by Sara Angeles, BusinessNewsDaily Staff Writer | May 01, 2014 01:45pm ET
Google offers many services to help small businesses succeed. Here's how to use them to grow your business.
Credit: Twin Design / Shutterstock.com
When it comes to Web searches, Google is king. But the tech giant also offers a trove of robust tools and resources to help small businesses grow and succeed.
From finding new customers to increasing productivity, Google's free and paid business services can mean the difference between a struggling startup and a booming business. These services include the social media and search platform Google+ Business, live consultation service Google Helpouts, advertising program Google AdWords, productivity suite Google Apps and website-traffic monitoring tool Google Analytics. Here's how these solutions can help your business, and how you can get started.
Google+ Business — Get found on Google
For small businesses, competition lurks around every corner. Google+ 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, Maps and Google+ Local. [How to Reserve a Google+ Custom URL for Your Business]
Setting up a Google+ page makes up a huge chunk of Google+ 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. And just like a regular Google+ page, business Google+ pages let you keep contacts in the loop by sharing status updates, photos, videos and links.
With a Google+ page, you can also integrate customers and followers into your marketing campaigns — they can leave ratings and reviews, 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 on top of 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+ Local is the reviews and recommendations arm of Google+ business pages. Users can search for establishments by type and location, making it a breeze to find local businesses. This service also makes it possible to include a business' address, map, phone number and hours of operation alongside Google search results.
Get started: Sign up for Google+ Business and create a Google+ page, then verify your page with Google+ Local.
Google+ Business cost: Free
Google Helpouts — Reach customers anytime, anywhere
Many people love the do-it-yourself route. Although a Google search can steer them in the right direction, they can never go wrong with live expert advice. Google Helpouts can connect you directly with customers wherever they are with live video consultations. With Google Helpouts, businesses can offer one-on-one help with things like troubleshooting a computer, fixing a bike, cooking, fitness training and many other services.
So why should you consider using Google Helpouts? In addition to expanding your services and making some extra cash, it can also position you as an expert in your industry to establish your brand and boost your reputation.
Google Helpouts is also convenient — you can create your own schedule, set up your own pricing (fixed or per-minute rate), and hold sessions at home, in the office or on the go with a mobile device.
Get started: Sign up for Google Helpouts to show up in search listings.
Google Helpouts cost: Based on the price you set, Google takes 20 percent of your earnings.
Google AdWords — Advertise on Google
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.
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 advertisement 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 also offers robust reporting and analytics tools, so you can monitor ad performance and make sure campaigns meet advertising goals.
Get started: Try Google AdWords
Google AdWords cost: Ad pricing varies. AdWords uses a CPC model, meaning 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. Here is Google's sample advertising budget: If you have a daily budget of $10, you would have a maximum CPC of 50 cents and approximately 25 clicks per day.
Google Analytics — Monitor your website
Knowing how your website is performing is key to your business' success. Google Analytics is a powerful tool that lets businesses measure traffic and track visitor behavior to determine what is and isn't helping a website meet its goals.
Google Analytics offers a wide range of visitor metrics, such as audience engagement, mobile and social media traffic, trends, 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. [MORE: 10 Google Analytics Tools Your Business Should Be Using]
Get started: How to Use Google Analytics
Google Analytics cost: Free
Google Apps — Be productive
As a small business, you don't need expensive productivity solutions to support your operations. An affordable alternative is Google Apps, 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 — along with Quickoffice, Hangouts and more. These platforms come with desktop and mobile access, offline support and Google-backed security.
If you love Gmail, you'll appreciate that Google Apps 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' domain, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. This version of Gmail comes with 30 GB 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. Users can also attach documents to events, as well as 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 also includes three full-featured productivity apps: the Docs word processor, Sheets spreadsheet editor and Slides presentation software. For on-the-go access, Docs and Sheets are each available as a standalone mobile app for iOS and Android (Slides coming soon).
Need to use Microsoft Office on your mobile phone or tablet? Quickoffice lets you create, edit and save Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on your iPhone, iPad and Android devices. The program saves all documents in Drive, ensuring that they are always available when you need them.
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 videoconferences, or keep it simple and stick to instant messaging. Hangouts also easily integrates with other Google App services — for instance, connecting straight from the Gmail inbox, adding a video event to Calendar or working on Drive documents during the call.
Get started: Sign up for Google Apps
Google Apps cost: Google Apps starts at $5 per user per month. Drive comes with 30 GB of storage for each user and will cost $4 a month for each additional 20 GB.