Monday, February 28, 2011

Business at Warp Speed - Get Ready for the New Digital Revolution

All around us, things are accelerating. People, data, and information are all moving faster than ever before, accelerating at a pace that defies our understanding of the world and what is (or was thought to be) possible. 4G speeds, Google Instant, Tweets and check-ins, Facebook sign-ups, mobile device activations, video uploads – everything around us is growing and moving at exponential rates. Consider some of the statistics: in 2008, 300 million people were on social networks. That number is now over 900 million. In 2008 1.5 million people had visited Twitter. Last year over 190 million. In 2008 Google’s Android mobile platform had just launched. There are now over 300,000 Android device activations every day, and that number is growing. (Check out a really fun video showing the growth of Android here.)

And consider what has been happening in Middle Eastern countries of late. Via mobile phones and social networks, information is spreading and people are organizing at rates never before possible, allowing for rapid mobilization of ideas and massive social change.

In this world of constant connectivity, there is no doubt that fast is better than slow. From a consumer standpoint, you reap the benefits directly – connect to friends all over the world on Facebook, video chat with them on Skype, watch videos of the Grammy’s on YouTube, download Eminem’s latest to your iPod, search on Google for the shoes he wore, buy them on online…wait, sold out online?…check your local retailer’s inventory on Google Product Search, have your Android phone give you directions to your local mall, text your friends that you’ll meet them there, check in on Foursquare when you arrive… and on and on it goes, the flow of digital information accelerating at a rate that seems almost unimaginable.

So how do businesses keep up and take part in this digital evolution, nay, revolution? How do companies make use of this acceleration to reach consumers in meaningful ways? How do they change their own behaviors to keep up with the world around them?

Companies should look to get ahead of the consumer and these digital trends by focusing on 4 key characteristics: Google calls them the "4 Be’s"…

Be relevant – Mobile is how the world will connect to the Internet in the future. Mobile will be bigger than desktop in 5 years. Mobile searches grew 500% in the last two years. Mobile is what is relevant for today's and tomorrow's consumer. What is your company’s mobile strategy? Do you have one? Can it scale for the future?

Be found – Search is still the web’s killer app. With the proliferation of information, Search is how people find it and make use of it. Can people find you? Can they find your business and the products or services you offer?

Be engaging – We no longer live in a push advertising world. Consumers want and expect a dialog with companies. Social media like Facebook and Twitter make this possible. Online video has not only changed the face of entertainment but also the way companies can communicate. Companies and brands need to figure out how to be part of the conversation and how to effectively engage users across the entire spectrum of social media. What is your social media strategy? How are you effectively using online video to engage users?

Be accountable – the Internet has made real-time marketing a reality. You can constantly and continuously improve your digital efforts by using powerful analytical tools and the data they provide to make smart decisions. Things like Google Analytics, Insights for Search and others offer more data than ever before. How are you using it to make the best decisions for your company?

Success or failure in these four areas will determine your future. As “screen time” becomes mostly digital, as mobile becomes the norm for the masses, as consumers take more control of the dialog with companies and brands, and as everything becomes more real-time, businesses will need to evolve to keep pace…or run the risk of getting left behind.

Posted by: Seth van der Swaagh, National Industry Manager, AdWords

The Letters Page Isn't Just For Grovelling

There's a letter in the March 2011 issue of Outdoor Photography magazine, which proves that not all published letters are by grovelling readers, lashing loads of praise upon the editor for doing a good job. Actually, this letter forces the editor to apologise for doing their job - editing - wrongly.

It's a good example though of the benefits of having a Letters Page in a magazine. Not only do letters offer readers a chance to comment and feedback upon the articles and the magazine, but it also gives the editor an opportunity to offer a right of reply.

The letter in question queries the writer's statements about the advice offered to fellow photographers, when the photographs used to illustrate the article did not follow the advice the writer was giving. It's a valid point for a reader to make. If article writers make a statement and enclose photographs, the photographs should at least back up the article. (It's no good saying that the beach offers an opportunity to escape from the crowds, if the photo of the beach demonstrates there's not room for an ant to move!)

However, because the letter writer made this point, disputing the article, the editor has used the Letters Page to clarify things. Firstly, the editor has commented, "The original text that [the writer] Ian provided for the article was edited to fit available space, but that edit did change the understanding of the original text." (Note: this doesn't mean to say that the writer didn't produce an article of the right length - he may have been commissioned for X number of words, and provided them, but a change in the magazine's contents could have reduced the space available for his piece, hence the need for the editor to start editing.) The editor then allowed the article writer to add their comments to, offering them the right to reply, too.

So, if you're targeting a Letters Page, don't automatically assume that you have to be gushing praise in order to get published. If you have a valid criticism about something you've read, your letter could give the editor an opportunity explain, apologise or to clarify. You don't have to be praiseworthy to be published, when writing letters. If you're criticising an article and raising a valid point, it certainly proves that you've read the magazine!

And if you write articles, just bear in mind that the Letters Page could offer you the opportunity to put things right. A similar situation happened to me once, where an editor was forced to cut the space available and had to edit my text, changing the meaning. They apologised on the Letters Page and gave me a few words to say something on the matter too!

Good luck!

Friday, February 25, 2011

MagnetStreet: From real estate to bridal customers, lessons learned . . .

[Cross-posted from the Google Retail Advertising Blog]
In 2005, MagnetStreet, a custom magnet developer, was 80% reliant on its Real Estate customers. Although Real Estate customers kept MagnetStreet employees busy from August to November, the rest of the year was stagnant. In order to resolve this staffing and seasonal production slump, to acquire new customers and to expand its product portfolio, MagnetStreet looked to Google and its suite of free tools.

MagnetStreet realized they were not utilizing an SEO or SEM strategy. So they leveraged Google's Keyword Tool to learn more about terms such as “magnets” and “promotional magnets", and how they could expand their keyword selection to be in front of actively searching magnet customers.

David Baird, Vice President of Marketing at MagnetStreet, was surprised to find out that “save-the-date wedding magnets” stood out as keywords of rapidly growing interest. This new product keyword trend spurred an information-gathering project that started with understanding what a save-the-date magnet was, and ended with a solution regarding how to enter the wedding market.

MagnetStreet was also pleased to learn, via Google Trends and Insights for Search, that this new venture revealed an interest peak in January, with a more consistent level of interest throughout the year than the real estate market. These Google tools also offered geographic data that gave MagnetStreet the opportunity to intelligently market to the local areas that showed the most interest in their product suite.

MagnetStreet continues to use Insights for Search to help them expand into new markets, discover additional product offerings, and to inform design, staffing and media decisions. They have expanded into selling wedding invitations and programs in addition to various occasion invitations and announcements.

When looking back at his business’ success, Mr. Baird credits Google’s tools with helping him to make smarter, low risk decisions and giving him the opportunity as a small business owner to compete with Big Box players.

Click here for more information on this success story.

Posted by Keri Overman, The Google Retail Team

Going Google across the 50 States: Kentucky window manufacturer leaves desktop software behind

Editor's note: Over 3 million businesses have adopted Google Apps. Today we’ll hear from Steve Stepp, IT Manager of Sun Windows, a manufacturer of high quality windows and doors serving Owensboro, Kentucky and surrounding areas. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google cloud calculator.

Sun Windows is a family-owned business that dates back to the 1930’s when V. E. Anderson, Sr. invented and built storm windows in his garage at night and sold them door-to-door during the day. Today, Sun Windows is run by his grandson, Frank Anderson, and offers an expansive product line of high quality, energy efficient windows and doors with a focus on customer service.

The window and door business is seasonal, following trends in new construction and peaking in summer. At the height, we have around 120 employees made up of about 80% production workers who manufacture the products, and 20% office staff and outside sales who use email and other office software regularly. Keeping everyone connected and communicating effectively is one of my main goals.

We originally used a local provider for web hosting and email and there was a lot of downtime when email just wouldn’t work. I’d get phone calls from individuals throughout the company and would have to contact our email provider about once a month. Adding to this, we received significantly more spam than good email. Sun Windows even got flagged as a spammer because all our emails went through the local provider. We’re a small company and everyone wears a lot of hats so these issues took up a lot of time I didn’t really have.

I used Gmail at home and had even set up Google Apps for my personal website so I knew about its robust spam-filtering and other great features. Given all the email problems we were having at work, I decided to switch the company to Google Apps and have never looked back. The amount of spam in our inboxes is almost nothing and having web-based email accessible from any Internet connection is a big plus for everyone. At the time of the switch, I hadn’t even considered the added benefits of other products like Google Calendar and Google Docs.

After setting up email, we quickly created shared calendars to keep various departments organized, track company events and schedule customer visits for the field service unit. Then we slowly started to use Google Docs. Most people in the company were familiar and comfortable with desktop office software but once they realized the power of collaborating and sharing documents online, almost everyone switched to Google Docs. Production line supervisors use a spreadsheet to track labor hours at the plant, and sales reps create and share customer presentations. We’ve also moved existing documents over to Google Docs which we use to store files of any type.

Now when new computers are purchased, I don’t renew our Microsoft® Office licences. The company saves money but even more importantly, I save time in administering licenses, installations, security patches, and training. Google Apps has been one of the smartest decisions I’ve made for Sun Windows and I continually look for new ways to take advantage of it to improve how we work.

Posted by Steve Stepp, IT Manager, Sun Windows

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tips and tricks for Travel advertisers

In 2010 people researched their travel options more frequently, for longer periods of time, and on various online channels. This is good news for Travel marketers because you now have more opportunities to reach customers -- and many of these channels can help you more effectively promote your businesses. With marketing tools like YouTube and display ads, Travel marketers can actually show images of their destinations. For example, Hawaii’s official travel site showcases amazing beaches and palm trees on their YouTube channel. Don’t these videos make you want to take a trip to Hawaii?

We saw travel bookings pick up in 2010 and we’re expecting this trend to continue into 2011. This is the year of reaching your customers at every phase of the research process -- and compelling them with visual imagery. We’ve included our recommendations for doing so below:

Seasonality: Spring break travelers don’t start researching their options in March. Our research shows that the average traveler spends almost two months researching travel options before booking. As such, we suggest using Insights for Search to see when certain destinations are on the rise -- you can plan your search ad campaigns based on this seasonality. For example, searches for ‘hotel cancun’ actually peak in January.

Search: Our research shows that 78% of travel transactions involve research on a search engine.* In fact, the average traveler searches eight times prior to booking. In addition to timing your search ads campaigns with proper search seasonality, we recommend taking advantage of new search formats. For example, if you are advertising a destination, you can create a free listing on Google Places and include detailed information and pictures.

Content pages: Rather than consulting travel agents, consumers are turning to online reviews, videos, and blogs. This means consumers are more engaged and involved in the research process -- it also means you have more opportunities to reach them as they research their options. The average hotel booker, for example, conducts 20 research sessions on multiple sites prior to transacting.* What’s more, ad inventory on these sites is generally less competitive than search: The median Travel advertiser’s cost per acquisition on the Google Display Network is 2% less than that on search.** You can even measure the impact of your display ads using Campaign Insights.

YouTube: 81% of all travelers who watch online videos do so on YouTube. And the number of travel-related online videos has increased dramatically since 2009. Video is a compelling way to showcase travel destinations -- If you are marketing a destination site or a hotel, we recommend shooting video footage (it doesn’t have to be high-budget or flashy) and uploading this content to a YouTube Brand Channel and promoting this channel on your website. From there, you can explore advertising options to drive additional traffic to your channel.

Mobile: Personal travelers more than doubled their usage of mobile devices for travel purposes in the past year.** Research also shows that among travel consumers, purchase intent is five times higher on mobile ads than on desktop ads.*** New mobile ad technologies present a fantastic opportunity to reach these customers when they’re ready to actually take the leap of booking their trip. In particular -- and for Travel advertisers who do not have mobile websites -- we recommend enabling the Click to Call option, which allows customers to call you directly from their mobile phones.

The possibilities are endless -- and if you reach a customer at various phases throughout the research process with compelling messages and images, chances are he or she will be more likely to book with you. Have fun this year!

*Data from a ComScore Behavioral study.

** Data from an Internal Google study.

*** Data from an InsightExpress study.

Posted by: Sarah Travis, Team Manager, AdWords Travel Team

Monday, February 21, 2011

With A Little Help From Your Friends ...

Firstly, regular readers amongst you may have realised that I'm a little late in producing this post for my blog. Well, my excuse is that I've been on 'Uncle Duties' for the past 48 hours, and as you can see from the picture here, my  two and a half-year-old nephew likes sitting at my desk and typing away on my computer! His mummy has taken him home now, so I've been able to claim back my desk!

There were several ideas I was going to draw upon for today's blog, but that all changed at last minute, following something that happened today. I got paid. Yippee!

I'd encourage you to read Alex Gazzola's post on his Mistakes Writers Make blog about the mistake in not chasing your dues. As a freelance writer, you are a 'business' and it's sad to say that most businesses experience late payers from time to time. I've only completely missed out on being paid once, when a magazine went bust and my name was added to the long list of creditors who have to take their place behind the taxman, who basically takes pretty much everything of whatever is left! But, occasionally, I do come across a late payer from time to time.

Indeed, on Alex's post, I'd commented that I was chasing some £800 of late payments from 3 magazines, £300 of which had been outstanding since the middle of November. I'm delighted to say that I've now successfully extracted payment from all of my late payers, the last one being the £300 due from November.

I only achieved this, with a little help from a writers' organisation called the OWPG - the Outdoor Writers' and Photographer's Guild. Membership of the organisation includes access to a forum where members can share news, information, leads and advice, so I decided to post about the problems I was having with a publication that I knew other Guild members wrote for. I didn't go ranting and raving about the magazine, or calling the editor something immensely rude - I simply stuck to the facts. I told members that I was due the £300 in mid November, that I'd sent an invoice, followed by a statement of account after 30 days and 60 days, that my emails and phone calls had gone unanswered and I was one step away from threatening legal action with my 90-day statement of account. I then ended my forum post by stating that other Guild members may wish to bear in mind my experience, should they decide to pitch any ideas to the editor.

Some members did post replies, stating that they'd too had problems, but finally extracted payment after threatening legal action. I was fortunate in that one of the Guild's members happened to have a meeting with the editor today and so he brought up my outstanding payment on my behalf. Later on in the day, another Guild member and regular contributor to the magazine happened to be talking to the editor and mentioned my payment problem. (I'm sure the editor isn't keen on employing my services again now, although, to be honest, after an experience like this, I'm less inclined to pitch any further ideas to him.)

Hours later, I received an email from the editor apologising for the delay and the money was sitting in my bank account.

Being a member of the OWPG clearly helped me get paid, so if your writing takes off, I would encourage you to consider joining an appropriate organisation. There are several out there, depending upon your writing specialism. Sometimes their membership fees look a little steep, but they come into their own when they can help you out of a little difficulty.

Useful writers' organisations include:

and there are many, many more. A good place to find many of these is in the Writers' Artists' Yearbook and The Writer's Handbook, both available from Amazon.

In an occupation that can feel lonely during difficult times, it's nice to know that you have friends you can call upon.

Good luck.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Going Google across the 50 States: Tennessee media firm fights back on spam

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor's note: Over 3 million businesses have adopted Google Apps. Today we’ll hear from Rex Hammock, Founder and CEO of Hammock, a content and custom media firm in Nashville, Tennessee. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google cloud calculator.

At Hammock, we develop and manage a wide array of content, helping our clients engage with customers to increase loyalty and extend the length of the relationship. Since I founded the company 20 years ago, our work has expanded from print newsletters and magazines to include a range of digital media, such as websites, blogs, event media, and more. We’ve grown to 20 full-time employees and have developed a network of over 1,000 freelancers across the country. Technology has played an important role in what we offer our clients and how we work together as a team.

A couple of years ago, when our Technology Director left the company, we decided to experiment with using an outsourced solution for networking and systems so our internal technology staff could focus on development and creative duties. The experience gave us confidence to outsource other parts of IT so when the email server became unreliable and couldn't filter spam as well as our personal Gmail accounts, we started researching alternative solutions. With the help of an external IT service, we unplugged the email server and switched to Google Apps.

Fixing our spam problem – which Gmail has done amazingly well – would have been enough to make the switch to Google Apps worth it. We did a cost analysis per employee, however, and keeping servers in-house for just email would have been more expensive than the entire suite of Google Apps. Plus, adding calendars, contacts and documents, all of which sync nicely to our smart phones, tablets, and home computers has changed the way we work for the better.

Collaborating across our expansive network of contributors is critical and most of us use Google Docs for sharing and updating documents. Spreadsheets have also helped us manage our own newsletter subscriptions – a Google form is embedded on our website to collect information from individuals who want to receive our newsletter. Information from the form is imported directly into a Google spreadsheet that we access internally.

The ecosystem around Google Apps is helping us further meet our unique needs. We use Manymoon, a 3rd party application from the Google Apps Marketplace, to help with project management and it has resolved a number of workflow issues. Manymoon is a little like an in-house social network where, instead of setting up pages related to your favorite club or cause, you set up project pages where you can consolidate information and track progress. Because Manymoon integrates directly with Google Apps, it’s easy to add Google documents, calendar entries and emails related to a project.

For some people in the company, there was a reluctance to give up traditional desktop applications. However, it has been easy for me to evangelize Google Apps internally and I think we'd all agree now that the switch has had a positive impact on how we work.

Posted by Rex Hammock, Founder and CEO, Hammock

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Advertisers save time and uncover new keyword ideas with the Opportunities tab

[Cross-posted from Inside AdWords Blog.]

If you're a small business, time can often feel like your most valuable and most constrained resource. While youíre doing everything you need to do to keep your business up and running, important tasks like AdWords account optimization can fall to the bottom of your to-do list.

Knowing that time is a key factor for all AdWords advertisers, we created the Opportunities tab to provide you with automated and customized keyword, bid, and budget ideas. Here are two stories of advertisers who used the Opportunities tab to find new keywords quickly and easily.

Fitness Singles
Chris Mattioli founded Fitness Singles, a fitness-focused online dating website in 2003. With Chrisís dedication and some help from AdWords, he has grown his business to over one million global members today.

Like many small business owners, Chris wanted to improve his AdWords performance, but didn't have a lot of time to work on his account. When Chris discovered the Opportunities tab, he knew it was a good fit for Fitness Singles, since it allowed him to uncover new keywords quickly and easily.

Chris scans the keyword ideas in the Opportunities tab regularly to find terms related to fitness, online dating, and singles. He's found many ideas that are similar to the keyword combinations and variations that are in his account, but that he may have accidentally overlooked. He's also found completely new relevant keywords to include in his campaigns. In one instance, Chris saw terms such as promotion code and coupon among his keyword ideas. From there, he decided to add a number of discount-based keywords to his campaigns. Chris says, "The Opportunities tab can often find new keywords that are relevant our ads and that don't currently exist in our account. It also helps you identify new keyword areas--even when you thought you had it covered."
Ryan Bailey, President and Co-Founder of, describes his company as a full-service agency rather than a travel directory. "We have a rapidly growing client base of two thousand-plus and a business model that gives our clients turnkey marketing and advertising support."
While part of a large company,, runs as a small business and keeps its operations small and scrappy.

On the site, you can 'book your spot' to save your travel information, plan your next trip, and more
click for full size image

Like Fitness Singles, uses the Opportunities tab to find new keyword ideas and save time. Ryan says, "The Opportunities tab provides high-quality keywords--and a lot of ideas we wouldnít have thought of otherwise, which is the whole point! It's great that you can easily scan through the ideas and find hidden jewels and then apply those insights for both keyword selection and site optimization."

Mollie Moore, the company's interactive marketing manager, also used the Opportunities tab to help with a website redesign project in March 2010. The previous version of had dozens of links at the bottom of the page, and Moore was tasked with de-cluttering and limiting these links to the most important content. Looking at the number of keyword ideas associated with a particular theme as well as the traffic estimates for each keyword idea, the team learned that ìthe most effective content sections were top destinations, popular resort types, popular trips, and so forth," says Moore. "We also used ideas from the Opportunities tab to build out our meta titles, descriptions and keywords embedded in the back-end of every page on the site. Using the Opportunities tab, we can reduce guesswork in determining the most effective content."

To learn more about Fitness Singles and and how they use the Opportunities tab, read their full case studies in the AdWords Help Center. You can learn more about the Opportunities tab in the AdWords Help Center or our YouTube video series.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Austin Chamber of Commerce Welcomes Google to Central Texas

(Cross-posted from the Hotpot Blog.)

Editor’s Note: Last week we kicked off a local marketing campaign for Google Places in Austin, Texas, to spread the word about all the Google tools business owners can use to connect with customers. Here, our new friend Rebecca with the Austin Chamber of Commerce talks about why Google’s a great fit for the Austin small business community.

Several weeks ago Google called us. They were looking to work with the Austin Chamber of Commerce and Austin’s local business community for a new marketing campaign about Google Places. Google’s been taking a new approach to marketing Google Places, their business listings, and a recently launched tool to help connect customers to those businesses, Hotpot. We were thrilled to hear about their interest in Austin.

Why Austin? Our national recognition as a tech-savvy hub for business development means the city is a natural fit for Google’s initiatives. The Google Places Business Kits will be introduced to the Austin Chamber’s network of business leaders in central Texas. These kits include a sampler of marketing materials that can help businesses get more exposure, get them reviewed online, and get more customers through their door.

Business owners also will have the ability to connect with potential customers through Google’s new rating tool, Hotpot. With Hotpot, people now have the ability to rate and review local businesses and share those opinions with friends. When that person uses Google to search for local places, their search results become more personalized based on their tastes and those of their friends.

At the Chamber, we’re always working to understand the small business climate as we develop our benefit programs. One trend we’ve noticed is the convergence of social and mobile computing, along with the growth of location technology and services. Google Places and Hotpot act as a great set of tools business owners can use to take advantage of these trends.

As small business owners look to expand their market reach, online promotion plays an increasingly important role in both attracting new businesses and retaining loyal customers. Easy access to accurate information online and helpful reviews work toward business stability. Google’s partnership with businesses in our city will support and enhance the opportunities for raising a branded level of awareness to the consumer. Certainly, it will be exciting to witness what happens in the marketplace when Google, with its global reach, meets Austin, whose reputation for innovation and creativity is well-earned. We at the Chamber are forecasting exciting new developments ahead in 2011.

Posted by Rebecca Martin, SVP, Austin Chamber of Commerce

Monday, February 14, 2011

Everything You Tweet Will Be Taken Down In Evidence And Used Against You

One of my students recently asked me about the rules regarding quoting somebody's Tweet. (For those of you who don't know, a tweet is a message of up to 140 characters that can be posted on the Twitter website, for that person's followers to see.)

Ironically, a couple of days later, on 8th February 2011, the UK's Press Complaints Commission ruled that Twitter messages were not private, and therefore quoting them was not an invasion of someone's privacy. To read the ruling and background behind the case, click here.

They decided that although someone's tweets were distributed to only the people who were following them, any of those followers could distribute the tweet to any of their own followers, and therefore the 'tweeter' had no control over who could and could not view the text.

From a writer's perspective, it's useful to have a clarification like this, because any quote can add authority and credence to an article you may be writing.

However, I would still urge a word of caution when quoting a tweet. If you do want to quote a tweet, then you should (as with ANY quote) attribute it to its source. For Twitter, this means attributing the tweet to the name of the twitter account, (which begins with the @symbol) and not the Tweeter's Profile name. Search for one of Twitter's most famous and prolific tweeters, Stephen Fry, and you'll see around 20 profiles. Now some are clearly not Stephen Fry, but others aren't as clear cut. In other words, a Twitter account may not actually represent who they claim to represent. (Twitter strongly encourages 'spoof' or 'fake' accounts to make it clear that they are not the real thing, but that doesn't guarantee anything!) Therefore, by attributing the quote to the Twitter account, rather than the name of the person the account purportedly represents, should prevent you from getting into any trouble!

As an aside, if anyone reading this post isn't on Twitter, then I would encourage you to consider it. There is a huge number of writers on Twitter, sharing a lot of ideas and offering support. It doesn't matter whether you write non-fiction, or fiction, you'll find many like-minded people and well-known writers there.

And to get you started here are some Twitter accounts worth following:

@simonwhaley (that's me, of course!)
@WritersMistakes (Alex Gazzola - whose blog is Mistakes Writers Make (And How To Avoid Them and fellow WB tutor)
@PennyLegg (fellow WB tutor)
@lomace (fellow WB tutor)
@writersbureau (the official account for The Writers Bureau)

@FMNews (Freelance Market News)

I follow fellow writers, publishers, magazines and published novelists.

To sign up to Twitter, visit

Before you do, there's some excellent guidance about how writers can use Twitter at Nicola Morgan's brilliant blog, Help! I Need A Publisher and I would encourage any newbie to Twitter to read these postings.

Good luck!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Going Google across the 50 states: Missouri consulting firm removes communication barriers

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Enterprise Blog)

Editor's note
: Over 3 million businesses have adopted Google Apps. Today we’ll hear from Tom Dey, co-Founder of DeyFischer Consulting in Missouri. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map or test drive life in the cloud with the Go Google cloud calculator.

A typical day for a DeyFischer consultant doesn’t often involve our corporate offices, and they’re rarely in the same city as the week before. Our more than 50 consultants are out in the field, working side-by-side with clients around the world to deliver SAP business solutions. Back at our headquarters in Missouri, and SAP retail office in Atlanta, we have DeyFischer business managers, recruiters and an administrative team – but no IT personnel on staff.

At any given time across the company, we’re operating in dozens of countries and time zones. Before Google Apps, we were using a variety of different email clients and calendar systems – it was a free-for-all when it came to which office tools individuals wanted to use. Supporting all these tools was very labor-intensive. Our administrative team had to send each new consultant instructions on how to set up their email client so we could forward DeyFischer email to them. Corporate contacts and calendars, which are vital in our business, were sent out only once a month because sharing them was so cumbersome.

With Google Apps, communication is seamless and our administrative team can go back to its core job: driving revenue for the company, rather than serving as a help desk. To set up Google Apps, we worked with Umzuzu, a Google Apps Authorized Reseller. Umzuzu designed a strategy to help us transition to the cloud that included migrating old emails and comprehensive training for all employees. The whole process was painless and during it all, we had no downtime or lost emails – which our employees were grateful for!

Part of the transition included migrating our more than 3,500 contacts over to Google Apps. With advice and technical support from Umzuzu, we implemented Floreysoft’s Shared Contacts application from the Google Apps Marketplace. It’s integrated directly with Google Apps so when someone at DeyFischer adds a contact to the database, it’s immediately available to consultants across the company.

With Google Apps, communications have changed for the better and employees are now more productive in the office and on the road where they can easily access email, calendar and other important documents on their laptops or mobile phones. Scheduling is even easier with many consultants using Google Calendar to send meeting invitations directly to their clients.

We’re growing fast and Google Apps is helping us keep up the pace. Unlike before, email accounts are now created quickly and easily, and new employees are directed to a welcome site created with Google Sites. This frees the management and administrative teams to focus on hiring exceptional consultants rather than on-boarding new ones. Google Apps is helping us expand and reach new heights.

Posted by Tom Dey, co-Founder, DeyFischer Consulting

Keep Your Recommendations Weird in Austin

(Cross-posted from the Hotpot Blog.)

Editor’s Note
: Starting today, we’re kicking off a local marketing campaign in Austin, Texas, to spread the word about Google Places and Hotpot among local business owners and those who live and work in the area. To get the Austin party started, we’ve teamed up with Torchy’s Tacos to give away delicious free tacos to their customers (get ‘em while they’re hot!). We asked Tiffany Harelik, a fourth generation Austinite and member of the Torchy’s team, to write a little something for the blog about working with Google and some of the amazing food Austin has to offer.

Photo courtesy of Jared Tennant Photography

When Google first called me at Torchy’s Tacos, they said they were coming to my hometown to celebrate Austin’s local business community. Hot off the track from launching Hotpot, a new local recommendation engine from Google Places, Google has chosen Austin to promote this fun new technology because of our forward-thinking and love for all things local. And several Austinites had recommended Torchy’s as a great team to partner with when Google hit town. 

Cecelia and Vanessa from the Hotpot team met me at the Trailer Park on South 1st Street to chat about all the delicious food we offer here in Austin, and to talk about all the Google products you can use to help your business (or your favorite Austin business) connect with customers. Cecelia had a clue about Austin’s great food offers, being a UT alumna, but Vanessa was new to the Tex-Mex scene, so we had to order some tacos before we could even proceed.

Photo courtesy of Jared Tennant Photography
We quickly decided we wanted to do something fun for Torchy’s customers, and what’s more fun than free tacos?

Thus, I'm exceptionally excited to announce that we’ll be giving away — on Google — the Hotpot taco (or for those familiar with our menu, the Migas) at all six Torchy's Tacos locations until 2pm today. Keep in mind this is while supplies last and one per customer. Woohoo! Thanks, Google.

Now back to Hotpot. It’s a tool that supports local businesses by allowing users to share the places they love with their friends and discover new places they might like. As both a local Austin business owner and someone who reviews other local businesses, I'm excited about Hotpot and very happy to see big dogs like Google collaborating with unique trendsetters like Torchy's.

One of the fun features of Hotpot is the Best Ever medal, reserved only for the most deserving of favorite local spots. The Google girls asked me about some of my Best Ever trailer food vendors so they could check them out while here in Austin. (This, as you know, is always my most dreaded question. Trailers, you’re all pretty.) But for you, Google and readers, here is just a tiny portion of the awesome trailers not to miss, in addition to our beloved Torchy's:

G'Raj Mahal – fine Indian dining al fresco on Rainey Street
La Boite Cafe – unique local bistro cuisine in an eco-friendly box on S. Lamar
Franklin Barbecue - a must-have mouthwatering bbq experience east of campus
Hey Cupcake! - selling thousands of swanky cupcakes a day in multiple locations
Mighty Cone - gourmet fried chicken from the creators of Hudson's on the Bend on South Congress
Lulu B's Sandwiches - one of the best-kept underground secrets of sandwich teases on S. Lamar
The Flying Carpet – incredible Moroccan food from a loving family on South Congress

Photo courtesy of Jared Tennant Photography
A big thanks again to Google for recognizing Austin for one of the things we love about ourselves: that we vote with our dollars by supporting each others' businesses both on and offline.

Posted by Tiffany Harelik. Tiffany started her company Trailer Food Diaries with nothing more than a blog in February 2010. Attracting the attention of C3 Presents, she partnered with them to create the first annual Gypsy Picnic trailer food festival last fall. Her successes led local trailer food ambassadors Torchy's Tacos to hire her, and she consults with other trailer food vendors across the country. Her trailer food cookbook will be coming out this fall. She remains inspired by the foodie-entrepreneurs she encounters on her trailer food journeys.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tips and tricks for Retail advertisers

Please enjoy the second post in the series of tips and tricks for advertising within your industry. This week: Retail! Up next is Travel.

There are countless varieties of products, services, and companies within the Retail industry, but one thing unites us all: seasonality. Whether you’re selling school supplies, MP3 Players, or sports gear, you probably have a ‘hot season’ and some semblance of a ‘down season.’ I think our biggest trap as Retail advertisers is to only focus our efforts on the hot season; whereas Retail marketing should really happen year-round.

You have a lot of options and resources -- both free and paid -- available for marketing your business throughout the year. Below I’ve outlined a few of my favorite tools and tips.
  • Figure out when your hot season actually starts. Many marketers assume they know when their hot season starts and ends or they base this year’s strategy on last year’s season. Use Insights for Search to better understand when customers begin to search for your products. If you look at search volume on ‘swimsuits,’ you’ll notice that queries actually begin to rise in January and maintain steady volume throughout July. Don’t fall into the trap of advertising swimsuits only in the summer!
  • Use different types of campaigns at different times. Once you fully understand your seasonality, think critically about the different types of advertising you’ll do throughout the year. For AdWords customers, for example, I recommend exploring theRemarketing Tool to keep track of customers who may have visited your site during the down season. When hot season strikes again, you’ll be able to reach these customers when they are more actively pursuing your products. Remarketing is also a great way for AdWords customers with multiple seasons to reach people throughout the year. For example, if you sell flowers, you can set up a cookie to target people who purchased flowers from you on Valentine's Day, and then begin showing them ads for your Mother's Day specials in April.
  • Through it all, continue to optimize your account structure. Once you’ve established the initial structure of your account, be sure to track performance and optimize your keyword lists and ad texts, particularly during down seasons. I recommend using the ‘Search terms’ report on your broad match keywords or the Opportunities Tab to identify new keyword ideas as well as negative keywords. For your ad text, look at which ads converted best in the previous hot season, and see if any consistent themes jump out. You may notice that mentioning ‘Save 20% on Gifts’ worked better than ‘Save Big on Gifts’ and you can edit your text accordingly for the next hot season.
  • Take advantage of free offerings, particularly during the down season. For Retailers with physical locations, it’s imperative that you create a listing on Google Places. Particularly as consumers increasingly search while they are on the go, it’s important that people know when they are near your physical location!
Think of how much more time you have when you’re in the down season -- and use this time to optimize and grow your business in advance of the hot season. Our customers’ interests and behaviors change each year and yes, it can be difficult to keep up. Lucky for us, we have plenty of options to reach our customers at different phases of the conversion cycle and many tools to better understand our customers. Best of luck in 2011!

Posted by Tim Freeth, Team Lead, AdWords Retail

Monday, February 7, 2011

Boot Sale

So there I was last week, following my map to check that I was on the right path for the walk I was doing for Country Walking magazine, when I came upon this sight.

As you can see, the locals are clearly 'barking' mad by trying to 'branch' out with this new idea. (Okay, I'll stop now.) But what a fantastic opportunity for a writer. Already I've submitted this to one of the women's magazines that pays for humorous pictures. It's also generated an article idea, and it's raised several questions, which could lead to more articles or short stories:

  • Who started it? Did someone throw an old pair of shoes up there for a laugh and then someone else thought of sticking up the sign and adding another pair of shoes?
  • I wonder if the person who started it pops back to count how many pairs the tree now has.
  • Does anybody swap shoes? If there were a pair of boots/shoes swinging in the tree that looked in better condition than those you were wearing, would you swap? (Assuming they were your size!)
  • What would you think if you passed a person walking down a country lane with a pair of socks on their feet, and then ten minutes later, came across this tree?
  • How many people have tried throwing a pair of shoes high in the sky, in an attempt to loop them over a branch, only to watch those shoes plummet back down to earth and hit them in the face?
  • If those shoes could tell stories about the people they once belonged to, what would they say?
And so it goes on.

One of my new students recently asked me where I get my ideas from. And as I tell everyone, ideas are everywhere, if you know where to look. The idea may not be obvious at first, which is why it is useful to ask questions. All it takes is five minutes and you could have dozens of ideas all waiting to be explored. And, of course, if that doesn't work, then do what I did and go out and find them.

The trick with ideas is not to think about what something means to you, but what it could mean to someone else (a potential reader). I'm tempted to say, try thinking with the boot on the other foot.

Good luck.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Google Hotpot now on and around the world

[Cross-posted from the Hotpot Community Blog]

Back in November, we introduced Hotpot, a new local recommendation engine powered by you and your friends. Using Hotpot is simple: you rate places on—restaurants, hotels, cafes—and add friends on Hotpot whose opinions you trust. Then the next time you perform a search, Google will serve up personalized results, listing places based on your tastes, as well as recommendations from your friends.

We’ve watched Hotpot grow and change over the last couple months, and today Hotpot is really going places: to a Google search box near you and around the world.

You can now enjoy Hotpot recommendations in your regular search results on So say you’re looking for a restaurant in Barcelona. Go to Google and search [restaurant barcelona]. If a friend has rated a particular restaurant, you might see their rating and what they had to say about it—as well as their name and photo—directly beneath that restaurant’s listing. To see all recommendations by your friends, click “Places” on the lefthand side of the page, and choose “Friends only.” Remember, you’ll need to be logged in to your Google account in order to see recommendations.

Seeing place recommendations based on your tastes and those of your friends across more Google searches will make results more relevant to you and maybe lead you to discover a new gem. If you don’t have Hotpot friends yet, you can invite them to share all the places they love with you by using the “Friends” tab on

But Hotpot will only be half the fun if you can’t share it with all your international friends. So starting today, we’re making Hotpot available in 38 new languages—including Chinese, French, German, Italian, Korean, Polish, Russian and Spanish—allowing people to share their favorite places in their native language.

Start rating and sharing recommendations with Hotpot everywhere, anytime: at, on Google Maps, using Google Maps for Android with an easy widget, and on our new iPhone app.

Happy rating!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tips and tricks for Financial Services advertisers

We’ve asked our AdWords Team Managers to provide tips and tricks for online advertising within particular industries. Over the next few weeks, we’ll feature these guest posts on the Small Business Blog. We're kicking off with a guest post on advertising within the Financial Services industry -- check back for information on your industry!

In thinking about ‘online advertising’ it’s easy to focus on keywords, ad texts, and clickthrough rates. Now with more online media channels than ever, it’s important we think about our online identity holistically as well -- and that we consider how this identity might impact our advertising both on and offline.

This practice is particularly important for advertisers in the Financial Services industry. Our businesses and customers are greatly impacted by economic trends and world events. For this reason, I encourage you to consider the following tips when developing your advertising strategies.

  • Be an industry expert. As a member of the Financial Services industry, you must be an expert on the economy as a whole -- not just an expert of your own particular niche. One thing we’ve learned from the recession is just how interconnected the Financial Services industry is: decisions and regulations in one sector often impact dealings in another. For example, as interest rates were lowered through the recession, consumer interest in refinancing increased at a sustained level. As a marketer, you must stay on top of these trends to understand how they impact your business and your customers.
  • Adjust your online advertising strategy in reaction to consumer behavior or industry trends. If you notice a particularly pertinent financial ruling or piece of news, use Insights for Search to learn how this change has impacted search behavior. For example, as Congress considered extending the Bush Tax Cuts recently, consumer searches spiked. What an excellent opportunity to get your name in front of your target audience in order to get the most out of your marketing budget!
  • As an example, Humana insurance recently noticed changing consumer behavior and incorporated industry trends into their marketing strategy. In reaction to changing healthcare reform and later medicare enrollment, Humana took the opportunity to educate their customers via a YouTube brand channel and edited their ad text to include pertinent terms, such as ‘affordable.’

  • Manage your online brand and reputation. For better or for worse, there are now countless channels through which you can influence your brand online. I recommend setting up Google News Alerts that trigger when your company name is mentioned. I also recommend creating Profile Pages, listing your business on Google Places (only, of course, if you have a brick and mortar address), and testing new Google ad formats that showcase your product or service, such as SiteLinks.
  • Engage with your customers online. And finally, to build upon your online brand, it’s important to interact with your customers online. Engaging with your customers online can also help you better understand if/how economic trends are impacting them -- and this can help you make business and advertising decisions. I recommend creating Twitter, Facebook and YouTube identities to solicit feedback and engage with your customers!
2011 is an exciting year to be an online advertiser! In planning your advertising strategy this year, make sure you take a step back to see the bigger picture. For more tips on Google’s tools related to online business, please visit the Small Business Center.

Posted by Payton Dobbs, Team Manager, AdWords Financial Services