Ah, Google. There’s no avoiding it, is there? It knows a lot about you, and all of its users too, so it makes sense for your business to tick all the little Google boxes and jump through a few Google hoops to play the game.
With so many tools available, it can be difficult to know what it’s worth investing time in, so here is a rundown of some of the services Google offers that can be utilised to get some SEM wins for your online business.
If you want to know how much traffic your site is getting, want to find out where it’s coming from, and whether your website is converting, Google Analytics is pretty much the best free tool around.
When you set up an account, you’ll be given some code to paste into every page of your site – this tracking code fires each time a user visits a landing page on your site, and you’ll then be able to view this as data in Google Analytics.
I’d say this is a vital one to have – it does have some issues it needs to iron out, but overall it’s a grand old tool.
Google Search Console
(AKA Webmaster Tools, AKA GWT)
Recently rebranded as Google Search Console, this is a great tool for monitoring site performance and to keep tabs on visibility and technical issues. You can also use it to monitor links back to your site, submit sitemaps, check that your site can be indexed, do some sweet markup of your html for snazzy results, and configure your domain preferences and targeting.
You’ll need to verify that you are the site owner to begin using the service.
Ah, Google AdWords. The *almost* guaranteed way to appear on page one of Google. Unlike Analytics and Search Console, if you want to play, you gotta pay.
The AdWords service falls under PPC (pay-per-click) or Paid Search as every time a user searches for a term that matches a keyword in the account, an ad will be served. If a user clicks on that ad, you’ll be charged for that click.
AdWords is a great way of promoting your business, but before you embark on an AdWords adventure, sign up and use their Keyword Planner to get a rough idea of how much it might end up costing you, or to decide whether you have the budget to compete at all. It’s also worth bearing in mind that managing an AdWords account can be time consuming – and confusing – if you don’t know how to use it. We have a team at Browser Media that can help you out with that though.
Loads of fabby info on AdWords can be found right here.
Google Merchant Centre
A cracking one for ecommerce sites, the Merchant Centre can be used to show a pretty picture of your product on page one of Google, and in Google Shopping too.
This used to be a freebie too, but then Google worked out they could make MAD MONIES out of it, and so now while it’s free to upload a product feed, you can’t actually do anything with it unless you link it to an AdWords account. From AdWords, you can set up a Google Shopping campaign pretty easily.
Configuring the feed can be a bit of a nightmare and if you don’t follow the feed spec to the letter (crossing the t’s and dotting the lower case j’s), your feed will be rejected, or suspended.
The full mind boggling feed spec can be located here. HAVE FUN.
Google My Business
Another product that has been renamed (for no reason) a fair few times, is Google My Business.
Google clears it up in the FAQs though.
What’s the difference between Google My Business, Google Places for Business and Google+ Pages Dashboard?
If you previously used Google Places for Business or Google+ Pages Dashboard to manage your business information, your account has been automatically upgraded to Google My Business. Google My Business makes it easier than ever to update business information across Google Search, Maps and Google+.
This is relatively quick and easy to set up, and is great for a bricks and mortar or local business as you’ll show on Google Maps and can display opening hours and reviews.
YouTube can be great for businesses. Whether you use it as somewhere to host video content rather than uploading huge videos to your site, or create a fully optimised YouTube channel, if you have video content worth publishing (think useful content like product reviews and how to guides), YouTube can be a cracking way of driving referral traffic, and building your brand.
Using YouTube to add personality to your brand is fine, but just don’t do this… Ugh.
For businesses that want to distribute their news and show expertise in their field, Google News can provide a great way of getting content seen. However, there are a whole host of requirements and specifications that you need to meet to be accepted. Firstly, you need to have a verified Search Console account and make sure the site meets all of the technical and quality criteria.
One of the stranger requirements is that all URLs need to include three numbers unless you submit a news sitemap, which you can’t do until you’ve been accepted. Crazy.
Then there are a whole host of quality guidelines that you’ll need to meet, so only try to use this service if you genuinely have something of value to add.
In saying that, I’ve seen some seriously poo sites be accepted, and some great ones that have been rejected. Go figure.
Have fun bowing down to our mighty overlord!