Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Beyond Claiming Your Place Page

(Cross-posted from the Google Places Blog.)

Last week, we invited a group of public relations and social media professionals to Google Austin to introduce them to the range of features offered as part of Google Places. Most of the attendees were experts on the basics (for instance, claiming a Place page), but many were surprised to learn about the other ways Google Places can help them connect with their customers.

The Dashboard

Once you’ve claimed your Place page, you can see detailed analytics on a handy dashboard, including information on the number of time your Place page was viewed (impressions) and the search terms your customers use to find you:

Ratings and Reviews

Customers can rate and review the places they go through Google, offering valuable feedback about what they liked and didn’t like about their experience. This information appears on the Place page for a business. Business owners also have the ability to respond to those reviews publicly — a great way to engage with customers and show you’re listening to their feedback. Once you claim your Place page and you’re logged in, you’ll see the option to respond to individual reviews.

Sharing Your Expertise

Beyond encouraging customers to rate and review their businesses via Google Places, attendees at our Austin Tech Talk also discussed how they could set up their own Google Places profile for their business to rate and review, as a way to show their community involvement and local support. Here’s what came out of a brainstorming session:

  • Restaurants could rate and review local farms, farmers markets, and artisans to show that they are using local ingredients.
  • Hotels could rate and review local attractions that may be of interest to their guests, or use their profile to provide their concierge with a “cheat sheet” of useful info.
  • Gyms could rate and review local restaurants to point out the healthiest menu items for their members so that they can reach their fitness goals.

These were just some of the many ideas that were shared!

Google Places Business Kit

The most talked-about topic of the night was the Google Places Business Kit, a box of info and schwag that business owners can request, detailing how they can better interact with their customers on Google. Some of the items a business owner can request include after-dinner mints and Place pin–shaped coffee stirrers, to remind and encourage customers to rate and review that business on Google.

What are some of the ways you’re using Google Places to connect with your customers? Learn more by visiting our Google Places Help Center.

Posted by Whitney Francis, Austin community manager

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Simple Things in Life

It is often the simple things in life that give the most pleasure. (Admittedly, the picture of a plastic jug may be confusing you at the moment! Let me paint a picture.)

Unusually, for a British Bank Holiday, the weather has been amazing - blue skies, sunshine and a gentle breeze. For part of the weekend, I've been on Uncle duties. Now, I could have entertained my nephew by taking him to a theme park, or a tourist attraction. But instead, we placed a large plastic box on the patio, filled it with water and then threw in some plastic bottles, jugs and a few balls too. Oh ... and then I found the water pistol!

For several hours, a water fight ensued and we were all soaked through. Despite it being only water, having someone chase you with a large jug of water is guaranteed to have you screaming and laughing around the garden, whether you're two-and-three-quarters, or 40 something. And a thoroughly drenched Uncle appears to be a very funny sight to a young nephew!

So, what has this to do with writing? Well, over the weekend, a student was explaining about the difficulty she was having with her writing. It had been several months since she'd been able to write anything and, whilst she had a few ideas that she wanted to develop for some magazines, whenever she sat down to produce an outline for them, she found herself getting stuck.

If it's been a while since you've done any writing, instead of working on what you think you should be writing, do some completely different writing. Write for pleasure - go back to the simple basics. Don't sit at your desk trying to come up with an outline for a magazine article, or a short story. Take yourself off somewhere nice - with a nice pen and notebook, or a laptop computer. Go to your favourite cafe, or pub. Don't buy a coffee, buy a Iced Caffè Mocha, or whatever else you fancy. Treat yourself! Then make yourself comfortable, and people watch. And jot down what you see.

Don't worry about what you're writing - just write. Enjoy the pleasure of simply tapping away on a laptop, or running a pen along the lines of your notebook. Remember what it is like to simply write. Remember what it is like to write simply. Don't edit. Don't analyse. Just write. Take pleasure from watching the words appear before you as you describe your surroundings. Whether it's watching your fingers press those keys, or enjoying the feel of the nib rolling against the paper, enjoy the action of writing. There's no official market for these words. No one else will read these words, except you. You are simply writing for you. 

Rekindle the enjoyment of the simple things in life.

Good luck.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Next Stop: San Diego, California

(Cross-posted on the Google Places Blog.)

Every day, more and more users are looking online for local information — where to eat, where to stay, where to shop. Online is where business owners need to be too. So for the past several months, we’ve launched marketing campaigns promoting our core local product offering Google Places in five cities: Portland, Austin, Las Vegas, Madison and Charlotte. In each of these cities, we’ve been working closely with local business owners, showing them how Google Places can help them get found on Google and connect them with their customers.

We’re excited to announce that the next campaign is hitting San Diego, California, today — our largest city to date!

With more than 77,000 local businesses, San Diego is the perfect next city in our campaign to help local businesses get noticed on Google. Plus, with nearly three million residents and more than 30 million tourists visiting the city annually, we see a great opportunity to help locals and tourists alike share and discover great San Diego businesses online.

Over the next several weeks, we’ll be working with business owners in a bunch of ways:

  • A team of Google reps will be visiting businesses with information about how to claim their Place page and keep their information up to date. They’ll also highlight how business owners can encourage their customers to rate and review their business on Google and share those recommendations with their friends.
  • Business owners who have verified their free Place page can request a Google Places starter kit. Visit for more information. Part of this kit is our “Recommended on Google” sticker, which utilizes NFC technology to enable users with smartphones, such as the Nexus S, to see more information about that business and easily rate and review it right then and there.
  • Businesses eligible to participate in a beta for Google Boost — our online advertising program — will receive $100 coupon offers to get started.

If you see us around town, say hello! We look forward to working with San Diego’s amazing community of business owners.

Posted by Sameer Mahmood, Local Marketing Team

Helping America’s startups grow

[Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog]

Every business starts out small—whether with an idea or the hanging of a shingle outside an office or storefront. Even Google was once a small business, operating out of a garage in Menlo Park, Calif. We’re proud of our success, but we’re even more proud of the role we’ve played helping a lot of other businesses grow. In fact, in 2009 Google search and advertising tools generated $54 billion of economic activity in the United States.

To further help new American businesses create economic growth, today we’re announcing a commitment of up to $100 million to the
Startup America Partnership—an alliance of the country's most innovative entrepreneurs, corporations, foundations and other private sector leaders—for companies to promote their business with Google advertising over the next year.

Startup America participants will be able to use Google advertising platforms like
AdWords and Boost and receive a $1,000 Google match for $1,000 spent between June 1, 2011 and June 1, 2012. Our chief economist Hal Varian has calculated that businesses make an average of $2 in revenue for every $1 they spend on AdWords, so we think this commitment will be especially powerful.

If you are (or know of) an entrepreneur that’s interested in getting involved with the Startup America Partnership, you can visit its
Resource Center for more information. Our goal as a participant in this national initiative is to help entrepreneurs grow amazing businesses, and we believe our commitment will help them do it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meet The Editor of Psychologies Mag - Wednesday 20th April 2011

This has just been brought to my attention - apologies for the short notice - but if anyone is in London (Covent Garden) on Wednesday 20th April (6pm to 8pm), there's an opportunity to meet Louise Chunn, editor of Psychologies magazine. And because the deadline is fast approaching, ticket prices have dropped to £10.

Click on the picture to see a larger version with more details. If you'd like to book a place, or require further details, then email: Stephanie Barker at

I know Psychologies is a popular magazine with students and readers, so if you're in the area, it could be a useful £10 spent!

Good luck!

The Writers' News Q&A Panel

At the York Festival of Writing there was a Writers' News Q&A panel comprising:
  • Donna Cornden - editor at Piatkus
  • Beverley Birch - Commissioning Editor at Hodder Children's Books
  • Hannah Westwood - Agent at Rogers, Coleridge and White
  • Piers Blofeld - Agent at Sheil Land
  • Jonathan Telfer - Editor at Writers' News and Writing Magazine.
Here's a summary of the snippets of information these wise people passed onto us.

  • For editors in publishing houses, many find pitching a new book that they really love, to the sales team, is like entering the Dragon's Den!
  • Some agents said they take on one new writer for every thousand manuscripts they read.
  • Some editors said that they take on one agent-submitted manuscript for every three to four-hundred agented submissions! (Combine these last two statistics together to ascertain the realities of getting a novel published!)
  • The editors felt that e-books could be the saviour of publishing. The fact that e-books are so easy to buy (for whichever device you choose to read it on) means that impulse purchases are more common with e-books.
  • The e-book market in the USA is about 12 months ahead of the market in the UK.
  • In America, more than half of all the books published are self-published, than trade published.
  • Authors have got to do more to market their books. Beverley Birch said that Hatchette has a small marketing department covering 4 imprints (2 fiction and 2 non-fiction). It's not a lot of staff to go around the many, many books that are published. 
  • Authors should be encouraged to build links with book reviewers.
  • If an author is going to blog, try to have something to say, rather than merely regurgitating something from the book. Readers expect a blog to promote a book, but to add value to the book's content.
  • Producing an e-book is not as simple as saving your text to PDF format and uploading it. Publishers have found that each of the different e-book readers have different formatting structures, which means that the publisher has to produce a different e-book file for each different format of e-book reader (which means that page breaks and line breaks are in different places too - this causes complications for books containing tables or illustrations, for example.) Producing a PROFESSIONAL e-book takes time and money. Publishers are concerned that authors who upload their own texts into e-book format (such as Amazon's Kindle) and then price them very cheaply - at say less than £1, or even free - are devaluing the e-book market for ALL authors, including the professional ones.
  • Writers are encouraged to follow publishers on Twitter.
So, as you can see, there are some interesting points there. You may, or may not, agree with some, or all, of them, but it is a snapshot of the sorts of things publishers and agents are trying to get to grips with at the moment.

Good luck!

Friday, April 15, 2011

An Update on Tags

[Cross-posted from the Google LatLong Blog]

As users increasingly rely on tools like Google Maps and Places for information about the world around them, we're working hard to develop products that help local businesses highlight themselves and their offerings.

Last year, we introduced our trial for Google Tags, a way for businesses to highlight their organic Google Places listing with a yellow tag that showcases offers, photos, videos, menu, and reservations for a flat monthly fee.

Since that experiment began, tens of thousands of businesses have used Tags to help potential customers make easier, more informed decisions when searching. Throughout this period, we monitored Tags closely to learn more about our users' business needs and how they used the product.

We’ve made a decision to shift our efforts toward other present and future product offerings for local businesses, and will be discontinuing this trial. To that end, we’ve now halted new signups and will be working with existing participating businesses over the coming weeks to help them meet their marketing needs with other Google products where possible.

We’ve learned a lot from our Tags trial and will take that knowledge into account as we continue to find the best ways to serve users and local businesses alike. Lastly, we want to thank all of the businesses that were part of our Tags trial, and we hope we can meet their advertising needs with one of our existing products.

Posted by Shalini Agarwal, Product Manager

Monday, April 11, 2011

Agents ... And Their Secrets

Continuing my feedback from the Festival of Writing at York, I thought I'd share some secrets that a couple of literary agents gave us during a packed Q&A discussion. On the panel were agents from the following agencies:

  • United Agents
  • Ampersand Agency
  • Greene & Heaton
Here's what they had to say:

  1. Agents handle a variety of genres, they don't specialise. This may come as a shock to some of you, after all, we're often told that we should submit our historical novels to an agent who likes historical novels, rather than one who represents a lot of authors who write about romantic cosy crime. What the agents on the panel said was that they are generalists, not specialists. The important rule was to read their submission guidelines on their websites. If these state that they don't like historical novels, or children's fiction, then don't send it. However, just because they represent a lot of chick-lit, it doesn't mean to say that they wouldn't be interested in an historical novel. Which leads me onto my next point.
  2. Agents don't know what they do want to see, but they know what they don't want to see. Get it? In other words, if an agent says they don't want to read children's fiction, then they don't want to read it! But, if you were to ask an agent what sort of novel they are currently looking for, they wouldn't be able to tell you because they won't know until they start reading it!
  3. Despite the fact that many agents are generalists, they do like to see a cover letter that demonstrates some research has gone into an author's submission. When approaching an agent, name them in your cover letter. Don't submit your novel or non-fiction book to an 'agency' - send it to a specific person. Explain why you've picked them.
  4. It's common practise for a potential author to submit 3 chapters and a synopsis of a novel to an agent. Most agents on the panel said that they read the chapters first and then, if they liked them, they then read the synopsis.
  5. If you have a curriculum vitae of your writing achievements, include it. Agents said that they did find this useful. But don't think that agents are only interested in writers who've had something (articles, short stories, etc) published before. Agents are interested in anyone with a good novel or non-fiction book!
  6. All agents agreed that at the moment, their pet hate is initials in names! They want to know the full name of whoever is sending their work to them. So, no more JK Rowling, VS Pritchett or PD James! Tell agents your Christian name!
  7. More and more agents are accepting submissions by email now. Check their websites for guidance.
  8. Agents expect potential authors to be tweeters and bloggers!
  9. Don't say that your novel is in the style of [insert favourite author's name], instead, state which genre your novel is in, and then name some of your favourite authors.
  10. An author won't know it, but when an agent begins reading a submission and they find themselves thinking, "Fred Bloggs at HarperCollins, might like this, Freda Bloggs at Transworld would definitely be interested in this, and Ivor Bigchequebook at Hodder likes this sort of thing," that's when an agent becomes interested. In other words, agents really know the editors at the publishers. Really know them. They know their likes and dislikes. So, when they read something, the more editor names that pop into their head who they think might like your text, the more excited the agent becomes. 
Good luck.

PS - It's currently the London Book Fair, where agents and publishers are busy trading and negotiating deals. Agents are working (even) longer hours than usual, so if you have a submission with an agent at the moment DO NOT contact them to find out how things are going. They are not in the office. And when they get back into the office they'll have all of the paperwork to deal with from the work generated by the fair. In other words, avoid getting in touch with them until mid-May at the earliest!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A new way to share local product availability with your customers

[Cross-posted from the Google Merchant Blog]

If you've ever spent your Saturday calling different stores or driving around town in search of one specific product, then it probably occurred to you that there must be a better way. Today we're announcing Local Product Availability on Google Place Pages - a new feature that automatically brings your offline catalog to the web, letting customers view your products and search your local inventory on your Place Page before visiting your store.

When you provide Google with local product availability data, your Google Place Page will now automatically include a new section, ‘Popular products available at this store’, featuring five popular products along with price and local availability. For shoppers unfamiliar with your business, this section shows the types of products available in your store.

If shoppers are looking for a specific item, they can click ‘Search within this store’ to search your product inventory to see if a particular item is in stock nearby.

Getting started
To automatically display local product availability on your Google Place page, you’ll need to first share local availability data with Google through a Merchant Center account and claim your a Google Place page. For instructions on sharing local product availability with Google, read this Help Center article. Learn how to claim your Google Place page here.

Posted by Paul Lee, Senior Product Manager, Google Product Search

Google and Ink from Chase launch 5-city seminar series for SMBs

Every day we hear from business owners who think they need special skills to reach new customers online. Often they’re just overwhelmed by the seeming complexity of online marketing options. So they sit on the sidelines, eager to get in the game, but confused about where to start.

Sound familiar?

Google and Ink from Chase have teamed up this year to help small business owners get off the sidelines and into the game! As part of this commitment to helping small business owners, we jointly hosted the first Google-Ink from Chase ‘Grow Your Business Online’ event on March 15, 2011 at the JP Morgan Headquarters in New York City.

Over 200 Ink small business customers attended the program, living proof of how an incredibly diverse array of small business touch our lives every day - from chocolate shops to online gaming and private medical practices. The evening featured welcome comments from Richard Quigley, President of Ink from Chase, expert advice from AdWords evangelist Frederick Vallaeys on four ways for SMBs to market their business online and also included the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s executive director, Daniel Gallant, talking about how online advertising helped their business grow.

One small business owner remarked that the tools and tips from Google experts on how to market small businesses online gave her “a new perspective of how to reach out to customers.” Another attendee found the Google Places page so compelling he went back to his business afterwards and “immediately verified my business’ Google Places page.”

Interested in learning more about how to get your business online? Check out our Small Business Online Marketing Handbook to get started.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Click. The AdWords newsletter: April 2011

The world has gone mobile. From smartphones to tablets, mobile devices are quickly becoming the best way for people to find products and services when they're on the go. Read on to learn about how you can take advantage of the mobile opportunity with AdWords and drive mobile customers to your business.

Happy reading!
The Google AdWords team

P.S. Have some feedback about this newsletter? Please let us know what you think.
In this Issue
APRIL 2011, VOL 2

A growing mobile opportunity

Design a mobile-only campaign

Bringing customers to the table

Art Project

Your AdWords Account
A growing mobile opportunity
In the past year alone, the number of Google mobile searches has quadrupled. In fact, by 2012, more people will connect via a mobile device than a computer.* How can your business benefit from this trend? Here are three ideas:

Make it easy to call you
People on the phone are looking for immediate answers. So it makes sense that many smartphone consumers call the businesses that they find after a mobile search. Encourage new customers to call you with AdWords Click-to-Call, which displays your business' phone number as an additional line of text on your ad. Google research shows that click-to-call ads drive a 6-8% average increase in clickthrough rates.

Make it easy to find you, too!
If you're a local business, mobile users are especially important, because one out of three searches on a mobile devices has local intent. And, according to a recent survey conducted by eMarketer, 58% of smartphone owners say they use their phone to find store locations. In AdWords, you can use Location Extensions to display your business' address and its location on a map. Once you have Location Extensions enabled, you can automatically take advantage of the new Hyperlocal feature. Hyperlocal shows your potential customers distance information, so they can see how close they are to your store!

Customize your ads for the mobile user
The eMarketer study also shows that people commonly use their phones to compare prices, find discounts and check product availability. Consider writing ads especially for smartphone users, keeping in mind what people want when they're on the go. You can actually create a separate AdWords campaign just for mobile. Check out AdWords Insight, below, for detailed instructions on how to do that.

ADVANCED TIP: What happens when someone wants to find out more about your business, and clicks to your website? Does your website load quickly enough for smartphone users? Take a few moments to see if your website passes the test. If it doesn't, there are a range of options to help you optimize your website for mobile devices.

*Source: Meeker, Mary; Morgan Stanley. "Ten Questions Internet Execs Should Ask & Answer." Business, November 16, 2010.
Design a uniquely mobile campaign
Google Research shows that mobile-only campaigns help drive higher mobile clickthrough rates—11.5% higher on average. Why? With a separate mobile campaign, you can set the bids, budgets, keywords and ad text that work best for mobile customers.

  1. Create a new campaign in your AdWords account.
  2. Find the "Networks and devices" section in your Campaign Settings, and under "Devices" click "Let Me Choose".
  3. Un-select "Desktop and laptop computers," so you are only targeting "Mobile devices with full Internet browsers."
  4. Select keywords and create ad text with your mobile customer in mind.

Bringing customers to the table
Can your customers find you when they need you most? Roy's Restaurants shared the success of their hyperlocal mobile-only campaign: "Mobile searchers looking for dining options could effortlessly see how close they were to a nearby Roy's restaurant and the click-to-call function allowed for instant reservations." This campaign drove a 40% increase in calls, while the cost-per-click was 67% less than desktop ads. As a result, the campaign's overall return on investment was 800%—double the ROI of their blended mobile/desktop campaigns. Want to try it for your business? Learn about the strategies Roy's used.
Picture this with the Art Project
Want to visit the world's most magnificent museums and masterpieces? Art Project, powered by Google—collaboration with 17 of the word's most acclaimed museums—lets you walk through museum wings to explore the world's most precious works of art. From Van Gogh's Starry Night to Botticelli's Birth of Venus, zoom in to discover striking details like brushstrokes and aging signs, all without leaving home.
Posted by Jenn Karakkal, AdWords Small Business Team

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Think with Google: Search Ads Affect Offline Sales, too

Do online search campaigns lead to in-store sales? Controlled studies we call ‘Online to Store’ experiments prove time and again that they do! Check out this video for results from large advertisers that tested the effects of keyword targeted products and categories, generic keywords and online coupons. Highlights include in-store sales lift, return on ad spend (15:1 in some cases) and halo effects on overall sales. Understanding the effect of search ads on offline sales is a large part of accurately defining the full value of search campaigns, beyond direct conversion. Consider these results and your own online to store testing.

Posted by: Susan Billingsley, Search Marketing Manager

Free phone support for AdWords advertisers

(Cross-posted from the Official Google Blog)

We’ve worked hard to keep in touch with our AdWords customers and we’re always looking for new ways to support you. Currently we offer email and online support, and today we’re introducing free phone support for all of our U.S.- and Canada-based AdWords customers. When you have a question about your account or advertising campaigns, you can now call an AdWords specialist if you prefer.

We’re adding phone support for a simple reason: you asked for it! You told us that while you appreciate online resources like our AdWords Help Center, you also want the option to get live, expert support when you need it. We heard you, and got to work assembling a team of AdWords experts to answer your calls.

The new phone option is one of many tools that can help you succeed with AdWords—and (most importantly!) find even more customers. You can also email us, or learn from other advertisers in the AdWords Help Forum. Our AdWords Online Classroom offers free online courses on a wide variety of AdWords topics, from the basics to great tips to take your account to the next level.

To speak to one of our specialists, give us a call at 1-866-2Google between Monday-Friday, 9am-8pm Eastern Time. This number is for current AdWords advertisers only, so please make sure you have your customer ID ready. We look forward to speaking to you and learning more about your business.

We'll roll phone support out to advertisers in other countries in the coming months.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Embrace Your Failures

The opening speaker at the York Festival of Writing was David Nobbs, novelist and creator of the successful Reggie Perrin character. His speech was frank and honest. He spoke about his writing life and was upfront about his failures.

As writers we face failure on a regular basis. Perhaps we sit down to write an article, short story or novel scene, but for whatever reason, the writing doesn't flow. Perhaps we send off our writing, only to have it rejected. Perhaps we send off a series of email pitches and hear nothing back. If any profession has any experience of failure, it's writing!

But David Nobbs was quite clear - every writer needs failure. Without failures, we cannot appreciate success. Often, it is failure that spurs us onto our successes.

Before David Nobbs had the success he did with Reggie Perrin, he'd had a go at writing a situation comedy set in a lighthouse. He told us that he's analysed the popular situation comedy, Steptoe and Son, and realised that the characters were trapped by their circumstances. So, make a couple of characters as lighthouse keepers and keep them isolated on their own in a lighthouse and you have people that are quite literally trapped. It didn't work and a second series wasn't commissioned.

Nobbs explained how difficult this failure was to come to terms with. But it inspired him to write something else. And along came Reggie Perrin.

There are a couple of quotes I want to share with you. David said:

"Accept that you will write good stuff and that you will also write bad things."

"If a day's writing isn't working, then go and do something else - cricket, the pub - anything. BUT DON"T DO THIS TWO DAYS RUNNING!"

I think both statements are valid. Even the most famous of writers don't write perfect prose every time. In fact some of it may be pretty naff! But, of course, we only see the good stuff of their writing, whereas we see both the good and the bad that we write!

And on those occasions when the words won't flow, it seems pointless sitting there trying to force them out. Getting up and doing something completely different can help to stimulate the creative juices. Although, as David says, don't stay away from your writing for too long. Writers are supposed to write!

Often, when we write something and send it off, we have an idea of how it will succeed. An article will be accepted and published in a magazine, a short story will win a competition, a novel will be snapped up by a publisher. When what we envisage fails to happen, we perceive it as a failure. However, every piece of writing we produce helps us to develop and grow as a writer. Even if that piece did not succeed as we intended, it still helps us to progress along our journey of being a writer.  Without tasting the bitterness of rejection, we don't appreciate the sweetness of success.

David Nobbs finished his talk with, "When you write, enjoy it, because at least one person has!" And next time a piece of writing fails to achieve the dreams you held for it, just remember that the writing has helped you to grow as a writer, and your next effort may just be the success that you dream of.

Good luck.