Marketing a small business can be tough, and in the frenzy of keeping your website updated and keywords climbing, it’s easy to splash the cash with a marketing agency instead of utilising the free tools available online. Below, we’ve rounded up six Google tools and features that are essential for small business marketing.
Google My Business
If you have a physical premise for your small business, then it’s essential that you sign up to Google My Business. This tool allows you to list your business as part of its directory, and increase your chances of appearing when people search for local businesses in your area.
If you’re a hairdresser and run a salon in the city, for example, then having a filled-in Google My Business profile means that you’re more likely to be featured when people search for ‘hairdresser in Manchester’.
Your listing – which can include opening hours, address, telephone number, directions, a description of your business and even menus and pricing – will also appear whenever somebody types in your brand name on Google, making them more likely to click directly through to your website or call you to enquire about your products or services.
Google My Business also opens your brand to reviews from customers, allowing you to encourage loyalty and improve your position ahead of competitors by attracting positive reviews and comments. These reviews, along with your listings, will also show up on Google Maps and other services where small businesses and locations are featured.
When you sign up for the service, you’ll also receive access to a backend, where you’ll find useful insights into your industry. You can see how people search for your business, what they click on when they see your listing and how effective your listing was.
Google My Business is an entirely free tool, and you can also call a Google representative for free if you don’t want to fill out the details yourself. The idea behind Google offering free telephone support and free listings is that you’ll go on to access its other business services, like Gsuite and AdWords, but this is not a requirement and will not affect your listing.
Google Search Console
If you’re working on improving the search engine optimisation of your website, then signing up to Google Search Console is one of the most important things you can do. As part of a suite of tools for webmasters, Search Console gives you useful insights into your domain name and its search metrics, and offers helpful information and tools to help you improve the presence of your website on the search engine. After all, it Google’s recommending you do something to improve your search presence, there’s probably a good reason for it.
Search console allows you to find and fix crawl errors, see how many clicks you’re getting for particular search terms, and submit sitemaps so that its robots can crawl your website and index new pages and content. If you’re interested in technical SEO, then you’ll also be able to find things such as rich cards, structured data and accelerated mobile pages (AMP).
If you can afford to spend a thousand pounds on professional web design, then you can afford to sign up for Gsuite and access Google’s premium tools for small business owners. When you sign up for an account (you’ll pay less than £5 per user, per month), you’ll be able to connect your domain name and create as many @yourbusiness.com email addresses as you’d like. All of your emails will run through the familiar Gmail web client and app, so you won’t have to learn anything new or install any complicated email clients.
Nobody wants to talk to email@example.com. It’s lazy and unprofessional, and sets your business off on the wrong foot when contacting potential clients. Custom addresses for your business makes you appear more professional, builds your brand, makes your business more memorable and helps to segment departments based on email addresses.
Gsuite offers much more than email addresses, though. You’ll have access to all of Google’s productivity tools, including Sheets, Docs, Drive, Calendar and Hangouts, making it easier for you to create content, share reports with staff and keep up-to-date on important meetings and projects. It really is an all-in-one productivity package for small businesses – and, because it’s powered by Google, you can be certain of its reliability and customer support.
If you’ve built a website for your small business and are investing time in search engine optimisation, then it’s essential that you collect the data to see what’s working and what’s not. Google Analytics tracks and reports on your web traffic, and offers powerful insights into what your users search for, what devices they’re using, their demographic and their intent. You can even set up conversion tracking so that, every time somebody purchases from your website, calls you, downloads an app or signs up to your mailing list, you’ll be able to track their exact journey and optimise it to increase conversions and sales.
Pay-per-click advertising is, without a doubt, the simplest and most effective way to drive traffic to your small business website. Unlike content marketing, social media marketing and search engine optimisation, which can take time and skill to perfect, pay-per-click offers you an “instant win” – you input the demographics you want to attract, Google will display your advert to searchers and you’ll pay Google every time somebody clicks through to your site.
Why should you consider Google AdWords?
- Measurable marketing: you’ll be able to see exactly how much it costs to target a particular audience, and you’ll pay the same amount for every click. You can measure what’s working and what’s not, as you’ll get detailed analytics in real-time.
- Cost-effective: content marketing, search engine optimisation and social media can offer long-term, organic results, but for small businesses owners looking for immediate results, pay-per-click can be a cost-effective method of driving traffic
- Highly-targeted: You can target the customers you want to reach – whether that’s based on their location, their device (reach mobile users or desktop users), their language, gender and even the time of day they search.
- Remarketing: if a customer has visited your site but didn’t follow through on a sale, you can remarket to them and have your message appear the next time they search for your product, increasing brand awareness and boosting conversions.
What are the drawbacks of using Google AdWords?
- Knowledge: Anyone can set up an AdWords campaign, but not everyone has the knowledge and experience to optimise a campaign to make it cost-effective and valuable to a business. This is why many people outsource their PPC management
- Time: If you’ve perfected your campaign, you’ll enjoy traffic almost immediately – for the majority, though, it takes time and multiple attempts to see the results.
- Cost: Pay-per-click, especially in crowded and competitive industries, is incredibly expensive, and you can easily blow hundreds of pounds without finding customers
The key to using Google AdWords is to carefully follow Google’s AdWords literature, and also stay up-to-date on the latest PPC trends and optimisation techniques by reading up on websites like PPC Hero, WordStream and the official Google AdWords blog.
Public relations can play an important role in your digital marketing campaign, and being able to track mentions of your brand is incredibly useful. Set up Google Alerts for your brand name, and you’ll be emailed every time a blogger or website mentions your business. If you wanted to improve your search engine optimisation, you could then reach out to websites that have mentioned your brand but haven’t linked back to you.
For small businesses that don’t have a big following or online presence, then Google Alerts can still be useful. Set up alerts to your competitors so that you can see when they launch new products or are featured in the media; set up alerts to breaking news stories in your industry so that you can share it on social media; and set up alerts to specific keywords and terms to give you useful resources to use when working on your content marketing strategy.
Many digital marketers and small business owners see Google as an enemy, whether that’s because they think Google holds too much dominance over digital marketing, they find it hard to rank or were penalised for practising black hat SEO techniques. However, Google can actually become one of your best friends when marketing your own business online. It has a wide range of free and paid-for tools and services that can help you reach customers and grow your business – you just need to use them effectively in order to see results.