Thursday, September 30, 2010

The more you know: switching to Gmail like a pro

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Every day, tens of thousands of people switch from Microsoft Outlook® and other client-based software to Google Apps. To make the transition as smooth as possible, we thought we’d share some tips on using Gmail.

Embrace conversations
Emails rarely come just one at a time; they’re usually part of a larger exchange. Gmail helps you manage messages more efficiently by grouping related emails into conversations. Conversations are a collection of messages with the same subject line and other similarities. When you click to read a conversation, you'll see all of the back-and-forth email responses that happen over the course of the entire email conversation.

This makes it easier to follow the full context of a conversation, and keeps your inbox less cluttered and more organized. If you prefer a more traditional view of your Inbox, you can always turn off Conversation view so that all emails arrive individually.

Forget delete, and archive your way to “Inbox Zero”
The average corporate inbox is only 300MB, which means too many people are forced to spend way too much time managing their inbox -- deciding which email to keep, and deleting the rest. With 25GB of storage, you probably won’t ever need to delete an email again because of storage limitations. And if you thrive on clearing your inbox, simply archive your emails to clear the clutter. They’re still fully searchable in an instant!

Search to sort
You may be accustomed to sorting email to find saved messages, which is a pretty limited way to find information because you usually know what you’re looking for. Gmail uses the power of search to help you quickly find what you want. You can even use advanced search operators to search by sender, date, attachment or a variety of other attributes. Try it and you'll find some of the qualities that Google.com is known for: great accuracy and really fast search results. Search is particularly more effective than sorting when you’re looking through multiple gigabytes of email!

Labels instead of folders
While you won't find folders in Gmail, labels give you even more flexibility to organize your email. You can’t put an email into multiple folders, but you can apply multiple labels to the same message, which makes it easy to manage information that may fall into more than one category.


By clicking on a label, you can view a chronological list of all conversations that have been tagged with that label. And you can even organize labels hierarchically, using the “Nested Labels” lab. (Your administrator needs to have enabled Labs for you to access them.)

Work offline
These days you’re probably almost always connected to the Internet. But in those increasingly rare moments when you’re not, you can still access Gmail. When you’re offline, you can work in your browser to compose messages, search, organize mail, and do all of the things you're used to doing while accessing your email online. Any messages you send while offline will be placed in your outbox and automatically sent the next time Gmail detects a connection. To enable offline Gmail, go to the ‘offline’ tab in Settings, select ‘Enable’ and then save changes.

New features
As a web application, Gmail can be updated and improved without the trouble of purchasing, downloading and installing updates. This means Gmail will continually offer new functionality to help you be even more productive, like Priority Inbox, integrated voice and video chat, and labs such as Apps Search and Desktop Notifications. To stay current on new features, we encourage you to subscribe to our RSS feed for updates to the Google Apps suite.

We hope you enjoy the experience we offer -- we believe that ultimately, a fully-searchable, delete-nothing inbox makes for happy, productive people. But if you’re still not quite ready to use Gmail’s web interface, you can keep using Outlook or other clients of your choice. For more tips, check out our detailed transition documentation, and let us know what else we can do to make your move to Gmail easier in the comments below.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Google Places Tip and Tricks - September

Hope you had a great summer and are ready to jump into fall! Here are a few tips to further engage with your customers, and we've also shared the experience of Dr. Jeffrey Prager, whose use of Google Places to connect with potential clients for his dental practice sheds light on how other businesses and professional services can achieve similar success.


Post to your Place page

Connect with your customers through Place page posts. These 160-character posts allow you to share a short update or special with users. Check out some examples and sign in now to write a quick post!


Make sure your free listing has everything it needs

You can update your business hours, add photos and make many other edits through your Google Places account. Some of the information you can update includes:
  • Photos and videos
  • Business hours
  • Description
  • Address and service areas
  • Much more
Use the Report a Problem tool in other cases, such as:
  • Duplicate listings
  • Inaccurate information, including personal contact information or information about another business, that appears on your Place page
See more examples of updates and sign in now to edit your page.


Success Story


Through Google Places, Dr. Jeffrey Prager's Bellinghamsmiles.com Dental Care has a continual influx of new customers, reduced marketing costs, and a high ROI.

As his practice continues to evolve, he updates his Place page to reflect any new services he offers. He might add a new video or update his business description. The listing also helps him market his business niche - laser procedures to help patients avoid painful gum surgery. Read more.

You can update your Places account at any time by signing in at http://google.com/places with your email address and password.

Posted by Bernadette Cay,
Associate Product Marketing Manager

Monday, September 27, 2010

Event recap: How to run a successful social campaign

[Cross posted from the AdWords Agency Blog.]

Last week, YouTube and SEMPO hosted a social marketing panel, "How to run a successful social campaign," for SEMPO's San Francisco and Los Angeles working groups. The panel featured speakers from YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Athena East, and highlighted the unique products available to marketers, and best practices for executing measurable, impactful social advertising strategies.

Derek Gordon of Yield Software was there, and shared what he learned in today's Mediapost Search Insider column.

Click here for his complete update.

Posted by AgencyAd Solutions Blog Team

The Oxford Comma

 
Okay, I don't usually get technical with punctuation, but having read a brilliant example on Twitter this morning, and having had this issue crop up with an assignment I was marking over the weekend, I thought it was worth mentioning. 

When I was at school (which for me was many Prime Ministers ago), I was always told that we had to use a comma to separate words in a list. For example, if I'd been on a school visit to a local farm, the teacher may have asked me to write about it. As a seven year old, I'd have written something like this:

Last week I went to the farm and I saw cows, pigs, sheep, goats, horses and geese.

My teacher would have praised me for using a comma to separate each item in my list of animals. I would also have been praised for NOT using a comma after the word 'horses' and before the word 'and'. I was always told at school that we did not need a comma before an 'and'.

BUT ... there are times when you do, and it is known as the serial comma, although many people know it as the Oxford comma, because it is a stylistic point used by the Oxford University Press. 

Which brings me to the great example mentioned on Twitter this morning. Here is a sentence that has a list and does not have a comma before the word 'and':

"I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis and JK Rowling."
Reading this sentence as it is, it suggests that this author is the love child of Martin Amis and JK Rowling! Now, I'm sure this isn't the case ... Martin Amis and JK Rowling may never have even met ... but this sentence, as it stands, tells us that this book is dedicated to two people.

To clarify the sentence, we need to insert the Oxford comma, before the word 'and', like so:

"I dedicate this book to my parents, Martin Amis, and JK Rowling."

Suddenly, all becomes clearer! Instead of dedicating the book to two people (Martin Amis and JK Rowling), the book is now dedicated to four people (Martin Amis, JK Rowling and both of the author's parents). The Oxford comma may break the rule that I was always taught at school, but it clarifies the sentence, which is what all good punctuation should do.

A comma may only be a small squiggle of ink, but sometimes, it's an important squiggle!

Good luck!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Finding your hidden treasure: international campaigns with AdWords

[Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog]

In 2000, Antoine Assi founded Middle Eastern export website www.aldoukan.com—it was one of the first e-commerce business in the Middle East. He was just 20 years old and he made time to develop the business in between computer science classes at his university. He needed a way to advertise his website from the comfort of his own dorm room, so he decided to test out Google AdWords.

His friends didn’t believe him when Antoine said he was going to sell and advertise traditional Middle Eastern foods and goods online. However, by 2004, his business had grown so rapidly that he decided to take leave from school to run it full-time. He then started his second company, www.mosaicmarble.com, which sells handcut decorative tiles online internationally.

Antoine believed there was a gap in the mosaic market and he wanted to share these artistic and historic decorations abroad. He knew there was a market for these tiles internationally—he just didn’t quite know where the opportunity existed. To identify these international growth opportunities, Antoine built on his knowledge of AdWords: He ran several AdWords campaigns, each targeted at the location and language of the test country.


From there, Antoine measured sales and percentage of website traffic from each country and campaign. He ended campaigns for countries with low sales volume and invested in campaigns for countries with higher sales volume and greater return on investment. Where he saw steady product sales, Antoine even had the company website translated into the language of the successful host country. As you can imagine, translating the site to the language of a country in which he’d already seen success only further promoted sales in that location.

Antoine refers to his AdWords campaigns as his hidden treasure, telling us that “the second month we started advertising on Google, we started feeling overwhelmed by the orders and the inquiries... We had to hire new employees on a weekly basis.”

Mosaic Marble quickly grew from two employees and eight artists to more than 40 employees and 120 artists. And the company’s website is now available in seven languages: Arabic, English, Finnish, German, Italian, Portuguese and French.


In addition to helping him expand his business, these international campaigns helped Antoine and his colleagues share these cultural icons with a larger part of the world. There are now homes and public spaces adorned with these ancient Greek creations in more than 50 countries worldwide. “Due to Google,” says Antoine, “we have customers such as the President of Congo, the Dubai Minister of Internal Affairs, the Princess of Jordan, and the Royal Music Academy of London.”


Going Google across the 50 States: Connecticut-based ice cream franchise decides to ‘gofer’ Google Apps

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

“It’s always a good day to ‘gofer’ ice cream,” according to Jay Ragusa, President of Gofer Ice Cream. Jay has opened five stores throughout Connecticut that provide high quality ice cream and unique treats such as razzles, smoothies, hand dipped ice cream, and soft serve ice cream with a flavor twist. Jay relies on Google Apps to keep his business running, and today he shares how it has helped him and his staff work more efficiently.

“Between our online accounting software and the use of Google Apps, which has become an integral part of our daily operations, we are gradually putting the entire company in the cloud.

Google Sites, part of the Google Apps suite, is used to create specific pages on our external website (gofericecream.com) so we can easily edit content without the use of a webmaster. Internally, we built multiple intranet sites including the Gofer Network where store managers and franchisees communicate, organize, and operate their part of the company. The Gofer Crew Portal is a site designed for the staff to access information such as contact numbers, store schedules and the internal Gofer Blog, and submit time card exceptions.

We rely heavily on Google Docs to update manuals, recipes, and employee schedules all of which are posted on the Gofer Network for store managers to access and share with employees at each store. For financial reporting, we created custom Google forms to efficiently collect data on point-of-sale purchases every night — store managers input their sales numbers into the form and everything is automatically populated in my spreadsheets. The forms are a great way to get the data quickly without having to expose sensitive revenue information across all the stores.

Whenever possible, we’re developing business processes around the functionality in Google Apps. It’s low cost and we get the security of knowing that Google is backing up our data. I’m looking forward to finding more ways that Google Apps can improve how we work.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How to edit Google Maps and local business listing data

[Cross-posted from the LatLong blog]

The world is a big place that’s constantly changing, so in digitally replicating it on Google Maps, you can imagine how much information we’re working with. We get data for Google Maps from a number of sources, including third party providers, business owners and users like yourself. And while for the most part, our algorithms do a great job of accurately reflecting the real world on the map, there are some instances when we get it wrong.

If you notice something that’s incorrect on Google Maps, chances are it’s either an issue with our map data - things like city and road names - or with our business listing data. We have a number of simple tools that make it easy for you to correct or report any issues so that we can get the maps right. Your assistance helps us provide the most accurate and up-to-date maps possible, so you and other Google Maps users can find what you’re looking for and be on your way.

Report a problem with our map data
  • Use the Report a Problem tool in the U.S. and Canada, most easily accessible by right-clicking on the map or clicking the link on the bottom right-hand-side of the map.
  • If anything with our map data is wrong, such as a road being renamed or a new highway on-ramp opening up, please submit a report. We work hard to fix the map based on user submissions, and try to resolve these issues as fast as we can.
  • Countries outside the U.S. and Canada should contact the Google Maps data provider to correct the information.

Edit business listing information directly on Maps
  • If you see incorrect information appearing on Google Maps listings in the U.S. (and many more countries), you can make updates to listings directly on Google Maps.
  • Once we've reviewed your edits, updates to the listing will go live within several hours.
  • If you are the business owner but have yet to claim your listing, see below for more information about Google Places.

Report incorrect business listing information
  • The best way to report incorrect information is to use the “Report a Problem” tool, where available. Report a Problem allows you to specify exactly what is incorrect about a listing.
  • Once these user-submitted reports are reviewed, updates to the listing will go live in a few weeks.

If you’re a business owner, you should also claim your Google Places listing so that you can edit and update the listing that appears on Google, Google Maps and GOOG-411. Verifying your free business listing allows you to not only ensure that accurate information appears on the Place page for your business, but also enhance your online presence by adding photos, videos and even real-time updates like weekly specials to your Place page.

Claim your Google Places listing
  • Claim your Google Places listing by adding it at http://www.google.com/places or by clicking “Business Owner?” on the Place page for your business.
  • Verify your listing by PIN (postcard or phone). Within an hour, click the “See your listing on Google Maps” link in your account to see your listing’s Place page.
  • If incorrect information is appearing in your listing, there are a number of different ways to let us know and get the information corrected.

Posted by Brianna Brekke, Senior Strategist, Google Places

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Strengthen your advertising strategies with the Train & Gain challenge

Monday, September 20, 2010

A more secure cloud for millions of Google Apps users

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Make The Most Of Opportunities ... Before They Disappear!

So, there I was, last Thursday, with a magazine editor sitting on my sofa, drinking a coffee I'd made him five minutes earlier, when he flabbergasted me. It had nothing to do with a decision he was making - but the reason he was making it.

Inside the back page of his monthly magazine was a sunny/cloudy column. Somebody would write a 300-word pessimistic outlook on life, and then someone else would counteract this with a 300-word optimistic version.

At the bottom of the page was his call for submissions - he asked writers to submit something suitable for one of the 300 word slots (either a pessimistic outlook, or an optimistic one) and someone from the editorial team would write the other pessimistic/optimistic angle. I had my piece published in the March issue. So what was it that the editor said that flabbergasted me?

How many freelance submissions do you think he'd received during the two year period (that's 24 issues)?

  • 1,000?
  • 800?
  • 392?
  • 89?
No. The answer was none of those. In two years, all he had received were four submissions. Four.  FOUR! And one of those was mine, whilst another was from a friend in my writers' group.

No wonder he was dropping the column. He was fed up of having to write it himself each month!

So the message is, don't dismiss any writing opportunity. If you see an editor calling for submissions at the bottom of a page, then give it a bloody go! Write something and send it off. You don't know how grateful the editor may be! And when you've done it once, do it again. Who knows where it may lead? The editor may ask you to write more things for the magazine.

The editor sitting on my sofa believed that many writers simply assumed that hundreds of other writers were sending material in. Don't fall for that assumption. If you do, you could find that the opportunity is taken away.

Good luck.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Google and The Globe and Mail Launch "Web Strategy" Resources for Canadian Small Businesses

According to Statistics Canada, 98 percent of Canadian businesses are considered small, and they employ close to half the country’s private sector workforce. Given that metric, it's obvious that a healthy and vibrant small business sector is essential to Canada’s economic growth.

With the proliferation of the Internet, it’s easier than ever for entrepreneurs and small business owners like you to reach new customers, promote your products, and access new markets in ways that only large corporations could manage in the past. For example, powerful and intuitive online applications such Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs can help you slash IT costs and enable your employees to collaborate more effectively.

To further this movement towards taking advantage of online resources, we're launching a partnership with The Globe and Mail to help Canadian small business owners and entrepreneurs expand their Web presence and use the Internet to boost sales and long-term growth. The Web Strategy section on The Globe and Mail website will bring together Google's knowledge of business in an online environment with The Globe and Mail’s insight into strategy and economic issues. The site will feature information and stories for small businesses, as well as provide tutorials about how to get started with Google’s many business tools, including Google Places and AdWords.


In the coming weeks, the Web Strategy page will explore topics such as how the Internet can transform the ways you reach new customers and how you operate your business. If you have suggestions or questions, we would love to hear them. Click here to use Google Moderator and start sharing your ideas with us.

Posted by Brett Willms, Canada Marketing Manager

Going Google across the 50 States: Minnesota-based allnurses.com gets rid of its email servers

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

Based in Minnesota, Brian Short is a Registered Nurse, as well as the Founder and CEO of allnurses.com, one of the largest online nursing communities with more than 430,000 members. Brian started the website as a hobby in 1995 when he was attending nursing school. He’d search online for relevant nursing information without success — it was easier to find websites on planting trees or feeding babies than reliable sources on clinical nursing.

So what started out as a website with a few links spawned into an online community and central hub of nursing information. The website now includes blogs, articles, and discussion forums across all specialities, with more than nine million global page views a month and 2,500 new posts submitted by members every day. To support this growth, Brian shares how he’s using Google Apps to remove location barriers and increase process efficiencies.

“I started out with my own internal email servers which were clunky and hard to manage. I was also dissatisfied with the accompanying email client. It would take forever to search, find, and organize all my email, and I was constantly deleting emails to avoid slowing down my machine. When I learned about Google Apps it was an easy decision to switch. I love the concept of cloud computing and being able to access all my applications through a browser.

Now, I've been using Google Apps for several years and it has helped the company tremendously. There are over 30 staff members scattered throughout the US and internationally. Google Apps allows us to communicate with ease by using instant messaging, email, shared calendars, and online documents.

I’ve also used Google forms to support marketing initiatives that increase awareness of allnurses.com. In one of the print ads, I included a URL that leads to a landing page with a form embedded in it. Educators can use the form to request pens for their nursing students. It’s a good way to engage with my audience and scale a manual process.

Not only is Google Apps a great financial decision for us, but it has helped increase our efficiency and productivity more than any other product we've used. I love how Google is always improving and upgrading its applications by listening and implementing user feedback.”

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making AdWords Account Management Easier

As a small business, you may find that investing in marketing can be a catch-22; while you are looking to grow your business, your time is limited and budgets are tight. While AdWords has always been about making advertising as measurable as possible, we are well aware that time is money - especially when you are a small company. So, in an effort to help you preserve your most precious asset, we wanted to share a few of tools we’ve developed as part of our effort to make account management less time-intensive.

Use the Opportunities Tab to Find Customized Account Optimization Suggestions
Incorporating data from both user search behavior and the performance of your own account, the Opportunities tab is an excellent tool for garnering suggestions that can help you to improve targeting, expand your reach or increase the effectiveness of your marketing spend. To make improving your campaigns as easy as possible, the Opportunities tab lets you review ideas and apply them directly to your account. You can also save these ideas as “pending changes” in case you want to think about them and add them later.


The ideas shown on the tab are generated by our system just for your account, so look them over carefully before you try them. Some may not fit your own needs, but some may help to improve your campaign performance.

Simplify Bid Management with Automatic Bidding
Automatic Bidding is the easiest of the AdWords bidding options. With automatic bidding, the AdWords system automatically adjusts your maximum cost-per-click (CPC) bids on your behalf. You still set your daily budget, but rather than specifying individual bids for ad groups, keywords, or placements, the AdWords system actively seeks out the most clicks possible within the budget you set.

Let Us Help You Gain More Conversions with Enhanced CPC
Enhanced CPC is an easy-to-use automatic bid management tool intended for advertisers already using conversion tracking who are looking to turbo-charge their return on investment. The tool automatically adjusts your Max CPC bid each time your ad is shown in order to maximize the likelihood of your ad will converting. As a result, your ad should receive more conversions while maintaining or reducing your overall cost-per-conversion.



To learn more about Enhanced CPC, you can visit our help center or watch a short video.

Monitor Account Changes with Ease Using Custom Alerts
You can create custom alerts in your AdWords account so you're automatically notified when certain behaviors and/or changes occur within your campaigns and ad groups. This enables you to constantly track increases or decreases in the metrics that matter to you or metrics that have reached a certain threshold you set. To learn more about this feature, please visit our help center.

For even more tips for saving time and improving AdWords performance, please visit our new Google AdWords Small Business Center.

Posted by Yael Davidowitz-neu, Sales Strategy Analyst

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Broadcast your business through the TV for All Contest

[Cross-posted from Inside AdWords]

Today we’re announcing the second annual TV for All contest, where your business has the opportunity to win $25,000 in national advertising with Google TV Ads and online video partner sites, including YouTube.


We originally launched this contest last year and received nearly 250 submissions. Three winners, including Owners.com, won free TV media through Google and successfully extended their brands across the nation.

“It’s always exciting to see what other marketers think of your work,” says George Karavaras of Owners.com about why the company entered TV for All in 2009. The best part, he says, is that “it doesn’t take a lot of time or money to create a high impact TV ad through Google’s creative network.”


Now it’s your turn! Entering is easy: simply create a video ad for your business, upload it to YouTube and submit it to our TV for All YouTube Channel between September 15th and October 12th. If you don't have a video ad or the tools to create one, professional tools by SpotMixer will be available for free to help you make a polished ad in just minutes.

Three winners whose ads best exemplify creativity and a compelling message will receive $25K, $15K, or $10K in national TV and online video advertising using Google AdWords.

If you've never promoted your business using TV and video, the TV for All contest is your chance to get started. For more details and to enter the contest, visit www.youtube.com/tvforall.

Posted by Nathania Lozada, Inside AdWords crew

Signing up for Google Tags is Quick and Easy

We get it: as a local business owner, you’re busy. Really busy. That’s why throughout the development of Google Tags - our online advertising offering available through Google Places - we’ve been acutely aware of the need to create something simple, easy, fast and effective for you and the potential customers looking for you online.

screenshot of a business listing with a coupon tag on Google.com

You may have heard about our recent promotion inviting business owners who are new to Google Tags to take advantage of a free 30-day trial. That trial is still going on, and we’re also excited to announce that we’ve streamlined the sign-up process into three easy steps. Now, it’s even easier to set up the little yellow tag in your business listing and start attracting more local customers for your business!

If you’ve already verified your free business listing in Google Places, sign in to your Google Places dashboard to begin:

1. Click “Add a Tag” from the dashboard


2. Select one of the seven available tag types, and follow the prompts. For example, if you choose a post tag, enter a note about the the unique aspect of your business that you want to highlight in the empty box.


3. Enter your credit card information. If you’ve never tried Google Tags before and are eligible for the free trial, your first month will be free!


Business owners can typically complete the sign-up process in less than five minutes. With that speed, you can get back to all the other tasks that require your attention to keep growing your success!

We’re thrilled that thousands of local businesses have already been using Google Tags to attract and connect with local customers since it became available throughout the U.S. this summer. And if you’re a business owner that hasn’t yet claimed your listing in Google Places, learn more about that simple process, and then follow the same three-step tags process. This new sign-up flow is one the many features we’re working on to make the product even more efficient. As a reminder, Google Tags is usually offered for a $25 flat monthly fee, and does not affect the ranking of the business listings on Google.com or Google Maps. Try it out today!

Posted by Shalini Agarwal, Product Manager

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How-to videos put more sexy golf carts on the road

[Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog]

We all have a dream. America’s 25 million small business owners are making their dreams happen. But it’s never easy.

For E.C. Hundley, his dream had four wheels, an engine, and a smooth ride. As the proprietor of Everything Carts in Martinsville, Va., E.C. built a business that custom assembles souped-up, street-legal golf carts. He also sells cart accessories online, and his business now employs eight people. With your dream, some hard work, guile and a penchant for online marketing, you can do something like this, too.

Let’s see how E.C. is using YouTube to build his business.

Did you get your business online from the start?
Oddly enough, we started out as a local retail store, and we never thought about taking our business online. After the first 8 months, we were going broke with just one employee, and I figured we had to do something if we were going to survive.

So you took your business online just to keep it alive.
Yes. At that point we had maybe $1,500 in inventory sitting on the shelf, so we started putting some of it on eBay. We then got with a friend who’s a web designer, and he built our website. Since then we have revamped the site about four times to make it friendly for our customers. It saved our business.

How much of your business comes from people finding you on the web, compared to other channels?
Our direct web activity is about 70% of our sales. Most of the rest is via telephone, and we also promote our business via a print catalog.

Tell us about your YouTube channel. What kind of videos do you make, and how do they help your customers?
I help people with installation of the products we sell. Our call volume had gotten really high on some of our products, so helping people over the phone was taking a lot of time. Then I remembered watching a Photoshop tutorial on YouTube, and I thought to myself this is the answer to our problem. So we started shooting a few how-to videos and posted them on our YouTube channel, and soon those calls stopped completely.




Do the videos help you sell more, too?

Yes. The videos also help us earn new business, because our customers can see that we know the products we sell, and they can buy with confidence.

What are your future plans for online video?
With the success we’ve had with the few videos we have done, we have now built a studio just for shooting how-to videos. This way the customer can see how the products are installed and get a better idea of how it is going to look. One of the toughest parts of selling a product online is that the customer usually just gets to see a picture of what they’re interested in. With video they get a better idea of the real look and size. It is the closest thing you can get to seeing, touching, feeling the product.

That’s the real power of video, isn’t it? How hard was it to get started building a YouTube channel?
It was the easiest Internet task we had ever done. It’s pretty easy and inexpensive to make good-looking videos today, too.

What advice would you have for other business owners or managers who are considering YouTube as a marketing channel?
The main advantage of producing online videos, especially for an online business, is it makes your business real. Customers need to see that your company has real people behind the website.

Eric Meyerson, Video Business Marketing Lead recently watched "1981 primitive Internet report on KRON"

Introducing ‘Improving Online Conversions for Dummies’

[Cross posted from Inside AdWords]

Are you eager to optimise your Conversion Rate, but feel a little bit overwhelmed by all of the tools available to help you? Today we're delighted to introduce Improving Online Conversions for Dummies.

We have just released a simple, easy to follow mini book, in conjunction with John Wiley Publications, to help you get a better grasp of the conversion improvement tools offered by Google. Improving Online Conversions for Dummies explains how you can make sure your ads show on searches that are most likely to convert into sales. Understand which ad clicks and impressions lead to conversions, better apportion your marketing spend and even develop your own conversion attribution model. Discover the secrets to getting more bang for your buck with this ebook.



For more information, visit www.google.com/conversion/fordummies

Posted by Gordon Zhu, Inside AdWords crew

Kicking About With Kindle

I don't know where you stand on the 'eBook' issue, but my attitude is that physical books will never die. There are times when a physical book is the right tool for the job (reading in the bath, or that huge, heavily illustrated tome on the coffee table, for example). I do think that eBooks are a new market, not a competing one. I have just ordered an eBook reader, because I have limited space and, horror upon horrors, have found myself in bookshops recently, putting books back DOWN on the shelf because I don't much space left for them!

I will still buy physical books, but I will buy more books overall as a result of having the eBook reader.

So, I decided that I ought to get into the eBook market, and today, my second dog humour book, One Hundred Muddy Paws For Thought is now available in Amazon Kindle format. It can be downloaded onto Amazon Kindles from the UK store and the USA store. (And if you have the free PC or Mac version of the Kindle reader, or the iPhone App, you can download it there too.)

The print version of the book was published in 2004 and sold 50,000 copies, but by 2009, it was out of print. So, having checked my contract with the publishers, I wrote to them and asked for the rights to revert to me. Once this had happened, I was then able to start working on the Kindle version, because I held the electronic rights once again.

This illustrates the importance of keeping a record of which rights you have sold in your text and which rights you have retained. It does annoy me a little, when publishers buy the eBook rights to your text and then do nothing with them!

So, if you happen to be the owner of an Amazon Kindle, and fancy reading a short, humorous book about how dogs train their humans to cope with the great outdoor life, then why not take a look?  It's currently £3.44 including VAT (yes, VAT does apply to eBooks - oh, there is still so much for the publishing industry to sort out!)

There are some writers who have uploaded their books to Amazon in Kindle format and seen sales that have attracted physical book publishers. It won't work for everybody, but it's a different stepping stone to consider. 

Good luck!

Monday, September 13, 2010

It's All About The Competition!


Well, on Friday I was visiting the Writing Buddies in Southampton for their fortnightly meeting, although this one was slightly unusual - it was an awards ceremony!

They'd organised an internal competition, with categories as diverse as article writing, fillers, short stories, flash fiction, drama and poetry. I'd judged the article and filler categories. The winners from each category will have their entries printed in the first Writing Buddies anthology. The poor souls though, had to endure having their photos taken with me as I presented them with their winning certificates (hence why I'm now hiding at the back of this picture here, because by this stage I was all photographed out!).

Many of the entrants were surprised at their own achievements, and this demonstrates the importance of competitions. When we sit in our writing garrets alone, we're unaware of the standard of writing around us. As writers, we tend to think that everyone else is better than us, despite there often being no evidence for this! Competitions can help to put that into perspective.

If you enter a competition, the judge will be assessing your entry blindly. He or she will not know who wrote the entry, they will merely judge the writing. And it was a point I mentioned at the Writing Buddies meeting. Their competition had been judged externally. Every category of entries had been judged by someone who wasn't a member of the group. As judges, we weren't offering them a prize because we wanted to be nice to them, or because we didn't want to offend anyone. This competition was judged by people who did not know their writing. So it was their writing, and their writing alone, that led to their success.

In some ways, this has parallels with getting published. Whenever you send anything off to a publication, whether it be a short story, article, poem, novel or a serial, it's like entering a competition. The judge (editor) probably doesn't know you - and they certainly don't owe you any favours. But you also need to remember that your submission is 'competing' with the other submissions the editor is receiving. 'Hobby' writers are competing with other 'hobby' writers, who are also competing with 'professional' writers, who are also competing with other 'professional' writers. A magazine has a set number of pages to fill in each issue. A publisher has so many books it can publish in a year. Your work, is therefore competing for a limited resource.

So, remember when you send your work out there into the big wide world, you may not be technically entering a competition, but your words are competing with the words of other writers. And the editor's decision, just like the judge's decision, is final. Remember that you are competing with other professionals, so be professional with your submission. 

Of course, one way to ensure that you don't isolate yourself in your writer's garret and have no knowledge of the standard of writing out there, is not to read anything. Alex Gazzola's post the other week, http://mistakeswritersmake.blogspot.com/2010/08/mistake-no-25-not-reading.html, explains why writers should be voracious readers. If nothing else, reading gives you an idea of the standard of writing you are up against.

I didn't start writing short stories until I'd judged a couple of short story competitions. It wasn't a market that I read, so I knew nothing about the standard of writing. But when I did read it, I felt I could write stories that were just as good, if not better. Reading other writer's work also teaches you. You learn from another writer's mistake, which is what I did and have now seen my stories published in the UK, Ireland and Australia.

Competitions offer an opportunity to practise your writing. They also give you a deadline. In some ways, the world of publication is one continuous competition. If you want to win and be published, you've got to be 'in it to win it'. People who don't enter competitions, don't win them.

Good luck!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Google Places Brings a Smile to a Dental Practice

A dentist by trade but an entrepreneur at heart, Dr. Jeffrey Prager has tried many tactics — including television, radio, newspaper inserts, phone book ads and direct mail — to attract new patients for his Bellingham, Washington-based dental practice.

Challenge

Dentists primarily rely on word-of-mouth referrals from existing patients, but they’re also open to welcoming new patients from other sources. That’s why Dr. Prager was intrigued when one of his patients suggested that he check out Google Places as a way to build an online presence for his dental care practice, Bellingham Smiles.

Action

Realizing that he could have his business listing appear for free when people searched on Google.com or Google Maps for services like “dentist in bellingham,” Dr. Prager claimed his listing and built out the Place page for his business. As his practice continues to evolve, he updates the Place page for Bellingham Smiles to reflect new treatments and promotional offers. For example, from time to time, he adds a new video or updates his business description. “It’s best to stay on top of it and modify it as you add new services and any new emphasis in your practice,” he says.

In many cases, patients come to him via his Place page in hopes that he can save a tooth that has been targeted for extraction by another dentist. It also helps him publicize his niche expertise in laser procedures that help patients avoid painful gum surgery.

Dr. Prager's free business listing on Google.com


Place page for Bellingham Smiles

Results

The free business listing and Place page that Dr. Prager set up through Google Places have become his marketing powerhouse. “It’s the highest return on investment (ROI) of any marketing that I do. That’s pretty powerful since I do a lot of marketing,” he says. “Google Places has been very helpful in getting people who want to save their natural teeth to find me. The thing that counts in marketing isn’t what you spend, it’s the ROI. I would say Google, in all of its forms, is our best ROI.”

Now aware that a strong online presence is essential to helping people find him, Dr. Prager urges other businesses to take advantage of Google Places as well. “If you’re not listed on Google somewhere, you are invisible to potential clients, patients and customers,” he says. “A lot of people will not go to a business of any kind if they don’t have a website. They want information before they call or visit. That trend is only going to increase.”

To create a Google Places account for your business, visit www.google.com/places.

Posted by Bernadette Cay, Associate Product Marketing Manager

Going Google across the 50 States: Google Apps and Google App Engine are a powerful combination for West Virginia business

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

As the former VP of Technology at a major financial services firm, Ray Malone has spent most of his career focused on business intelligence, data warehousing, and development of web-based applications. So, when his wife, Tina Malone, decided to start a new business out of their home in West Virginia, Ray naturally helped her pick out the technology that best suited her needs.

Today, with Ray’s help, Tina is running MSaven.com, a successful marketing business that provides companies with text message marketing, print advertising, and the ability to offer online coupons. The technology that powers the company is an important part of its success, and Ray shares with us how Google Apps and Google App Engine play a pivotal role.


“In 2008, my wife Tina came up with the idea for MSaven.com, but there was a catch – she expected me to set up our IT infrastructure with little to no money. I had been using Gmail and almost every other Google product for a long time so it was an easy decision to use Google to build the business. Now, our entire operation runs using both Google Apps and Google App Engine, and the combination of performance and scalability has been awesome.

We use Google Apps for everything from emailing to creating online documents and spreadsheets. I recently used a Google spreadsheet to create a financial calculator showing advertisers how much they could potentially make with our firm – I shared the spreadsheet with a prospective advertiser and walked him through it over the phone. We were both able to tweak specific inputs on the spreadsheet and see the results in real-time. It was a powerful way to communicate without having to be in the same room.

I’m constantly using Gmail and Google Calendar, and access them extensively from my Android-powered device. Both allow me to coordinate with our sales reps and contractors. Some of our contractors are located internationally so the Talk feature, integrated in Gmail, has been the primary communication channel.

With Google App Engine, I’ve built our entire web application. Python was a new language for us, but within a few months we were building dynamic content and connecting to vendor systems. Here’s an example of how it works – when a consumer sends us a text message requesting a coupon, we connect to the vendor’s system through an API (this is the vendor that is providing the coupon), and the right coupon is dynamically generated and sent back. If this is the second time the consumer has contacted us, a different coupon or message is sent back. All of the logic, and the ability to generate and send coupons is built with Google App Engine.

I’ve developed many systems over the years and used other well-known email clients, and this type of performance can’t be beat. You can do everything better with Google Apps.”

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The AdWords Small Business Center: the key tips, tutorials, and updates you need for a successful AdWords account

[Cross-posted from Inside AdWords]

Today we're happy to announce the launch of a new website - the AdWords Small Business Center. Many of you asked for an AdWords resource focused on learning and the top tips for small and medium businesses, and we listened. This new central learning hub allows you to share AdWords best practices and provides the key information you need to know to run a successful AdWords account.


Learn the essentials
Whether you're new to AdWords or not, the AdWords Small Business Center allows you to explore insightful topics as a beginner, intermediate, or advanced user. It covers everything from strategies for writing great ads to ways to improve your website, all in an easy-to-navigate format.

Stay up-to-date
Stay in the loop by visiting the Inside AdWords blog right from this new site. It makes it easy to read about the latest trends and product updates and use them to grow your business.

Explore new possibilities
Want to discuss one of the tips on the site with another small business owner? Visit our recently launched AdWords Small Business Corner, a discussion forum in which other small and medium business owners who use AdWords exchange advice on the strategies that have helped them grow their businesses. Use it to share your AdWords experience or simply learn from others.


In the coming weeks, make sure you're also on the lookout for our blog post on AdWords Train & Gain, a challenge to help you become more successful with your online advertising. We'll be giving away cool prizes like Android phones and, for one lucky winner, a trip to Sydney, Australia for a free consultation with an AdWords expert. Sign up now or find out more details and official rules.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

IAB's Long Tail Alliance AdSense webinar

[Cross-posted from the Inside AdSense Blog]

To keep you updated with the latest industry news, insights, and best practices, we’d like to let you know about an upcoming educational opportunity held in partnership with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB).

On September 14, 2010, the Google AdSense team will be co-hosting a webinar with the IAB Long Tail Alliance to cover “What You Need to Know about AdSense.” Members from the AdSense team will cover tips and best practices to help you maximize your AdSense revenue.

Click here to register for the webinar.

If you’d like access to future IAB Long Tail Alliance seminars and events, you can become an IAB Long Tail Alliance member. Membership provides you with access to an ongoing series of web seminars, resources, and events that are all specifically designed for small and growing publishers. Register using the promotional code GOOGLELTA to receive $100 off the price of a membership.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Punctuating Dialogue

Dialogue can make a piece of text more interesting to read, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it can make the reader feel as though they are there at the scene themselves, eavesdropping on the conversation. It doesn't matter whether the scene is a piece of fiction, or an interview in an article, using dialogue allows the people in your writing to talk directly to the reader, rather than you, the writer, recount secondhand what was said.

Dialogue also benefits a piece of text by breaking it up on the page and making it easier on the eye for the reader.

But as I was marking a few assignments over the weekend, I noticed that there appears to be some confusion concerning punctuation and dialogue.

When using dialogue in a piece of text, you must always have a piece of punctuation before the closing speech marks. If the speech or quote is part of a longer sentence, then you use a comma, before continuing your sentence, like so:

“The weather is absolutely barmy today,” he said, as he found some shade to sit under.

(NOT "The weather is absolutely barmy today", he said, as he found some shade to sit under.")

If your piece of dialogue is the end of a sentence, then use a full stop, or other final punctuation mark, like a question mark or exclamation mark, before the closing speech marks.

Sitting under the tree for shade, he said, “I can’t believe that it can get any hotter.”

(NOT Sitting under the tree for shade, he said, "I can't believe that it can get any hotter".)

If your dialogue is a complete sentence in itself, again, the punctuation mark goes before the closing speech marks.

"What the blazes is going on here?"

Never have a space between the punctuation mark and the closing speech marks, because this may confuse your word processor to insert opening speech marks, not closing speech marks.

Good luck. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Going Google Across the 50 States: Maryland start-up hopes to level the playing field in education

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

This week we head to Maryland where StraighterLine is trying to level the playing field in education. StraighterLine’s mission is to disrupt the high cost of online education courses by directly partnering with colleges and vetting courses through national clearing houses to provide students with the lowest cost options for taking courses and earning credits online. Joseph Thibault, Course Manager at StraighterLine, shares their story.

When we jumped into the world of online education head-first, our small staff was spread across the US. As a result, we decided to use Google Apps because of its ability to facilitate this virtual office. The ability to share docs, communicate synchronously, and work collaboratively on docs provided us with a quick and easy way to improve courses, our brand and website.


Google Apps has sped up the rate at which we collect information and communicate internally and with students. By using forms in Google Docs we can easily collect survey data from new students to help us focus our marketing efforts. We also use forms to collect course evaluations so that we can improve our courses and services quickly. Creating a form in Docs only take a few minutes to create and the summary and charting features allow us to do a quick analysis with just a few clicks.

Gmail has also been a huge benefit to StraighterLine. Students can easily get in touch with us through Gmail and chat, allowing them to get help and continue learning in seconds rather than hours. At StraighterLine we’re happy to say we’ve gone Google!

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