Today I want to share some ways that you can integrate Google into your business, and no, I am not talking about search, or placing or posting ads (AdSense and AdWords) even though those are great, but best left to another day. Instead, consider using some of Google’s lesser-known, but equally powerful, features.
1. Google Profiles: One danger of the Internet is that you cannot control everything that is put on there about you and your business. In previous times, a business could create a brand and be fairly well assured that their reputation was one they created through their business, advertising, and to a lesser extent, customer relations.
But today, places like Yelp, blogs, and forums mean that there is a lot more information out there about your business, whether you like it or not. And when people Google your business, they may find that info before anything else.
That is where Google Profiles come in. By setting up a Google Profile, you can quickly and easily create your own Google webpage, and the great news is that that page is guaranteed to end up at the bottom of Page 1 of any Google search for you or your business. Google “Steve Strauss”, for instance, and at the bottom of Page 1, you will see my Google Profile. Your Profile is written by you and can link to your website, blog and so on.
We like Page 1.
2. Google Alerts: It is fascinating what people may say about you and your business online, but unless you have a Google alert, you may never know. Google alerts can be set up to send you links to wherever you are mentioned online – on websites, blogs, and other online properties. Your alert can tell you of both good news and bad news, and in the case of the latter, empower you to take action and protect your online brand and reputation.
So consider setting up alerts for
- Your name
- The name of your business
In addition, Google Alerts can be used as a free, and incredibly powerful, research tool. You may want to set up alerts for your industry, your competitors, your products, market trends – you get the idea.
3. Google Places: The latest tool in the Google portfolio is Google Places, formerly Google Local Business Center. Think of it as sort of the white pages of the 21st century. Google Places allows you to add your business to Google’s local directory and maps for free. When people search and end up on a map of your area, your Places placement allows them to see your location, hours of operation, photos, videos, coupons, and more. For a small fee ($25) you can make your business stand out when it pops up in Places.
4. Cloud Computing: While, like most small business people, I am a committed user and fan of Microsoft Office, a growing number of businesses are demanding the ability to work when, where and how they want. That means that, among other things, they want to be able to access their suite of office tools from any computer. Enter cloud computing, i.e., accessing programs (like word processing) online and storing your documents on far away servers, rather than your desktop or laptop.
Online Google Docs has been making inroads into this traditional desktop Microsoft domain, so much so that the next version of Office will be available Google-style, that is, online and for free (certain editions.) Google Docs offers you all of the tools you need: document preparation, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. No, it’s not Office, but it works, and it is free.
5. Trends: Google Insights for Search allows you to easily analyze long-term trends online. You can compare search volume patterns across regions, categories, and times. For instance, here is a search that shows how interest in IBM servers has gone down over the last six years.
Bottom line: Google – it’s not just for search anymore.
Follow me on Twitter: @SteveStrauss.