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Google…ize your small business

What you need to know to connect with the most powerful search engine in the world

“Today, 95% of all products and services bought are first researched on search engines,” says Ronnie Soud, principal and co-founder of Evision Worldwide and Five Rivers Interactive Media and speaker at the Knowledge Is Power workshop sponsored by First Atlantic Bank and Nova Southeastern University.

“Even though consumers might not buy directly from your site, they are visiting your site and they are finding you—and they want to know who you are, where you’re located, and if you are truly going to solve the problem that they have.”

Seek and find

Since Google represents such a big shift in consumer activity, how can you get your small business found when a consumer does a search? Soud says you should take advantage of the full suite Google has to offer.

“Google has, in a way, segmented all the great products that they have and have really put them into three different segments,” says Soud.

Those three segments include:

•Starting your business. This has to do with email, setting up an infrastructure and a website, and Microsoft word style software.

•Marketing your business. This is where Google Checkout, Google Merchant Center, Google Places, as well as YouTube and Google AdWords, come into play.

•Tracking your business and website performance. At this stage, you utilize Google Analytics and Google Website Optimizer.

Start at the beginning

“In order to use the full suite of products, such as Google Places and Google Analytics, Google requires you to set up a Gmail address—that’s what runs the whole show,” says Soud.

If you don’t have a Gmail account yet, you can register for one for free from the Google home page in the upper right corner. Soud says you only need one and it should be something you, as the business owner or as head of marketing, owns and has access to.

You then sign in with that Gmail address and can begin creating your footprint by clicking on the “Business Solutions” link below the search bar.

“While this is all free, there is one disclaimer:  When you register for these and see the agreements, you are giving permission for Google to have access to all your data,” says Soud. “They have access to it, but they can’t do anything with it.”

Get marketing

•Google Checkout. Google Checkout is similar to PayPal. It offers a fast, secure checkout process that helps increase sales by bringing you more customers and allowing them to buy from you quickly and easily with a single login.

Soud says that without any heavy coding, you can allow people to purchase consulting hours, register for an appointment, or buy an actual product right from your site. “They give you the shopping cart. You simply have to load in your products and descriptions and then hand it over to your web staff to place the snippet of code to actually publish the shopping cart to the Web, and you are in business,” says Soud.

•Google Merchant Center. “For those that sell a product, Google Merchant Center is a valuable tool,” says Soud. You use the Google Merchant Center to upload your product listings with a description and price for use in AdWords ads, Google Search, Google Product Search, and Google Commerce Search.

•Google Places. Google Places is also a free service that helps get you more visibility. “This is one of the biggest changes Google has made in the last three years,” says Soud. “What Google found through the years was that the majority of searches being done online had some form of local intent.”

“There was such an explosion of localized searches on Google that they decided to build this giant business directory, publish it to the Web based on keyword searches placed in its search bar, and they made it free.”

To register your business on Google Places, simply go to www.Google.com/places, click get started, sign in, and begin listing your business. To ensure the most benefit, fill in every prompt. The description and category are essential to your listing and you will need to upload some sort of a photo or business logo to be considered complete. You can also enhance your listing by placing YouTube videos, links, and customer reviews. In a week or two, you will then validate it all by entering a pin number that you receive on a postcard.

Tracking performance

•Google AdWords. AdWords allows you to display your ads on Google and its advertising network and you only pay if people click on your ads. One of the best ways to utilize AdWords is to look up what consumers are searching for by using its keyword tool. Simply search “keyword tool” in its search bar, type in a word or phrase pertaining to your company, and you can see the search volume of how many people are typing in your search term and variations of it locally (which means nationally) and globally (which means the world).

“You now get to see how many people on average per month are typing in your keyword,” says Soud. “This keyword tool helps you to organize your thoughts and campaign structure. Without doing this, you could be running a very inefficient campaign.”

To get stated, click on start my campaign and give it an appropriate name, fill in the settings, write your ad, include your website, preview it, and select your keywords with match types (click on link “Advanced option: match types” for explanations). Set your default bid, which is up to what dollar amount per click you are willing to pay, set your billing, and your ad is typically live within hours.

•Google Analytics. Analytics is another free item you can sign up to use and it helps you to attract more of the traffic you are looking for and turn more visitors into customers. This helps you learn which online marketing initiatives are cost-effective and see how visitors actually interact with your site, i.e., how many visits (been to site), page views (coming to site and looking at numerous pages), or bounces (how many left under 15 seconds).

You can then use this information to make informed site design improvements, drive targeted traffic, and increase your conversions and profits.

Ronnie Soud, principal and co-founder of Evision Worldwide and Five Rivers Interactive Media, can be reached at 888-957-0002 or through www.evisionworldwide.com.


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