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Another Reason Search Reputation Management is Important – The “Search Engine Father In Law Syndrome”

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 14 years and 107 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

Over the past two days, I’ve been working with a very sharp gent by the name of Andres Galdames towards earning a certification from Clicktracks analytics. I will spare the usual soapbox shouting for clicktracks and just tell you that they rock and you’re a fool if you’re using other analytics. During the course of reviewing the material, Andres mentioned that he’s been trying to coin a new term – “The father in law syndrome” – so I told him it sounded like a good post, and that I’d do my best to help out.

The search engine father in law syndrome
Let’s hope Andres’ father in law doesn’t get too upset when he reads this, but how many folks have father in laws, or other older relatives and friends that go to google to type in a web address that you tell them?

In simple form – the search engine father in law syndrome is not knowing the difference between a search engine and the address bar, and USING the SE’s as their address bar.

Think I’m kidding? Check out your stats for branded terms (or terms that include any variation of your web address that come from search engines) – that’s the percentage of your visitors that have SEFILS (if you can’t figure out HOW to do this – is just one more reason you should be calling up the fine folks at clicktracks).

So the conclusion becomes: You know your branded traffic can be incredibly valuable (it’s often your repeat visitors) – how can you POSSIBLY let someone else control the other spots in the top 10 for your branded phrases, and risk losing a small percentage of this valuable traffic due to not understanding SEFILS. Any company should DEFINITELY be proactively optimizing to dominate for these terms.

Just when I had hoped branding was dying, it reincarnates itself in new form. Time to start switching those budgets from billboards to branding for SEFILS. Even worse than NOT owning those results, is having something negative in them – the equivalent of someone hijacking your billboard and spraypainting hate slogans on it, or being allowed to buy the radio spot right after yours to tell everybody why your company sucks. I’m guessing someone’s getting fired if that goes down – so why then is it no big deal when it happens in the SERPS?

Unfortunately we can prevent or cure SEFILS, but we can help to treat it’s effects.

On a very related note was the excellent article on Google becoming the new http:


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  • imnotadoctor

    I have run into a lot of older people with SEFILS.

    It is truly scary the amount of SEFILS cases out there.

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  • rcjordan

    You guys don’t get out in the real world much, eh? My standard warning; “Clench a long, thick letter strap between your teeth. Proceed at your own risk. Do not substitute a pen or pencil, as you’ll bite straight through it. I also advise against sports-type dental guards as they are too small and might be swallowed when you suck in that first horrified gasp.”

    OK, with said strap in place, position yourself so that you might watch over the shoulder of any typical office-worker, say, aged 30 or over. Oh, I forgot, you’d better grip the back of a chair, no, make that something heavier so you can’t bean them with it too easily. Now suggest they find a website about a subject dear to your heart –but I strongly recommend you make it a simple-to-find site. Keep your clues as general as possible so that you’re not giving them any inadvertent clues. Grip tightly and watch them navigate. They’ll fill in any text input area they can find …location bar, search box, form text box. It really doesn’t matter. Why do you think banner whores use tiles that look like search boxes?

  • dan zarrella

    Andres trained me as well.
    I can echo the sharp gent compliment and I think i remember him talking about SEFILs also.

  • Darwin Hall

    SEFILs- That’s funny.

    I’ve noticed this for a short while and find it interesting that some large corporate sites consider traffic from SEFILs to be organic. LOL!

    I can’t can’t be considered organic, can it!?

  • tacimala

    Definitely a good article and an eye opener in a sense, but I can’t seem to agree with idea of calling it SEFILs. It is a good idea to get some sort of “branding” out there for this concept, but I just don’t agree with this one. Thanks for the info though!

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  • Esrun

    Interesting comments about SEFILs

  • Daniel R


    I’ve heard this called the “mom” syndrome, which I guess is far worse than calling it SEFILs. I mean, we’re talking about our Moms.

    The best example of this is of course when you type in “Google” into Yahoo, and Yahoo informs the user that Yahoo is also a search engine like Google.

    The idea of reputation also comes into how unique the brand is. If there is another brand that is similar to it or maybe the brand sounds generic – that could confuse some users who are looking the brand up.

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