The search engine and Us

To my horror I realise that it is nearly a year since I wrote an article for this blog. I have been busy blogging elsewhere, and it is not for want of topics. I’ll do a quick post – a cautionary tale about search-engine optimisation and branding.

My church supports a charity which for many years was known as USPG – standing for the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Its origins lie in missionary activity in the days of the British Empire, but now its work emphasises partnership with churches overseas (our particular area of support is a project in Malawi).

A few years ago the Society decided to rebrand itself as the ‘United Society’ or simply ‘Us’. Getting rid of the awkward colonialist connotations of the full name, and also sounding inclusive and pally. But you can see the problem – a search on ‘Us’ will find instances of the personal pronoun, or pages about the United States, if indeed ‘us’ is not a stopword and excluded altogether from searches.

(Actually even leaving out search engines, there’s a problem with ‘Us’ in conversation. Saying “St Filofax’ is supporting Us this month” is ambiguous. It reminds me of the workplace I had which named its servers after parts of the body (don’t ask….). It was very hard dictating IP addresses or URLs involving the one called ‘colon’.)

So back to USPG it went. Nice idea, but really any rebranding needs to take account of the search engine test.

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