Google helps you find just about everything you could possibly need. Hungry? Find the closest restaurant near you. In the mood to shop? Browse the latest sales. Wondering what your boss just meant by the acronym she used? Look up possible meanings.
No matter what you're searching for, this internet giant has your back – even in the business world. If you own a small business, you can utilize Google to attract customers and get ahead of competitors.
From calendars and email to Google+ and maps, Google can help businesses organize themselves efficiently and establish an online presence. Here's how these solutions can help your business, and how you can get started.
Get Your Business Online
Google's Get Your Business Online (GYBO) project is all about helping small businesses create and establish their presence online. Google has partnered with thousands of cities and local organizations to help businesses build their website, stay on top of Google search results and be seen by customers. Resources include free custom websites, a step-by-step guide to using Google My Business, diagnostic tools to measure your website's performance, training programs and business workshops.
Get started: Sign up at gybo.com
Google My Business
For small businesses, competition lurks around every corner. Google My Business helps you stand out and connect with customers all throughout Google land. To take advantage of this service, set up a Google+ page, which can then be found via Search and Maps.
"Google My Business is a great starting point for a small business, as it's simple to set up and free too," said Ryan Scollon, SEO and PPC consultant at BowlerHat. "It allows you to show in the local/map results on a google search results page when people are looking for a local service or business. It also allows you to show business opening hours, contact details and even directions to your place of work should people need to visit you."
Setting up a Google+ page constitutes a huge chunk of Google My Business. With a Google+ page, businesses can build a following and keep customers coming back with news updates, event announcements, and special offers and discounts. Business Google+ pages let you keep contacts in the loop by sharing status updates, photos, videos and links.
With a Google+ page, you can integrate customers and followers into your marketing campaigns — they can use the +1 button to endorse your posts and share your content on their Google+ pages and throughout the web.
Google Search and Maps
A Google+ page will also help your business rank high on Google search results. This makes it easier for customers to find directions, business hours and contact information, whether they are searching on their computers or mobile devices.
Google now allows you to share content directly on Google. To do so, search your name or your company's name, click to type under the Knowledge Panel and follow the instructions from there. Anyone searching for you or your business will have access to the posts, where you can include pictures, videos, and GIFs and create events. The setup is quick and simple.
Get started: Learn more about Google My Business
Need to reach even more customers? Advertise on Google to boost sales and grow your business. Small businesses can take advantage of the search giant's reach with Google AdWords, an easy-to-use, cost-per-click (CPC) advertising platform.
The CPC model means you only pay when people click on your ads. You can set your daily budget for each advertising campaign and adjust these budgets as necessary. For example, if you have a daily budget of $10, you would have a maximum CPC of 50 cents and approximately 20 clicks per day.
Using AdWords, businesses can create advertisements that appear on relevant Google search results — including those on mobile devices — and related websites. For instance, if you own an ice cream shop in Los Angeles, your ad would appear when someone searches for an ice cream shop in the area and on ice cream, dessert or other food-related websites.
You can change your ads at any time and launch them locally, nationally and even globally. AdWords offers robust reporting and analytics tools, so you can monitor ad performance to ensure campaigns meet advertising goals.
But according to Scollon, Google Adwords needs to be approached with caution.
"The problem here is that if it's not set up or maintained correctly, it can very quickly burn your money," he said. "It can allow small businesses to get up and running pretty quickly without having to wait for other marketing to kick in, but make sure you put in plenty of time for research, or hire a professional."
Get started: Try Google AdWords
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Google Analytics is a powerful free tool that lets businesses measure traffic and track visitor behavior to determine what is and isn't helping a website meet its goals. It offers a range of visitor metrics, such as audience engagement, mobile and social media traffic, bounce rates (the rate at which visitors stay on a website or move among pages), and more. It also includes referral traffic information (where traffic is coming from) to gauge whether marketing campaigns are working and how they can be improved.
"Google offers free certifications for business owners interested in leveraging the gold mine of data that comes from using this tool," said Jeanette Guardiola-Woods, founder of Sketch and Form.
Once you learn how to use Google Analytics, you can discover things like your customers' geographical location, other sites they've visited, what kind of devices they used, whether they completed a call-to-action on your site, which pages of the site they are abandoning the most, and much more, said Guardiola-Woods.
"The real value in this data is that it allows you to target your customer more specifically, fix areas of your site that need to be optimized and track successful events," she added.
Get started: How to Use Google Analytics
As a small business, you don't need expensive productivity solutions to support your operations. An affordable alternative is G Suite, which offers a streamlined suite of web-based office programs, along with cloud storage and a collaboration service. It consists of Gmail, Calendar, Drive (which includes the office apps Docs, Sheets and Slides), Hangouts and more. These platforms come with desktop and mobile access, offline support and Google-backed security.
G Suite starts at $5 per user per month. Drive comes with 30GB of storage for each user and costs $4 a month for each additional 20GB.
If you love Gmail, you'll appreciate that G Suite lets you access your business email using the Gmail platform — but without the @gmail.com extension. You'll be able to use a custom email address with your business's domain, such as email@example.com. This version of Gmail comes with 30GB of storage, Google's search and security features, integration with Calendar, and more.
Just as its name implies, Calendar lets users manage their schedules and keep their days organized. Features include meeting reminders and calendar sharing, so you can see when team members are busy or free. Additionally, users can attach documents to events and embed event calendars on company websites, for instance, to allow customers to set up appointments instantly.
Drive gives you anytime, anywhere access to your files and documents. This cloud storage and collaboration platform lets you and your team store, share and edit files in real time over the web. Drive includes full-featured productivity apps, such as Docs (its word processor), Sheets (a spreadsheet editor) and Slides (presentation software). For on-the-go access, these services are available as standalone mobile apps from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store.
Collaborate with anyone in the office, across the country or on the other side of the world with Hangouts. Using this service, you can hold online meetings and high-definition video conferences, or keep it simple and stick to instant messaging.
Hangouts easily integrates with other Google App services — for instance, connecting straight from the Gmail inbox, adding a video event to your Google Calendar or working on Drive documents during the call.
Get started: Sign up for G Suite
Additional reporting by Sara Angeles and Jill Bowers.