Google is far more than a search engine. If you know where to look, you can find a treasure trove of free or practically free tools to help grow your business.
Just about everyone uses Google in some form for their business. I'm sure you know about Google Maps, AdWords, Google Analytics, and Gmail. You might also know about Google Drive, Google Calendar, and Chrome, Google's Web browser. I even bet a few of you out there have delved into Google's "Even More" section, where you'll find several dozen Google products listed. But Google provides tools beyond those published in this section, and many of them can help you in your everyday marketing and business operations. Let me take you on a brief tour.
1. Google Trends
You're in the process of evolving your business with the changing times. You need to determine what kind of marketing language and descriptive terminology to use for your sales materials, website copy, and search engine optimization. Consider plugging some of your terms into the Google Trends search bar to see how searches for these terms have changed over time. Look for those still trending upward, and review the additional detail Google provides.
2. Think With Google
Speaking of seeking data to help your company evolve, don't miss Think With Google. It's a free marketing resource loaded with consumer trends, marketing insights, case studies, industry research, and creative inspiration.
Did you know that 67 percent of people say a mobile-friendly site makes them more likely to buy a product or use a service? (Or that even if these people like your business, 50 percent will use you less often if your website is notmobile friendly!) Don't fall into the latter category. In last year's article about mobile marketing, I mentioned how Google offers a way for you to build a free mobile website for a year. Google's GoMo can also take your existing website through a free diagnostic test to determine to what extent it is (or is not) already mobile friendly.
4. YouTube's My Business Story
Create free high-quality online videos using this Google guide and tool. All you have to do is create a free YouTube account and upload some video clips and photos, and the tool will guide you through templates to add graphics and music.
5. Google+ Hangouts
In my article about GooglePlus, I mentioned that live video chat and collaborative screen sharing tool Hangouts is a fan favorite. Businesses can use Hangouts for small team meetings, virtual office hours, or brainstorming sessions or customer Q&A sessions.
6. Get Your Business Online
Because 97 percent of Americans who use the Internet look online for local goods and services, every small local business needs a website. But according to Google, more than half of U.S. small businesses don't have one. To help solve this problem, Google offers Get Your Business Online free website building, domain name registration, and hosting for up to one year. The site also has free resources to help small businesses grow and advertise online.
7. Trusted Stores
For those websites offering an online shopping experience, Google's Trusted Stores can help alleviate customers' doubts about your site's legitimacy and how well they'll be serviced. Google Trusted Stores have to pass a test for reliable shipping and customer service, and in so doing, they earn the right to display a Trusted Store badge.
8. Google Apps for Business
Competing head-to-head with Microsoft Office, Google Apps for Business software lives in the cloud instead of being server-based. Pricing starts at $5 per user per month depending on the features you select. You can then take advantage of Google Apps Scripts to further empower your business.
So go ahead--dig around Google for a little while. What it can provide your business beyond mere search tools might surprise you.
Client advocate, digital strategist, and thought leader HOLLIS THOMASES, founder of Web Ad.vantage, helps companies navigate the complexity of the ever-changing digital marketing landscape and develop digital strategies. @hollisthomases