Which Google Products Should A Small Business Use? (Part Two)
Google offers a variety of products beyond its traditional search engine, and many of those products could help a small business owner grow an online business. Even more enticing is the fact that many of Google’s products are free. But that doesn’t necessarily mean a small business should use all of Google’s products.
In part one of this article, Which Google Products Should a Small Business Use?, I discussed the potential benefits of using Google Analytics, Google Maps/Local Business Center, Google Base, and Google Website Optimizer. Today, I’ll talk about Google AdWords, Google Webmaster Central, Feedburner, and Google Alerts – all of which are Google products a small business owner should consider using.
AdWords is Google’s pay-per-click advertising program. You write an ad, bid on keywords, and when your ad shows and someone clicks on it, you pay Google for that click to your web site.
Even if a full-blown PPC campaign isn’t possible, small businesses should consider using AdWords to target local search. You can pre-select the regional areas where you want your ads to show. This geo-targeting isn’t perfect, but it can be a cost-effective way to take on competitors with bigger budgets.
Here’s another important benefit: Having an active AdWords account, even with a minimal spending cap, will give you access to actual search data for whatever keywords you bid on. None of the keyword research tools can give you this kind of data.
What started out as a place to submit XML sitemaps to Google has really blossomed into a must-use tool for most small businesses. On a practical level, it’s the only way to get close to having a complete list from Google of what sites link to you. Beyond that, the reporting of crawl errors and the tools to let you remove URLs, the ability to see what search terms are bringing traffic to your site, and more, make this an indispensable tool for small business owners and webmasters.
“Any webmaster can benefit from Google’s Webmaster Central by eliminating the guesswork of trying to determine how Googlebot sees their site,” says David Wallace of SearchRank. “For the small business owner who often has to wear many hats, Webmaster Central provides an easy way for them to get valuable information about how their site is performing. In the past, they either would not have access to this kind of data or they would have had to utilize multiple tools which in the end would really only guesstimate how Google sees their site.”
One last note on Webmaster Central: I generally don’t recommend that small businesses use the XML sitemap submission tool. Google shouldn’t need help crawling a small- or mid-sized Web site, and by submitting an XML sitemap you may be preventing yourself from seeing real crawlability issues that should be fixed.
One of Google’s recent acquisitions, Feedburner is becoming the default RSS feed delivery and promotion service. It offers a variety of tools to help a publisher/blogger find and connect with an audience via RSS. There were, however, more privacy concerns when Google announced its purchase of Feedburner. Still, if you have a company blog, Feedburner can be a great tool to help promote your business via RSS.
Google Alerts is an e-mail notification service. You can use it to stay informed on any updates to Google’s results based on keywords you supply. This is a great way to track what’s being said about your company, your executives and staff, your industry, or just about anything else you want to monitor.
Andy Beal, who often writes about reputation monitoring at Marketing Pilgrim, calls Alerts “a great safety net for anyone that doesn’t expect a lot of online conversations about their business, but wants to be alerted should it ever happen. If you do decide to rely on Google Alerts for your reputation monitoring, make sure you have it configured to check all Google sources and that you’re sent the alert as it happens and not just once a week. A much better option would be to subscribe to an RSS feed for Google News and Google Blog Search.”
Google offers dozens of other products that might be appropriate for a small business to use; Google Talk and Picasa photo albums are just a couple. But the focus in this series has been on business- and search-related Google tools.
Not every recommendation in these articles is right for every small business. Research the product you’re considering and look for reviews from people who have direct experience with it. Fortunately, since nearly everything Google does draws attention, there will likely be plenty of information and commentary about the product you’re investigating.
Matt McGee is the SEO Manager for Marchex, Inc., a search and media company offering search marketing services through its TrafficLeader subsidiary. The Small Is Beautiful column appears on Thursdays at Search Engine Land.