- Google helps small businesses in many ways: Google Business Profile builds customer awareness, while Google Ads generates web traffic and direct leads.
- Google Analytics is a free tool that shows website traffic reports so you can create more content that visitors like and fix issues that are not working.
- Google Workspace is a suite of web-based software and productivity tools that you can use for collaboration.
- This article is for small business owners who want to leverage Google's free tools for marketing and productivity.
Google helps you find just about everything you could possibly need. Hungry? Find the closest restaurant to 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 business profiles and maps, Google helps you run your business efficiently and establish an online presence. Google's Get Your Business Online (GYBO) is the umbrella site that explains how to use its suite of tools to establish and enhance your online presence.
Google has partnered with thousands of cities and local organizations to help businesses build their websites, 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 Business Profile, diagnostic tools to measure your website's performance, training programs and business workshops.
Here's how these solutions will help your business, and how to get started.
Google Business Profile
If you're a small business owner, a potential customer's first exposure to your company is probably through a Google search. Google Business Profile, formerly known as Google My Business, gives them something to find.
What is Google Business Profile?
Google Business Profile establishes you as a business as far as Google is concerned, allowing you to show up in search and map results when someone searches for your type of business near them. It also allows customers to leave Google reviews of your business, which goes a long way in building your company's credibility and generating leads.
"[It] is a great starting point for a small business, as it's simple to set up and free too," said Ryan Scollon, a PPC consultant. "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."
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Benefits of Google Business Profile
In the past, a Google Business Profile gave a business a competitive advantage. Today, not having one gives you a marked disadvantage, and you lose the opportunity to tell potential customers about what you do, where you are, when you are open, how others feel about you, and anything else you want to tell them. To take advantage of this service, you will need to create or claim your Google Business Profile.
With a Google Business Profile, you can build a following and keep customers coming back with news updates, event announcements, and special offers and discounts. Your business profile on Google lets you keep contacts in the loop by sharing status updates, photos, videos and links. Your profile also allows you to view and reply to customers' feedback and answer their questions.
When the coronavirus hit, Google expanded the business profile section so companies could post any pandemic-related changes – such as different hours of operation, and changes in service like curbside pickup or takeout only for restaurants – which was a useful way for small businesses to communicate with customers.
FYI: You can use your business profile to post special offers and events for free.
Google Maps and search
A Google business listing will allow others to find your company on Google Maps and rank high in Google search results. This makes it easier for customers to find directions, hours and contact information for your business – whether they are searching on their computers or mobile devices.
You can now share content directly on Google by following these steps:
- Search your company's name on Google.
- When you see your logo next to "Your business on Google," click "Add update."
- Type in your update, and add a photo and/or a button.
Anyone searching for you or your business will have access to the posts, where you can share pictures, videos and GIFs, and event announcements. The setup is quick and simple. [Get started: Learn more about Google Business Profile.]
Google Local (Google Guaranteed)
Google Local – also called Google Guaranteed – is local advertising that shows up when people in your area search for the services you offer. Unlike with Google Ads, you only pay Google Local when a customer calls or messages your business directly through the ad, so it is great for lead generation.
Home services businesses can get a Google Guaranteed badge by submitting paperwork. The badge shows customers that Google has verified your business and backs your services. Professionals such as lawyers and consultants can get a Google Screened badge, showing that Google has verified their background and vouches for their expertise.
To begin this service, tell Google how many leads you would like to get per week and set up your ad budget. These simple ads include the company's name, the average number of stars it has from Google reviews, and a few other words. Google will display your ad in accordance with the budget at the top of the search results, along with two or three competing companies.
Customers can reach you by selecting the ad and sending a direct message, or by calling you. When your business receives these phone calls through the Google ads, it is important to have a live human answering the phone and not a voicemail. If calls are not answered by a person, Google will reduce the number of times your ad shows up. Having a lot of good Google reviews also helps with your ad exposure. Google Local is the major lead source for many small businesses.
Need to reach even more customers? If you offer a truly unique service and want to advertise based on keywords, or if you can sell to customers nationally or internationally in addition to locally, Google Ads is the way to go. Small businesses may take advantage of the search giant's reach with Google Ads, 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.
Did you know? Google Ads sends you web traffic, not direct leads. Before using this product, make sure your website or landing page is compelling and mobile-friendly, or you will not get the results you want.
Using Google Ads, your company can create advertisements that appear in relevant Google search results – including 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 in results for "ice cream," "dessert" or other keywords that you specify.
You can change your ads at any time and launch them locally, nationally, and even globally. Google Ads offers robust reporting and analytics tools, so you can monitor ad performance to ensure your campaigns meet your advertising goals.
According to Scollon, though, Google Ads 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."
Tip: Maximize your marketing budget for Google Ads by using long-tail keywords, which are specific and less competitive – and therefore cheaper.
Google Analytics is a powerful, free tool that lets you measure traffic and track visitor behavior to determine what is – and isn't – helping your website meet its goals. It shows various visitor metrics, such as audience engagement, mobile and social media traffic, and bounce rates (the rate at which visitors stay on your website or move among pages). It also includes referral traffic information (where your traffic is coming from) to help you gauge whether your marketing campaigns are working and how they could improve.
"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 your customers' geographical locations, other sites they've visited, what kind of devices they use, whether they completed a call to action on your site, and which pages of the site they are abandoning the most, 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]
You don't need expensive productivity solutions to support your operations. An affordable alternative is Google Workspace – formerly 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, and Drive, which includes the office apps Docs, Sheets, and Slides. These platforms offer desktop and mobile access, offline support, and Google-backed security.
Google Workspace starts at $6 per user per month. The basic plan includes 30GB of storage for each user. The higher plans, for $12 or $18 per month, include 2TB and 5TB of storage respectively. There is also an enterprise plan with unlimited storage. For that plan, you need to contact the Google sales team for specific pricing information.
If you love Gmail, you'll appreciate that Google Workspace lets you access your business email on the Gmail platform, but without the @gmail.com extension. You can 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, and integration with Calendar.
As its name implies, Calendar lets you manage your schedule and organize your events. Features include meeting reminders and calendar sharing, so you can see when team members are busy or free. Additionally, you can attach documents to events and embed event calendars on your company website, allowing clients to set up appointments instantly. [Related: 10 Tips and Tricks for Google Calendar]
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 stand-alone mobile apps from the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store. This provides a great communication tool for employees who work from different locations.
Jennifer Dublino, Sara Angeles and Jill Bowers contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.