Wednesday, June 29, 2011

“Mobile”-ize your business with Google Sites

By the end of this year, it is predicted that over half of all Americans will own a smartphone. With 51% of consumers more likely to purchase from retailers that have mobile-optimized sites, is your website ready to take on this growing mobile trend? We understand that time is the most valuable resource for a small business owner, so to help you save time, we’re launching a new tool: Google Sites mobile landing pages. With Google Sites mobile landing pages, you can build a professional mobile landing page for your business in minutes, for free -- and without any coding experience.



You can set up your mobile site in just a few steps:
  1. Visit sites.google.com/mobilize.
  2. Choose from one of five templates for your site or start with a blank template.
  3. Choose a site name and URL.
  4. Give your site a description to make it easier for people to find.
  5. Choose whether you want your site to be visible to everyone or only certain people.
  6. Add text, images, buttons and gadgets to your site to help personalize it and deliver your message.
Watch the video below to see how easy it was for small business owner, Bob, to mobilize his business with Google Sites:




To get started, visit
sites.google.com/mobilize, and see how going mobile can boost your business!

Posted by Shiv Kumar, Google Mobile Specialist

Monday, June 27, 2011

Whoops!

Here's evidence that magazines get it wrong from time to time. In the latest issue of MacWorld magazine, a reader has written in to the Letters page pointing out the fact that last month's (July issue) Star letter seemed a little familiar. When the writer investigated, his sense of deja vu was not without grounding - the letter had been published the previous month - in the June issue of the same magazine!

The writer went on to ask why the letter was not the Star letter in June, but was deemed suitable as a Star Letter in the July issue!

Well, the magazine owned up to a mistake and printed an explanation (sort of) - apparently a new member of staff had taken over and so was not aware of what had been printed on the Letters page the previous month. Hmmm. Not sure I think that explains everything. After all, I'm sure there would have been a spare copy of the previous issue lying around the office somewhere!

Anyway, there are two points I want to make here - firstly, it just proves that magazine staff are human too, and they can make mistakes. And secondly, it also proves that you can get published by pointing out these errors! (The magazine could simply have ignored the writer who wrote in to point out this error, but they didn't - they published his letter.)

So, if you spot something in a magazine that doesn't look quite right ... then write in and let them know.

Good luck.

Monday, June 20, 2011

There's No Such Thing As Standing Still ...

Fellow writer and friend, Julie Phillips, has started a Facebook page on the theme of 'Bring Back Fiction to Women's Magazines'. This is as a direct result of the weekly Take a Break magazine dropping its Coffee Break fiction slot. (It is continuing to publish its Fiction Feast monthly magazine though.)

This is a shame, because I have sold a couple of fiction stories to the weekly magazine, and this paid more for the story in its Coffee Break fiction slot, than it does for stories it uses in its Fiction Feast publication!

If you'd like to join Julie's Bring Back Fiction to Women's Magazines campaign, then please visit:
http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_217894074910266 (you will need to login to Facebook to see this).

I mention this for two reasons - firstly, to publicise Julie's Facebook page. Secondly, this is a good example of demonstrating that magazines don't stand still. They change over time. They evolve. Every so often, a new editor will be brought in and they will revamp the magazine, give it a new style, drop some regular slots and bring in new columns and writers. Other magazines that have undergone such changes recently are MacUser magazine and Esquire.

Following on from last week's post, where I recommended that you actually scrutinise a physical copy of a magazine, this week's message is that once you've done this, that isn't the end of the matter. If it has been a while since you last looked at a particular title, then take a look at the latest copy. Not only may you spot a change in the contact details, but the magazine may have changed quite drastically too.

Occasionally, when magazines want to increase their circulation, or appeal to a slightly different audience, they will undergo a radical change. One such magazine is My Weekly. Six years ago, the average age of its readership was 62. In 2006, its owners, DC Thompson, spent £1 million revamping the magazine, targeting it at a younger readership, aged mid-40s and upwards. It ditched a lot of its 'comfy' features, such as nostalgia, and children's stories, and began offering articles on health, travel and, of course, celebrities!

So the message here this week is, magazines don't stand still and rest on their laurels. It's a tough market place out there for advertising. To get the advertising revenues in, a magazine has to attract a regular readership. Every now and then, it might change or update the magazine in an attempt to keep its existing readership, whilst trying to appeal to new readers too. If you haven't looked at a specific magazine for more than 12 months, it might be worth picking up the latest issue. You may be surprised by what you see.

Good luck.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Discover new local gems with our new city pages

(Cross-posted on the Google Places Blog.)

Over the past six months, Google Places has ventured into Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; San Diego, California; and Madison, Wisconsin. Our goal for each of these campaigns was to celebrate the strong local business communities thriving in each of these cities. To do that, we’ve carried out a range of activities: hosted a bus tour to find the best barbecue in Austin, held a concert series showcasing some of Portland's favorite music venues, and met with thousands of small business owners to show them how Places can help them connect with customers.

Our team has loved becoming a part of your local communities, connecting with small businesses and bringing Places users together. In the spirit of continuing that mission, we’re excited to introduce our new community city pages. Now you can get up to date info about all things Google happening in Portland, Austin, San Diego and Madison.

On these sites, you'll be able to browse a list of some of the top businesses recommended by Portland locals by rating, by category ("Restaurant"), and by filter ("Family-Friendly"). Check back often as we'll be continuing to build out this list of places.


You'll find a page featuring the latest news about the Google Places community, as well as a list of upcoming Google events in that city:


And if you’re a business owner, we've got a special page just for you. Use it as your one-stop-shop to find out how to manage your presence on Google. Bonus: These pages have a fun set of video testimonials from small business owners using Places.



We’ve got big plans for these pages, so stay tuned in the coming months to see what’s new.

Posted by Cecelia Stewart, Local Marketing Team

Google Offers beta launches in Portland, Oregon

(Cross-posted on the Google Places and Google Commerce blogs.)

Nothing beats a good deal, and during these couple weeks we saw that first hand. We teamed up with Floyd’s Coffee Shop in Portland to launch the Google Offers beta, a new product that brings Portlanders daily deals from local businesses.

On launch day, we asked Portlanders to sign up for our first deal: $3 for $10 worth of drinks and treats at Floyd’s, a local favorite. And you guys wasted no time! Starting at 7:30 a.m. the following morning, customers rolled in to Floyd’s to redeem and even scored Google Offers t-shirts.

  

Since Floyd's, we've also had Offers at the Uptown Billiards Club, Karam Lebanese Cuisine and with Le Bistro Montage, Ground Kontrol and Mississippi Studios and Bar Bar. And there are plenty more awesome deals on the way — in Portland and soon in other cities. Subscribe to our e-mails at google.com/offers to learn more about new Portland deals, and to find out when we’re coming to your city. If you’re a business owner who wants to set up an offer, just send us a note.

We’ve had an exciting first couple weeks, and we look forward to many more! Stay tuned to us on Twitter for more news and deals.

Posted by Kim Cianci, Account Manager

Monday, June 13, 2011

Introducing Descriptive Terms in Local Search Results

(Cross-posted on the Lat Long and Google Places blogs.)

Whether it’s to find a great place for dinner or to grab a cup of coffee, I often look up places directly on Google Maps. Evaluating my options and making a choice just got even easier thanks to the list of associated terms that now appears directly in the local search results.

Starting today, Google Maps search results in the U.S. and Great Britain will include some of the phrases which are most frequently used to describe those places. These phrases come from sources all across the web, such as reviews, web pages and other online references, and they can help people quickly identify the characteristics that make a particular place unique. It’s like an opportunity to ask the business owner or its patrons “What’s good here?” or “What do most people get here?”

For example, if I’m looking for a place to relax and enjoy a great cup of coffee this weekend, I can see at a quick glance that Cafe Grumpy could be the perfect spot. Besides being known for their “latte” and “great coffee,” they have a “no laptop” policy — exactly what I was hoping for since I’d like to unplug and take a break from work this weekend.


Or if I’m planning to visit friends on the west coast and need to organize a night out, Rose & Crown could be an excellent choice given their “great beer selection” and “trivia night” games on site!



Whether you’re looking for local businesses in your neighborhood or in another city, these descriptive terms can help you find the places right for you. We hope you use these terms to discover new and interesting places on Google Maps, and watch for this feature to appear in Place search on Google.com and Google Maps for mobile soon!

Posted by Manjunath Srinivasaiah, Software Engineer

Let's Get Physical!

I've noticed a trend amongst some of my students, recently. Their market analysis hasn't been as detailed as it could be. Now, I know that some people are just so keen to get started on writing up their great idea that they think this is an easy bit to skip, but there's more to it than that. They are using the internet as their ONLY source of analysis, and when you are starting out, that isn't sufficient. You can learn much more by looking at a physical copy of the publication.

Whilst many magazines have an online presence, the amount of information they have on their website varies. Some magazines upload a virtual copy of the entire contents, adverts and all. Those are great - just like looking at the physical copy. However, some merely offer an abridged version, with shortened articles, and this is what is causing the problems. One student had read example articles at 500 words, but when I looked at a physical copy of the magazine, I realised that these were abridged versions and the print copy articles were nearer 1,000 words. So, clearly, if you've written a 500-word article and the editor uses soemthing that is twice a long, then your piece simply doesn't fit. It will be rejected.

Seeing a physical copy also has other benefits. I think it is easier to gain a better overview of the publication's style and ethos, simply by the way that other objects, like photos, sidebars, further information panels, boxouts, etc are dealt with on the physical page. This isn't necessarily the same as on a webpage. A computer magazine that I read has a laid-back, humorous approach to articles and information, yet if you were to read the same material online, the friendly, chatty style does not come across as well - not because different words are used (the words are the same) but the website uses a blogging format, which means there isn't the creative freedom to design the webpage in the same humorous way as they do on the physical page.

Also, some magazines only share the information online that they think will bring in the most online advertising. So, an online copy of a magazine may not show the letters page, whereas the print version will.

The Internet is immensley useful, but it doesn't always give you the whole picture. Sometimes, the best way to get to know a publication is to look at a physical copy. That isn't always easy, but it's an important point to note. It hasn't been lost on me, the fact that the foreign publications I've had successes with are the ones where I've been able to obtain a physical copy of the publication, rather than rely on the Internet version.

And just before I go, a small plug ... I've been invited to run a weekend course on behalf of the Relax & Write workshops, in Derbyshire in April 2012, where I'll be offering my Seven Steps to Publication Success. A breakdown of the weekend's course, (and who to contact with regards to booking - not me!) can be found on my website here:
http://www.simonwhaley.co.uk/tutoringtalks/relax-and-write-courses/

Essentially, we'll look at quick ways to get published, how to analyse magazines, identify the best slots in magazines that are open to freelance writers, the different ways to structure an article and how to deal with boxouts, fact files and photos.

Good luck.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thoughts on Decoding the Digital Consumer

Next Monday I’m speaking on a panel at the NYT Small Business Summit. The theme of the panel is ‘Decoding the New Digital Consumer’ and since I know you can’t all be in New York, I wanted to share a few thoughts more widely.

We all know that online technologies have completely changed the way we find information. If I wanted to buy a new bike, for example, I’d visit a search engine to research my options and scour websites to educate myself on specific models. I might event visit YouTube to see bikes in action or check Twitter to see the latest announcements from certain bike manufacturers. When it’s time for a test ride, I would likely look up locations of stores and more information on my mobile device.

As a digital customer, I have endless ways to access information. And as a small business owner, you have more options than ever to reach me when I’m looking for your product or service. More options can also mean more effort. Here are some tips for understanding and engaging online customers:
  • Research your company. The first thing I tell any small business owner is to research your company online (yes, Google yourself! And also search on YouTube and Twitter...) to see where your customers are engaging with your brand. What are people saying about your company and where are they engaging on the web?
  • Go local. One out of every five searches on Google.com is location-based. Verify your business address on Google Places so you can appear on Google.com and Google Maps. With Places, you’ll receive a monthly email with insights on how customers are interacting with your page.
  • Talk to your customers. For businesses that fit well with two-way engagement (tip: not all do!), Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are all great channels for social interaction. You can ask for feedback, promote special offers to loyal customers, and even provide product education for zero to little cost BUT a significant effort can be required.
  • Measure your efforts. Use a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics to understand your customers. With a simple piece of code, Analytics allows you to see which sites or search engines your customers visited before they arrived at your site. You can also see aggregated information on your customers’ geographic locations. So, for example, if you see a lot of visits coming from a certain city or state, you can target online ads to that region or make a special call out to these folks on your social media channels.
The online world has really leveled the playing field. Now, small business owners can reach customers they would not have acquired when marketing was limited to expensive TV and print ad campaigns. I encourage you to spend time researching your online customers and some of you should consider building and interacting with an online community of customers and prospects. Without even spending a dime, you can build an online presence and potentially expand your customer base and your business.

Posted by: Claire Johnson, VP of Online Sales

Monday, June 6, 2011

Think Like A Writer ... Not A Reader

"None of the magazines I like use freelance writers," is a common moan I hear from students. "Women's magazines just don't interest me," is another I hear from some of my male students.

One thing these comments have in common, is that these potential writers are going into their local newsagents, gazing at the magazines on the shelves in front of them and thinking like a READER.

NO. NO. NO. NO! If you want to be a writer, then you have to look at magazines as a WRITER. Don't buy a magazine because you think it looks like one that you'll enjoy reading - buy it to see if you might be able to write something for it.

This means going out of your way to buy a magazine you wouldn't normally buy. Buy titles you've never looked at before. Buy titles you've never heard of before. Buy titles you can't even pronounce! (The picture in this posting, being one such publication.)

I am no gardener, but I have had articles published in gardening magazines. I haven't built my own house, but I had an article published in SelfBuild & Design magazine. I don't live in Cumbria, but I've had several articles published in the county magazine, Cumbria.

Every publication you see is a potential market. Remember, every word you read has been written by somebody, so take a closer look. Why shouldn't that somebody be you? For the men, that means buying the women's magazines ... and yes, they do use articles written by men, because I've done it. And for the women, that means buying men's magazines, like Men's Health or What Car? ... and yes ... I've seen articles written by women in both of these.

Don't let your prejudices as a reader, influence your thinking as a writer. I often say to students that writing for the magazines they enjoy reading can be a good thing to start off with, because as a regular reader, you already know what the magazine is about and the type of articles they like to use. (As a reader, you'll have been subconsciously doing the market analysis bit, as you've read the publication for your personal enjoyment.) However, the publications you read are simply the very pinprick at the tip of that iceberg of publications.

Next time you see a magazine you've never seen before, take a closer look. If you've never looked at it before, how do you know that you won't be able to write something for it?

Good luck.

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