Is Google Taking The Place Of Referrals?

Think for a moment about what you used to do when you needed to find a trustworthy and capable doctor, chiropractor or financial advisor before the Internet and Google (if you are old enough to remember this!).

The old ways

ChatYou might have tried things out for yourself to see how they went, although for important matters you might have done some more research from expert sources, such as product reviewers in newspapers and magazines, or publications like Consumer Reports.

Often, you were influenced by advertising even more than you knew it… However, most of the time it was just easier to rely on friends and family you could trust and hope that their advice was good enough. So word of mouth was very important, right?

The new way

In today’s day and age, things are very different. One of the first things you do is turn to the Internet. You’ll search for who’s a recognised expert in solving your particular problem. You might seek out information from others who had the same problem or need, to see what they think of the experts they turned to and who ended up helping them.

Search Result PageSimply put, you’d use the power of the Internet and social media to find the person or business who can truly and reliably solve your problem.

How do you search for the best in the digital age? Why would you rely only on who your friends and family recommend when there are zillions of review sites where you can find out what product or professional hundreds of people recommend?

And even if someone recommends a restaurant for that special occasion, wouldn’t you go to Urbanspoon or TripAdvisor to check out the reviews first before making a reservation?

Similarly, the search for experts is going through a similar shift – from a doctor to a financial advisor . Nowadays, even if a friend or relative recommends you someone, you are very likely to go online, do a Google search for that person or firm, and make sure whether it’s really credible and the right choice for you.

And increasingly, there are many times when you don’t even bother to get a referral as a starting point at all!

How findable are you?

This is the first question you need to ask yourself: how discoverable are you if your potential client is looking for you?

DLikeo a quick test: type your own name into Google, and see what comes up. If you were referred by someone and your potential client typed your name into Google to make sure you are a credible and expert professional, would your Google results help or hinder your success? Do you have a website of your own? And a Facebook and Google Plus page? Do you appear on LinkedIn? Does it all look professional and trustworthy?

Remember that getting no results is just as bad, as a “professional” who doesn’t exist online may as well not exist at all in the minds of many potential clients. After all, how credible and expert can you really be if the entire Internet has never heard of you!!

Do you exist?

Most people, however, will not directly search for you, as they don’t know you exist yet. Instead, what most people will really search for is an answer to their question, or a solution to their problem.

Ultimately, if you want strangers to find you and ultimately want to do business with you, they need to find solutions and answers to their problems, and trust that you are the one who can provide those solutions to them.

A few years ago, word of mouth and referrals was everything professionals relied on. Today, articles and reviews are being retweeted, liked and stumbled upon. Facebook and Twitter have become our pipelines of information, not word of mouth. Even Google ranks content shared by your friends higher in organic search results than the same content not shared by your friends.

What’s your niche?

This is the reason why blogging and social media are so important for professionals, because engaging in those platforms is how you can demonstrate yourself to be the solution that your potential client is looking for. It also reinforces that if you want to stand out from the gazillions of publications and websites, it is becoming crucial to have a professional niche.

If there is nothing unique about the services you provide or the clientele to whom you provide them to, you run the risk of becoming invisible among the competition.


Word of mouth and referrals as a channel to disseminate information are old business. Ideas, innovations, trends, relationships and communication are created and flow through digital channels. Just as the world outgrew the cart and the horse as a mode of transportation, we too have outgrown old means of communication.

After all, how often have you tried out a new place or requested a service lately without looking them up on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn first?

What about you? Are you findable? Do you have any comments or want to know more? If you found this interesting please share it with a colleague. To make sure you receive the following posts on this topic, subscribe on this page.