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Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services, Inc.
8494 Boulder Hills Dr.
Niwot, Colorado 80503 USA
Tel: 303.772.7095
Skype: Mary.Ellen.Bates
I have been doing a lot of research into small companies recently, and was finding that finding these companies' web sites isn't as easy as a quick Google search. Now, I take a more expansive approach to finding a company's web site.

Who needs a web site, anyway?
First, keep in mind that web sites are not the only, or even necessarily the primary, way that a company communicates with the world. If you are researching a company that markets to consumers, remember that their main presence will be in front of wherever their customers are. That might mean a Facebook page, a Youtube channel, a Twitter feed or a LinkedIn page. I have even found relatively good descriptions of companies on Yelp, the site that began as restaurant reviews but has since expanded to consumer reviews of everything from veterinarians to medical marijuana dispensaries.

Think globally, search locally
The smaller the company, the smaller the budget they have for a web site. And if the company name isn't distinctive - try looking for Miller & Associates - the less likely you will turn up the one you want. If simply adding the city or state to your search engine query doesn't retrieve the company, consider repeating the search in the local search option.

Google has several ways of narrowing your search by location. The quickest technique is through the search results page. On the left margin, you will see a city and state (presumably where you currently are), and a link to Change location below it. Click that link and type in the city and state of the company you are searching. While this doesn't narrow your search, it does bump the ranking of companies in that area. You can also click the More link on the left, then select Places to see a list of companies within that region. This list includes not only links to web sites but also to directory listings. Also, try clicking other links along the left margin, particularly the Blogs and Realtime links.

Yahoo's Local search offers similar local directory listings, including user reviews. For much more information about searching locally, watch for Marcy Phelps' upcoming book, Research on Main Street.

Are They News-worthy?
Repeat your search in Google News Archive. While this is no substitute to a premium online service such as Dialog or Factiva, it may catch a mention of the company in a newspaper article. If the article doesn't include the company's URL, see if there are any other clues to tracking the company down. See if the article mentions an executive, or a key product or service, for example.

What other tools do you use to find a small company's web site?

February 2011
Learning About Searchers' Behavior
by Mary Ellen Bates
Bates Information Services

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