When Google launched Helpouts in November of last year, some commentators weren’t entirely sold on the concept of quick, live video chats with experts. Noting that video chat remains frequently buggy (especially on phones), TechCrunch’s Alex Wilhelm expressed skepticism about Helpouts "because it has so many moving parts, between moving people, looking for quick interactions. I don’t want you to tell me in five minutes if I burned the sauce. If I need a real-time answer, it has to work every time or I won’t come back."

"Has Google perfected the experience to the point in which people will start paying for micro-video sessions? My gut says no," he concluded.

But while Wilhelm may turn out to be correct about the limitations of the service for home chefs and others looking for instant advice, in the intervening months Helpouts seems to have found a few categories of devoted users. Some e-commerce retailers, for instance, are using the service to give their customers a bit of the personal touch available in brick-and-mortar stores, while a partnership with the government is putting the service to use helping kids get answers on how to pay for college.

Who else is putting Helpouts to use regularly? Small-business owners, it seems. Google reports that they're utilizing the quick chats to solve common tech conundrums, noting that interest has been high enough that the company organized a specific landing page to help owners find the help they need. Inc.com reached out to find out which specific topics are tripping up entrepreneurs. The most frequent trouble spots include:


If you suspect you could benefit from knowing more about the visitors to your site, take comfort in the fact that a lot of business owners are thinking the same thing. Confluent Forms LLC co-owner David Kutcher’s advice for entrepreneurs on using Google’s webmaster tools and analytics is among the most requested Helpouts.

Building a Social Media Presence

Not sure your Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ page is doing all it can for your business? You’re not alone. Trevor Stewart’s advice on building up your social media following and Matt Navarra’s "How to Be a Hit on Social" are also apparently highly popular.

Email List Building

Want your newsletter and other messages to reach more folks? You’ve got lots of company among your fellow entrepreneurs if the popularity of Stephan Hovnanian’s free Helpout on the subject is anything to go by.

Internet Marketing Strategy

There's no shortage of ways to spend your marketing effort dollars online, which is probably why Halyard Consulting founder Jonathan Goodman’s Helpout offering to assist owners with their Internet marketing strategy is proving so popular.

WordPress & Website Design and Usability

It looks like you’re not the only one who can’t get your blog or homepage looking quite the way you want it to. Given the frequency with which Mili Ombasic is asked for free advice on the subject, plenty of owners are struggling with WordPress just like you. And non-WordPress sites are causing plenty of headaches too.  David Kutcher (free) and Jeff Stern (not free at $10 for 15 minutes of help) are both getting lots of takers for their advice on how to make your website more stylish and welcoming.

What tech topic could you use some help with?


Published on: Apr 2, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.