Google has come a long way since its inception and initial public offering in 1998 as a search engine while competing with heavyweights Lycos and AOL back in those days.However, what separates the company from the pack is their ability to invent and scale up free tools and resources that small businesses can use every day.
In a world where small business has less boundaries and globalization is as easy as incorporating, that’s a pretty savvy and strategic focus. With these tips, you can create a Google-powered small business that’s efficient, lean, and best of all, maximizes its operational performance.
Sure, Google is a powerful search engine for information on just about anything your little heart may be looking for, and the company has done extremely well in that core business (revenues were nearly $24 billion last year and if you want a piece of the action, be prepared to shell out about $600 a share these days).
But over the past few years, Google’s bread and butter has become their small business apps that have allowed companies of all sizes to exchange e-mails, calendars, documents, spreadsheets, pictures, video, website analytics, advertising, and just about anything else you can imagine – for free.
Here’s a few of Google’s small business apps I use every day that my shop doors are open:
Gmail – Google’s flagship e-mail client Gmail allows for anyone to set up a free account with a 28G capacity; and don’t worry if you don’t understand what a Gig is, because you don’t have to. Just know that’s a lot of space. My favourite feature about Gmail is the new Google Voice application that allows you to make free phone calls to anyone in the US using VoIP. You can even add a “call me” widget to your small business’s website that allows visitors to call your office right from your homepage. When you’re ready to make the conversion, you can import your existing email address, contacts, and emails to your new Gmail account for a seamless conversion.
Docs – Google Docs is short for documents, a web-based application that allows for people to create, share, edit, and download word processing and spreadsheet documents and presentations. While there are no fancy features like those available in Microsoft Office’s programs, all of the basic functionalities are there and that’s good enough for most businesses. No longer will you be endlessly e-mailing documents to and from collaborators every time a revision is made; you and your team can just log on to Google and use the Docs App.
The Docs are stored in what’s called “the cloud” – formally known as cloud computing – which essentially allows for files to be stored and accessed not from your machine’s local hard drive, but from the web-based provider (in this case, Google is the provider). One particularly useful feature is the auto-save and viewing capability. As your editing a document or spreadsheet, Google is automatically saving it for you every second and the people you’ve shared that document with can view your revisions in real-time.
Google Places – It’s a free directory for listing your local business so that it may be found by a Google or Google Maps search. You can add your business’s address, description of services, business categories, areas you serve, keywords, pictures, video, and so much more. Arguably, the best part is that it’s entirely free. Yahoo.com, Local.com, and the Yellow Pages are all paid local business directories, and the irony of it is that most people use Google when searching through local business listings anyway. I also love that Google adds a picture of your store front by default when you enter in your address (Google pays people to take pictures of every address in the world – no kidding!) If you run your business from home like I do, you can easily turn the picture feature off.
Google Social Media Apps – Some analysts and experts quip that Google has had a particularly hard time breaking into social media and bringing unique platforms to the mass market, but I disagree (with the exception of Google Buzz, which allows you to create a profile and share updates, videos, photos and more and was recently hit with a lawsuit over privacy protection). In 2006, Google bought YouTube, the undisputed champ of the social video-sharing sites. As a small business, you can create, upload, and share across multiple end-user outlets that include your websites pages and email marketing campaigns. Use these simple, informative, and attractive online videos to introduce your business, product, or service.
Blogger — Google’s free blogging platform is one of the biggest blogging platforms on the Internet today (close rivals would include WordPress and Typepad). You can easily set up a profile, integrate Blogger into your small business’ website, and you or your employees can begin blogging today about your industry trends, new products or services you’re rolling out or featuring, and just about anything else that relates to your company. Having a blog is becoming extremely more and more essential to building a strong web-based brand for your small business because it gives your company a voice and authority, which immediately helps your Google search rankings.
Google Picasa — This allows you to upload, store, edit, and share hundreds of photos that integrate seamlessly with your small business’ other Google apps, website, and other social media sites. Adwords, Analytics, and Webmaster Tools – The last category of indispensable Google Apps for small business has to include Adwords, a platform for creating and managing advertisement campaigns on Google; Analytics, a comprehensive platform for detailed tracking of your small business’s website visitors and how they behaved on your site; and Webmaster Tools, the brother of Analytics that helps your small business’s webmaster to understand how Google crawls, indexes, and ranks your website.
My small business is run almost exclusively on the vital Google Apps listed above, and I couldn’t be any happier or more productive. Note that that you don’t have to sign up for each of these small business Apps individually; rather, simply sign your company up for a new Google Account, fill in the necessary information, and then simply “add” these apps right from your account settings page.
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