For a number of reasons, some people don’t feel comfortable going to a trusted advisor such as their attorney or a friend who is a policeman for a referral to a good P.I. On a certain level, I get this. You might not be sure exactly what you’re dealing with and at the same time, you might not trust that the person you’re inquiring with or confiding in won’t share your situation with another person or even pass some judgment on you. These can be extremely personal and sometimes humiliating dilemmas.
At the same time, if you’re looking for a private investigator in another town, state or country, far from where you have anyone you trust, the Internet is your only option. Of course, there is a lot of bullshit to be waded through on the Internet, but there is obviously good information to be found there, too.
Using the Internet Search Engines to Find a P.I.
Okay, so I’m going to assume that you have very basic Internet search skills. Please bear with me if this is too basic for you (or skip down further). In any case, any major search engine will do, be it Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. If I’m looking for a private investigator in my area, since I live in a suburb of Cleveland, called Bay Village, I’m probably going to type in something like “private investigator Cleveland Ohio.” It would look something like this:
Now, those “Paid Ads” (called “AdWords” on Google) are placed at the top because Google is getting paid by the business entity (the actual business or a paid service) to place it there. The advertiser only gets charged for the ad being there if someone clicks on it. This is often referred to in the Internet marketing arena as “pay-per-click,” or PPC, for short. It’s a bidding war for the advertiser to get his ad up there and in the P.I. industry, depending on the market and the search words used, the advertiser can be paying anywhere from $1, up to $20 each time one of his ads are clicked on by a visitor, depending on how high the ad is placed and on what page, if any at all. Some Internet researchers understand that those are paid ads and scoot right past them for that reason, some people understand that they are paid ads, don’t care and take them into consideration anyway…and most people don’t know the difference.
If you scroll down a little bit further on the page, if you specified a geographic area in your search (like “Cleveland Ohio,” as above), you’ll usually end up with a section under the paid ads that has an image of a map with some icons on it, followed by listings of businesses or individuals that match your search query. Depending on your search words and geographic area, there may be only one or two listings here, or in a densely populated or more broad area, there may be 6-10 listings here.
Next, below the local listings, you will find the “organic” listings. Those are the ones that people are most familiar with. When Google first got started, for the first few years, these were the only kinds of listings or search results you saw on Google.
Sometimes, if no one is bidding on the search words you entered and your search query doesn’t contain any kind of geographic request that the search engine can ascertain, you’ll only get the organic listings, but that is rare these days. The search engine provider, “Google” in the above case, decides what the order of the listings is in the organic section and they have very complex algorithms and/or formulas that help them configure that order. They call this “ranking.” Some of the criteria are how the actual websites being searched are set up, how long the website has been in existence, how long people stay on the site once there, how many visitors the site gets and other factors that they think make the site “relevant.” These criteria and the search engines’ ranking criteria are a moving target (always changing) and businesses can spend lots of money trying to figure out how to get to and stay on top. There is an entire industry devoted to the organic listing business and it is called “search engine optimization.”
For more help on how to search for a P.I. on the Internet, call the office and ask to have a copy of our guide, “The Essential Guide for Finding, Selecting & Hiring a Private Investigator to Conduct an Infidelity Investigation.”