Everybody knows that Google is the go to search engine when you need to find something online, but did you know that Google also offers over 100 additional products, and that most of them are free or at least very inexpensive? Whether you like Google or not, you can't argue that they provide tremendous value to small business owners with it's extensive range of tools and services.
For a new and growing business, having to pay for dozens of programs and services can quickly add up and eat away at your bottom line during a critical period in your business. Many small business owners don't realize that there are so many free or almost free products available online that can greatly improve the way you Market, Organize and Operate your business. Below are 5 Google products that I recommend to every small business owner that is just starting out, I do this because they:
- Are free, or in the case of Adwords, very cost effective
- Offer tremendous value to the small business owner
- Relatively easy to use, once again, except Adwords. (Adwords Express is now available, it's a simpler version of Adwords)
- Are trusted and reliable. Google is not going anywhere
If you have not set up your Google Places page yet, I suggest you stop now (or after you finish this article), and get started right now. Google Places is a free product from Google that allows business owners to set up a simple, yet effective business web page. You can use this service whether you currently have a website or not for your business. Why should you use Google Places?
- Free to business owners
- It's fast and easy to setup
- Since it's a Google product, it gets a special place at the top of the search ranking when people search for local businesses
To find out more about Google Places check out our article, “Create a Google Places Page in Under 5 Minutes”
Google Adwords is the leading provider of Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising on the internet. As a business owner, you can create keyword specific ads targeted to people in your local business trade area. Adwords placements are those listings that you see on top and to the right of your Google search results. When people are searching for a specific topic or product, ads relating to that topic or keyword are shown alongside the natural search results listings. What makes these ads so great for business owners?
- Once you set up your Adwords campaign and choose your keywords, Google will automatically serve your ads using the keywords and target area you specify
- You are only driving people to your site that have already expressed some kind of interest in your product or service
- You can closely track all details of your ad campaign, including number of clicks, where the clicks came from, which ads perform best and which keywords perform best
- You can easily make changes or ad new campaigns in minutes
- You set a budget of how much you want to spend each day and month, allowing tight controls over your marketing budget
Here is a good article from Red Fly Marketing on “How to set up your first adwords account”
Google Apps is a suite of servces that Google Offers to businesses to create a web based platform to help manage your business. There is a free edition that allows you up to 10 user accounts, with paid options once you go above that. The services are based around 5 key products:
Google offers a custom email address for your business using the Gmail platform. All of the Google Apps services are built around and integrate with your companies email system. If you are currently using a non-domain specific email address (eg: @hotmail.com), shame on you, that just looks unprofessional and casts a shadow of doubt in the eyes of your potential customer. Even if you are using your domain address (eg:@yourbusinessname.com), chances are you are using the free or low cost service that came with your website hosting provider. With Google Apps, you can use the easy to use, yet powerful Gmail platform under your own domain.
Google docs is a web based suite of tools, similar to Microsoft Office. You can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings using Docs. You can also share files with co-workers and even collaborate and edit documents online together in real time. With a Gigabyte of storage space, you can also store and share your Word, Excel, Powerpoint, PDF and pictures with Docs.
Google calendar is, in my opinion, the best web based calendar application around. You can create calendar events from emails, embed your calendar online, share your availability with others and create multiple calendars for specific purposes. It also seamlessly integrates with your email making it super useful.
Google sites is an easy to use website creator allowing you to create an intranet for your company. I currently use Google Sites as an intranet for my business and also have another site set up as an online file cabinet to keep track of all of my HR stuff like employee documents, evaluations and general notes.
The Marketplace is what really sets Google Apps apart from the regular Google services. The Marketplace allows you to integrate 3rd party products directly into your Google Apps account. There are hundreds of products in the marketplace from Productivity tools to Marketing applications.
Being able to organize all of your business tools and services using a single dashboard in your email account is worth it's weight in gold. You can read my article on Google Apps for Small Business to find out more.
Google Reader is a free tool that let's you keep track of what is going on in your industry. We all know that staying current on the latest news and trends is vital to remaining competitive, and we all know how difficult and time consuming it is to read dozens of articles from dozens of websites. Google reader allows you to “pull” all of those articles into a central place for your easy reading pleasure. The articles come to you, saving you hours of your time and allowing you to keep on top of what's happening in your industry.
Along with it's desktop reader, there is also a neat looking mobile version that allows you to read articles on your smart phone. I have used this service for years and I can truly say it's one of the most important tools I have in my small business arsenal. In just a few minutes a day, I can quickly scan and read dozens of articles to see what is happening and what people are saying. If you run a blog for your business, Google Reader is a great tool for finding new and relevant ideas for articles.
Google Alerts is a great tool for monitoring your business reputation online and even your own personal reputation. By adding a term, like “Your Company Name”, Google will email you any articles, blog posts, videos or discussions it finds with that term when it is scanning the internet. Just imagine that a customer is discussing your business (good or bad) on a discussion forum somewhere and Google emails you the link to the discussion allowing you to read and respond to whatever is being said.
There are so many useful applications here for business owners, here is an article from Hubspot on monitoring your company's presence online.
So there you have it, 5 tools you can start using today to help your business. I'm sure I've left out lots of other great Google services, please leave them in the comments below!