Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Check out your new image ads from the AdWords Display Ad Builder

(Cross-posted on the Inside AdWords blog.)

Image and video ads on the Google Display Network can have a strong impact on the success of your online marketing campaigns. These ads convey your messages in more engaging and memorable ways, enticing viewers to buy what youíre selling.
The Display Ad Builder tool within AdWords already lets you easily create image and video ads for free and gives you the flexibility to customize these ads to suit your needs. Check out these image ads for examples of what you can create:

But today weíre announcing a new feature that essentially builds your image ads for you.
The Display Ad Builder now automatically creates suggested image ads, using the existing text ads in your campaign.
  • Click on the suggested ad that you like best.
  • If necessary, customize any fonts, text, or colors that need tweaking.
  • Then incorporate the ad into one of your ad groups. Itís that simple.
Check out your suggested ads now>>

You donít even have to be in the Display Ad Builder tool to use this new feature.
  • If youíre in one of your ad groups, you can select an existing text ad and under ìMore Actions,î choose ìGenerate Display Ad.î
  • AdWords will create an image ad based on the text ad you selected.

If you want to create your ad from scratch, you can always choose from hundreds of template designs.
  • Add your text and customize the fonts, colors, and background.
  • Choose images from the AdWords stock gallery, from your computer, or straight off your website.
  • Review the ad in all formats to make sure it looks right, then add it to your campaign.
For more information about Display Ad Builder, visit the Display Network website.

Posted by Lauren Barbato, Inside AdWords crew

Monday, February 27, 2012

Google+ page stories: King Arthur Flour

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of posts about small businesses on Google+ and their tips and tricks for managing a great page. Visit our YouTube channel to see all the videos in this series and join the discussion on the Google+ Your Business page.

Meet King Arthur Flour, America’s oldest flour company. Founded in 1790, King Arthur Flour is now an employee-owned company that offers everything from baking products to educational baking programs—all with the mission to “inspire, educate and bake.” PJ Hamel, King Arthur Flour’s resident writer, shows how Google+ helps the company share the joy of baking with people all around the world.

As we mentioned the other week, Google+ Pages helps you share relevant content to your stream with the right people using Google+ Circles. PJ Hamel, King Arthur Flour’s resident writer, uses Google+ circles to share certain recipes with specific groups of interested customers.

Here are some more tips for sharing to your stream:
  • Share visual content. Add photos, videos, or links to your posts. Simply drag the photos, videos, or links directly to the share box. To add a link, just find the icon that's next to the URL in your browser window and drag it to the share box.
  • Grab someone’s attention by mentioning them in posts. Say you’re creating a post based on a user’s question, or you want to respond directly to a customer in the comments. To really grab their attention, try “plussing” (or “mentioning”) them in your post or comment. This will alert the customer to your comment, and bring them back to the post. To mention someone:
    1. Type +[person's name] or @[person's name]. (You can also type their email address instead of their name.)
    2. As you type, an autocomplete list of people will appear.
    3. Select the person you want to mention.
  • Add style to your post.
    1. Use underscores to italicize. _ italics_ → italics
    2. Use asterisks to bold. * bold* → bold
    3. Use hyphens to strikethrough. - strikethrough - → strikethrough
Want to learn more? Visit the Google+ Your Business site, and stay tuned for more Google+ stories and tips from small businesses. You can also watch all our Google+ page stories on YouTube.

As you share to your Stream, what kinds of content have you found are most engaging with your followers? Join the discussion on the Google+ Your Business page and tag your posts #mybusinessstory.

Posted by Evelyn Lee, Google+ Pages Associate Product Marketing Manager

How Many Editors Does It Take To Edit A Magazine?

No, this isn't a joke - there is a reason for discussing this. Some magazines have more than one editor. Take a look at Coast magazine, for example, which has the following:

  • An Editor-in-Chief
  • An Editor,
  • A Deputy Editor,
  • A Chief Sub-Editor,
  • A Picture Editor,
  • An Acting Assistant Editor,
  • A Deputy Web Editor,
  • An Associate Web Editor.
I've even seen some magazines who have an 'Editor at Large'. 

Now, if you're looking to submit a pitch to a magazine, which one are you going to pitch to?

Avoid the 'Editor-in-Chief' or the 'Editor-at-Large'. These people are rarely involved in the day-to-day running of the magazine. They're there to oversee the general direction of where the magazine is heading. It is quite common for an 'Editor-in-Chief' to be the 'Editor-in-Chief' for more than one magazine within the company's group of magazines. (It's the Editor in Chief, who gets invited to all the swanky lunches - and let's face it - there's little point in sending an email pitch to someone who isn't sat at their desk.)

A good editor to look out for is the Commissioning Editor - for it is their job to commission! But if no one is listed in the staff list as that, then consider approaching the editor, or the deputy editor. If you're pitching an article, then the Features Editor is another job title worth looking out for.

There are some magazines who have editors for specific sections of the magazine. For example, there may be a cookery editor, a travel editor, a health editor or a beauty editor. If any of your ideas are targeted at a specific slot within the magazine, then you may be better approaching the editor of that slot, rather than the main editor.

The job description of 'editor' can be bandied about a little too easily at times. Salaries within the publication world can be lower than other industries and one way to give someone a perk is to 'boost' their job title!

When I had a regular column in one particular magazine, I was most surprised to see the editor refer to me (in the editor's letter at the beginning of the magazine) as their Outdoor Editor. It was the first, and only time, I was referred to as such!

Next time you analyse a magazine and spot a selection of editors in its staff list, make a note of all of the names and then make your pitch to the most suitable editor. Sometimes, going to the top won't always result in a response. Picking someone lower down the editorial ladder might be a better way of getting an answer to your query.

Good luck.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Got A Favourite Recipe?

Do you have a favourite recipe? If so, and you can take a photo of it, then look out for Take a Break's new magazine My Favourite Recipe.

They're looking for readers [or writers :-)] to send in their favourite recipes, which could be a classic recipe, or one you've adapted for everyday use, or for those special occasions.

What they need is:

  • the recipe,
  • a photo of the final, cooked dish,
  • and a photo of you.
For each recipe they feature they pay £25, and readers have the chance to vote for their favourite recipe of the month. The recipe for the most votes wins £500.

Taking photos of the finished dish isn't straight forward, so Take a Break have offered some useful tips:

  • Keep the background clear and unfussy. Take the finished dish on a white table cloth, not up against the microwave with a family pack of Doritos hanging over the edge!
  • Don't zoom in too much - take the whole dish, not just the fancy parsley crowning the top.
  • Hold the camera about a foot (30cms) away from the dish.
  • Take a couple of photos - one from above and one from the side.

Further details can be found on www.myfavouriterecipes.net

Now, where's my recipe for beans on toast?

Good luck.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Google+ page stories: North Bowl

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of posts about small businesses on Google+ and their tips and tricks for managing a great page. Visit our YouTube channel to see all the videos in this series and join the discussion on the Google+ Your Business page.

Recently we introduced you to Best Made Company, a group of outdoor enthusiasts that specializes in designing and handcrafting wilderness supplies. Next up we have North Bowl, a 21,000-square-foot bowling center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Oron Daskal and his staff are passionate about creating a fun, social space at the lounge and alley for their local community. In fact, he says, he probably “sees the most high fives in the city.”

One of the great things about Google+ Pages is the ability to share relevant content with the right people using Google+ Circles. Take a tip from North Bowl and learn how you can use circles with your page:

Want to get started with circles? Here are some quick tips:
  • Create circles to target messages to particular groups. Say you have multiple locations, you may want to organize your followers by geographic areas, and thus, send deal updates to the most relevant people. Or say you want to share information with your employees. Just put them in a circle and make sure that only they get the message.
  • Share your circles. Have you built a circle featuring all the experts in your field? Share it with the Google+ community! Click the Circles icon at the top of Google+, select the circle you’d like to share, and hit “Share this circle” at the top right of the page.
  • Edit the order of your Circles. In your Circles dashboard, just click and hold on a circle in order to drag it to a new position on the page.
Want to learn more? Visit the Google+ Your Business site, and stay tuned for more Google+ stories and tips from small businesses. You can also watch all our Google+ page stories on YouTube.

How does your business use circles? Join the discussion on the Google+ Your Business page and tag your posts #mybusinessstory.

Posted by Evelyn Lee, Google+ Pages Associate Product Marketing Manager

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TalkBin Stories: Patama Roj of Fraiche

Editor’s Note: TalkBin enables customers to send mobile messages to business owners in real-time, like a digital comment card. To learn more, visit talkbin.com.

The pace of life for a small business owner is unrelenting. Just ask Patama Roj, co-founder and owner of Fraiche, a company based in Palo Alto, California that serves homemade organic fresh and frozen yogurt, coffee and breakfast goods. Patama is dedicated to serving food that "speaks for itself," and customers are loving it.

With three locations though (two in Palo Alto and one in San Francisco), it’s hard to understand what’s going on across the business. That’s why Patama started using TalkBin to stay connected with customers even when she’s not in a particular store. Customers ask questions and provide feedback, which helps her understand exactly what's going on in each location. "It was important for me to find a way to get this feedback real-time," she says. And with TalkBin, business owners like Patama can receive this instant feedback without sharing personal mobile phone information, since TalkBin provides a special, customer-facing phone number and forwards feedback to your phone or email.

The ability to receive TalkBin messages on her cell phone makes responding quick and convenient for Patama as well. "Customers are always surprised to hear they're getting a text back from the owner!” she says.

Interested in using TalkBin in your store too? Get three months free when you sign up with promo code BLOGSMB-2 at www.talkbin.com/signup/user.

Posted by Qasar Younis, Product Manager

Monday, February 13, 2012

Are You Running In The Same Direction?

Are you running in the same direction as everyone else? By that, I mean are you treading the same path of ideas that other writers are walking in?

It's not yet February 14th, and already I've been overwhelmed with Valentine's Day stories and articles. Don't get me wrong; it can be good to give your ideas a topical hook, but sometimes by avoiding following other writers and going down a less obvious path you can make your writing more interesting.

This February 14th, millions of people will go out for a romantic meal (hopefully, with their loved ones!). I'm sure there will be some who do it purely because that's what everyone else is doing. Therefore, they think that what's they ought to be doing.

It can be like that with writing sometimes. If you're targeting the February issue of a magazine, for example, (which you may have been doing back in August) the temptation to give it a Valentine's angle or theme, or even simply a love theme, may have been strong. And that's what many other writers will be doing - and indeed - many magazine editors will be looking for something about Valentine's Day for their February issue. However, they may not want EVERYTHING in their publication to be Valentine's Day themed. As a reader, I would find it pretty monotonous after a while.

So, instead of following the pack, consider veering off at a tangent. Why not give your article / story a Shrove Tuesday angle? Or what about the following day? Ash Wednesday. Focusing on the theme of repentance, or abstinence, still gives your piece a February angle, but it's a little more different to the romantic one.

There are other ways in which you can break away from the writing pack. For many people, publication is what they seek from their writing. To do this though, it is necessary to follow the pack and write the sort of material that publishers want to publish. However, don't forget about the writing that you enjoy. Break away from the pack, from time to time, and indulge in a little writing of your own.

Running in the same direction as everyone else, means that you'll make the same observations as many. Go off in a different direction and you may see something that everyone else fails to spot. Your destination could still be the same as everyone else's - but your journey doesn't have to follow the same route.

Good luck.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Protect your passwords, protect your business

Managing your business, even if it's a real-world store with a physical address, is increasingly moving into the online space. With that comes the need to maintain good online security practices to protect both your own information and that of your customers. Behind your password lies a wealth of data that can be very interesting to your competitors and criminals. You should see this data as a commodity, just like the product you are selling. And just like your product, you don’t want it to fall into the wrong hands.

Here’s what you can do to help protect your business online:

Use strong, unique passwords. Cyber-criminals use sophisticated tools that can rapidly decipher passwords. Did you know that one of the most common passwords is actually ‘password’? It’s recommended to use a password with a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols. Create a unique password that's unrelated to your personal information. For example if you sell flowers, don’t have ‘flowers’ in your password.

Memorize your passwords or keep them secret. Would you leave the key to your office in the door when you leave? Obviously not. Yet many people leave notes by their desks with their most used passwords or leave their screens unlocked. This leaves the door to your systems available to be unlocked by anyone who discovers its passwords. If you have to write down your passwords, keep them in a secret place. If you have to save your passwords on your computer, avoid giving the file an obvious name, such as ‘my passwords.’

Don't re-use passwords for important accounts, especially important accounts like email and online banking. Re-using passwords is risky: if someone figures out your password for one service, that person could potentially gain access to your private email, address, and even your money.

Add extra security. If you have a Google Account, you can install 2-step verification which will add an extra layer of security by requiring you to have access to your phone--as well as your username and password--when you sign in. This means that if someone steals or guesses your password, the potential hijacker still can't sign in to your account because they don't have your phone.

Run regular anti-virus scans. If you get malware on your system, it may be programmed to look for passwords either typed in or saved. And it doesn’t hurt to change your passwords every once in awhile too.

Share these resources with your colleagues to help keep them safe and secure online:

Posted by Katrina Blake Buffini, Risk Analyst

Monday, February 6, 2012

Snow Falls In Winter!!!!!

As titles go, the title of this post is hardly newsworthy, yet looking at the headlines in some of the weekend newspapers, that's effectively what they were saying! Still, the newspapers make such a fuss when the sun shines in summer, so I suppose it is only to be expected.

Whether you're writing non-fiction, or fiction, titles are important. Yes, an editor can change a title to one they think is better, but the one you choose is the one the editor sees - and he/she is the person whose attention you want to grab! So, time invested in a title isn't wasted.

Take a Break's Fiction Feast magazine has stories that it classifies as Tale with a Twist, Put Your Feet Up, Spine Chiller, One from the Heart, and Love Story. Here are the titles (in italics) for the stories for each section of the March 2012 issue:

  • Tale with a Twist: I Can See The Future, Mummy; Drama on the Balcony; My Secret Valentine; The Baby Problem; Who Needs Taking Care Of?; One Night At the Movies
  • Put Your Feet Up: Tumbling out of love;
  • Spine Chiller: Destination Terror; You Belong To Me Now; 
  • Put Your Feet Up: Not A Happy Shopper; Smile, Smile, Smile; What Goes Around;   
  • One from the Heart: A Shed full of Secrets; On the Seashore
  • Love Story: A Good Judge of Character; The Love Spell
Look at how the titles emphasize the story's theme. Destination Terror and You Belong To Me Now clearly suggest they deal with some quite terrifying situations or characters. Whereas Smile, Smile, Smile puts a smile on your face and tells you that this is a story you can relax with.

The style and tone of a publication is frequently reflected in the titles it chooses for its features, or stories, so it's useful to try to emulate this in your own title. In the weekly Take a Break magazine, (issue 26th January 2012), the following titles appeared:

  • I'm putting you up for sale, Aaron!
  • He showed me NO MERCY.
  • Sue's big FAT bucket list
  • The baby who bounced.
  • My face is ON FIRE!
  • My kitten was COOKED
The sensational style comes across in many of these, and the use of capital letters for emphasis is interesting too: NO MERCY, FAT, ON FIRE and COOKED.

Whereas, Country Living magazine (March 2012) has the following titles:

  • The Otter
  • Patterns and Pins
  • AHEAD of the HERD
  • Fleeting Visions
  • A Sense of Style
  • In the midst of magnolias
  • Rustic rewards in Cornwall
Notice how these titles are calming and relaxing, compared to Take a Break's.

However, despite the difference in style and tone between the two publications, there are also several similarities the two magazine's titles share. For example, for some titles, simply tell the reader what the article is about is enough: The baby who bounced (TaB), The Otter (CL).

Alliteration, the repetition of a particular sound, or first letter, is popular title choice too. My kitten was cooked (kitten, cooked) My face is on fire (face, fire) The baby who bounced (baby, bounced) - all in TaB, and Patterns and Pins (patterns, pins), A Sense of Style (Sense, Style), Rustic rewards in Cornwall (rustic, rewards), In the midst of magnolias (midst, magnolias) all in CL.

Quotes can make great titles, especially if they encapsulate the essence of your piece. An article I wrote about the Royal Yacht Britannia I decided to title as A Country House at Sea because that's the phrase Queen Elizabeth used when she was involved in designing its interior.

Song titles, proverbs, sayings, can all provide inspiration for possible titles. In fact, you might find playing about with other people's titles as a useful way of generating a new title, and a new idea. At a short story workshop, we were asked to change film titles, replacing one word with a similar sounding word. So, instead of Judgment Day we came up with Judgment Drey. As a group, we plotted a story about a small brewery who were going to replace their Shire horse and cart with a white van, unless the staff could come up with a reason why the Shire horse shouldn't be retired. On the day the judgment was going to be taken, heavy rain flooded the local village, which meant no cars and vans could get through ... but a Shire horse and cart could! And all that came about from simply playing around with the words in the title.

Titles are your sales banners. They need to catch your reader's attention and encourage them to read the first paragraph of your piece (so that your excellent writing in your first paragraph will hook them into the rest of your piece). They won't reach that fist paragraph, if the title doesn't grab their attention. If you've put a lot of effort into your work, remember that it's worth putting the same amount of effort into your title too. That first reader, the editor, is your most important reader.

Good luck.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Connect with Googlers and users in our Google+ Help Desk Hangouts

There’s nothing quite like talking to your customers face to face—being able to hear their feedback and questions directly, and strengthening those relationships. A message we come back to again and again on the Small Business Blog is the importance of connecting with and understanding your customers, whether you’re a small business or a company as large as Google. And so, a few months ago, the Google+ Pages team decided to practice what we preach by giving Page admins an opportunity to connect with us via a Google+ Hangout.

The response was overwhelming. Over the course of three hours, our team met with more than 350 Google+ users. We got to know one another, collected feedback, and listened to what business owners had to say about Google+ Pages.

Yesterday we hosted another round of these Help Desk Hangouts. We know not everyone can always make it for these, so we’ve collected a few of the more common questions we hear from business owners and answered them here:

Why should I have a Google+ Page?

Where to begin? Google+ offers you an incredible array of tools designed to help you get closer than ever to your customers. Use Hangouts to meet face-to-face, use circles to tailor your message to different audiences, and Ripples to figure out who’s sharing your content. You can also use Search on Google+ to tune into the conversation in real-time. Finally, Google+ is growing every day, and you want to make sure you’re where your customers are going.

How can I get people to follow me on Google+?

There are a number of things you can do here. Be sure to cross-promote. Put a brand badge on your website to let your customers add your page directly to their circles. Include links to your page in the e-mails you send and even create an “Add Us On Google+” sign to put up in your store. Second, identify the people who matter in your industry. Find them with search and Ripples, and build relationships from there. By resharing your content, they can help you build your audience. Third, and most importantly, post quality, creative, and exclusive content on your page. People will spread the word about things that excite, engage, and impact them.

Any other advice for creating good content for my page?

Google+ is fantastic for sharing videos and photos, so you should use rich media to spice up your updates. You should also use an informal, conversational tone. It goes a long way toward making your page seem approachable. Include calls to action that encourage your customers to engage — ask them questions about what they’re looking for, what they like and any feedback they may have about your product and services. Post information they can’t get anywhere else — let them know that Google+ is the place to look for the most up-to-date information about your company. And most importantly, just have fun! We’re learning too, so we’d love to hear what works (and what doesn’t) for you and your page.

What’s coming soon on Google+ Pages?

Our team is hard at work growing Google+ Pages, and we have a lot to do—a challenge we’re excited to take on. There’s lot more to come, so stay tuned in the coming months.

Thanks to those of you who joined our Hangouts yesterday, and for those of you who missed us, we hope you can drop by next time. Follow the Google+ Your Business page for updates about future Hangouts and new feature announcements.

Posted by Toby Stein, Google+ Community Manager

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Tell your business story with Google+ Pages

When we launched Google+ Pages last November, we saw more than a million businesses create new profiles to better connect with their customers. Page owners have been hosting Hangouts, updating their customers on the latest news and deals, and sharing exclusive photos and videos. We’ve loved the creativity and wanted to share what some business owners have been learning as they use Google+.

Over the next couple months, we’ll be introducing you to some cool small businesses who’ve recently joined Google+, both here on the Small Business Blog and on the Google+ Your Business page. We’ll be sharing what they’ve learned along with their tips and tricks for managing a great page.

First up: Meet Best Made Company, a group of outdoor enthusiasts that specializes in designing and handcrafting wilderness supplies. Their passion is to inspire people to experience the outdoors — a passion that inspired us to share their story.

If you’re just getting started on Google+, here are a couple quick tips on how to create a great page:
  1. Select your profile photo. This is the first thing people will see, so choose a good representation of your business.
  2. Make sure to add five scrapbook photos, complete the “About” section, and add links to other destinations where you can be found on the web. These three sections help you get your story out there. 
  3. Decide on a tone for your page and stay consistent in your messaging. You want your posts to feel personal and authentic. You can even link your personal Google+ profile in the “About” section so people know who’s posting. 
Want to learn more? Visit the Google+ Your Business site, and stay tuned for more Google+ stories and tips from the following businesses:
Have Google+ stories and tips of your own to share? We’d love to hear them. Add the Google+ Your Business page to your circles and tag your posts #mybusinessstory.

Posted by Evelyn Lee, Google+ Pages Associate Product Marketing Manager