Marketing Ideas That Work!
Online Listings And The Professional Investigator
By Ralph D. Thomas

Someone stated that they have never gotten a case out of being in an online
directory. The problem is, some investigators say they get a lot of business
off of certain listings, web sites and so forth while others say they get
nothing. What is up? Advertising, either free or paid doesn’t bring you any cases
at all. That is your job. All it will do is give you a certain amount of phone
calls, which YOU then convert to case assignments. If no one is ever in your
office to answer the phone and potential clients get an answering machine, it
is a proven fact that the percentage of cases you get from these phone calls
drops drastically. More than that, if you never return those phone calls or
do not return them in a timely manner, nope-you will not be getting any case
assignments from them.

There are a lot of PI directories around. Some are free, some have a very
small yearly charge and some are rather high to get listed. You should get in
as many of them as you can for reasons other than just making the telephone
ring from the directory listing. Many of the search engines rank your web site
based on the number of web sites that link to you. Therefore, it stands to
reason that the more links you have out there, the higher you will get rated in the
search engines.

Most investigators get good mileage out of being listed in the state and
national investigative associations directory. You can find a list of them off
of:

State Investigative Associations
http://www.pimall.com/nais/pi.assoc.list.html

National And International State Investigative Associations
http://www.pimall.com/nais/links.c.html

In order to get listed in state and national investigative association directories, you of course need to join each association.

Free Listing-The PI Search Engine
http://www.pisearchengine.com
The PI Search Engine is a new high traffic listing service where you can list your private investigative agency service and web site. There is a section for NAIS members, NAIS members who are certified, Bodyguard/executive protection services, process servers and private investigators. There is also a place to list private investigative associations, bail bondsman and bail enforcement agents. Listings are free so take the one minute it takes to post your listing. The PI Search Engine is new but traffic is growing very quickly.

Free Web Page At PIClassified.com For NAIS Members!
http://www.piclassified.com

As a member of NAIS, you can create a free web page on piclassified.com, PIClassified.com is a high traffic web site ranked well for traffic (see details below!) and a place you can use to draw traffic to your web site. PIClassified.com lets you place your web page which you design quickly in your web browser into different specializations. The search engine on PIClassified.com works fast and lets users find your listing by location (city and state or by just inserting a zip code). You can link your PIClassified.com web page you create to your main web page or use it as a stand alone web page.

PI Mall High Traffic Site
The PI Mall is ranked as one of the highest placed to link your web site or to store your complete web site. It's the place NAIS has chosen to keep the complete NAIS web site because traffic is so high here. Not only that, it's the place where smart investigative agencies throughout the USA and the world choose to purchase a link or park their web site because of the traffic and most will tell you that they get business and case assignments because of it! Between February 24th, 2005 and march 17th, 2005 The PI Mall had 3,258,255 visitors. It's recently been completely redone. Not only that, as an NAIS member, you obtain a discount for placing your web page with The PIMall or obtaining a link to your web site off their main locate a private investigator pages.


Understanding Rankings
It's important to note that ranking and ratings is important when you consider placement of a directory listing. It's a matter of how much exposure you obtain. Naturally, the higher a ranking, the more traffic the specific service is going to obtain. Sites and web pages that are considered link farms basically give no consideration these days to many search engines. Link farms are defined on the Internet as:

 

Definitions of link farm on the Web:
• A recent term used to describe some link exchange programs. These programs are nothing more than random links on a page and really do not help one popularity. Can be considered spamming.

http://www.accordmarketing.com/tid/articles/link-building-terms.html

• a site created solely for search engine ranking purposes that consists almost entirely of a long list of unrelated links. These types of pages are penalized by almost all search engines.


http://www.abelgraphics.co.uk/seo/glossary.php

• On the World Wide Web, a link farm is a large group of web pages created that contain hyperlinks to one another or a specific other page. Link farms are normally created by programs, rather than by human beings.

http://www.en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Link_farm


There are a few ways to check a specific ranking of an individual web site or directory. You can check the google ranking but this basically only gives you info for the google search engine. Alexa offers a ranking service that is fairly good. Here are some examples of ranking from Alexa:

 

Examples Of Alex Rankings:

Search Engine Rankings
Yahoo.com 1
Google.com 3
USSearch.com 1,892
knowx.com 11,367
SearchSystems.net 14,723
Searchbug.com 23,679

Some Directory Rankings
LawInfo 20,881
PI Mall/NAIS 48,445
Rominger Legal Directory 107,205
PI Directory-Spies Online 229,055
SpiesOnline.net 228,589
PI Magazine 284,624
Virtual Gumshoe 370,068
Einvestigator.com 418,201
nalionline.org 797,662
The Investigator Directory 1,321,839
PrivateEyeList.com 2,062,153
PIClassified.com 4,200,870
Sleuth1 5,147,173
Professional Investigator Directory 5,407,065
Nationwide PI Network 5,464,420


Note that the lower number, the higher the ranking. It would then stand to reason that a service that had a ranking of say 10,000,000 is not going to get nearly the traffic that a site had for say 150,000. However, the results you might obtain from just using rankings may not always match for various reasons. For example, Law Info is ranked 20,881 which is a high ranking. However, the private investigator directory is just a small part of their overall web site. Their main focus is a directory of law firms and web sites. Therefore, the ranking for rating as a private investigator directory might be lower on the list. However, since they have so many law firm listings, it would stand to reason that the law firms in their web site would tend to search for private investigators who are listed there.

Various types of online listings in the net will be of benefit to private investigative agencies for several reasons. First, many are designed to bring you case assignments from users of investigative services, both consumer type cases and professionals. Secondly, many online listings such as various types of investigative associations will bring you case assignments from other investigative agencies in the form of subcontract or case referral work. Investigators who join certain types of associations tend to use the association membership directories to find investigators in locations outside their own service area to refer or assign cases to. Aside from all that, there is another important benefit that many of these listing services will do for an investigative agency that is often overlooked. Most of the major search engines base your own web site ranking on how many other sites are linking to your site so it stands to reason that the more direct links you have to your own web site, the better ranking you will obtain.

The Internet has developed over a period of a decade or more and can not be considered in it's fourth generation. Both professionals and consumers have become accustomed to using the Internet to find products and services that are looking for. Many agencies who once relied on other forms of advertising to obtain case assignments and clients are now reporting that the Internet is starting to produce more assignments and clients that anything else. One example of this is Bob Brown's web site for his agency in Orlando Florida. Brown and Associates has relied for many decades on yellow page advertising to obtain domestic cases from private individuals.oday, Bob Brown And Associates reports that the number of new case assignments from his web site is now beating the number of new case assignments he obtains from yellow page display ads.

Changing Your Contact Info Can Kill Your Business
Many newer investigators do not seem to understand the benefits of what can best be described as stability. It's a fact that it takes a long time to build an investigative practice. A combination of word of mouth, cold call marketing, networking with other investigators, direct mail, targeted display space advertising, web site and internet advertising that can all be integrated and combined into one overall marketing plan is what is needed. However, when you move your office or address, change your phone number and/or your email address, move your web site--this all impacts your past marketing efforts drastically. The people that may have emailed you or have your business card on file from three or four years ago will never find you again when they are ready to give you a retainer if you keep changing your location and contact information. Marketing in any form tends to have what can be described as an overall accumulative effect. It takes a long time for the energy of our marketing efforts to start to work in your favor. It therefore stands to reason that if you keep changing your vital contract information (mailing address, email, phone number web site and so forth) you will never get to the point in which you start reaping the benefits of accumulative marketing. Therefore, our advise is to take what you have and hold on to it and use Internet marketing to expand your marketing exposure.

I'm going to once again turn to Bob Brown And Associates in Orlando Florida and Beltrante And Associates in Alexandria Va. as two case in points. Both of these agencies have been in business for well over twenty years. They both have the same address, same telephone number, same email address and the same vital contact information that they did last year, the year before that and the year before that. Although Bob Brown moved his office a about two years ago for unavoidablereasons, Mr. Brown was careful to keep the same phone number he has had for over 30 years and the same email address and web site location. Beltrante and Associates is a rock of stability as they have been in the same location with the same contact information for decades. Both of these firms are reaping the benefits of decades of accumulative marketing efforts and are two of the most successful private investigative agencies in the USA!

 

Ralph Thomas
Thomas Investigative Publications, Inc.
National Association Of Investigative Specialists, Inc.
Spy Exchange And Security Center Inc.
Utrak. Inc.-Online GPS tracking
http://www.utrackonline.com
SpyTek Wholesale
http://www.pimall.com/nais