+ and MyBusiness Pages that appears on your website and on Wikipedia will ensure your school pops up more frequently in generic, unbranded searches like "private schools near me." Plus, the only way to completely take control of the image displayed at the top of your Knowledge Graph box is by having a Google+ page.

Specify Your Social Pages.

A recent update to Google search that was enabled last November allows you to directly link to your social networks from the search result page. Take advantage of this to allow quick access to your social networks that showcase your school's personality.

Want to enable your social profiles in search? Follow these instructions on the Google Developer blog.

Use Display Ads.

45% of users cannot tell the difference between organic results and sponsored results — and that's good for you! Use pay-per-click advertising to ensure that information and pages you want to show up for certain keyword searches do.

Get Constituents to Write You Reviews.

People are quick to write a review about slow service at a restaurant or a rude hotel manager, but when it comes to saying something positive about their child's school? Not as common. Asking constituents to write positive reviews for your school on Google will hint that your school offers a five-star experience, before they visit your website.

Next Steps

Feeling a little overwhelmed? A great plate to start is GYBO.com — Get Your Business Online. The website tells you exactly what you can do to improve your presence in Google search engine results and how to fix it.

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