Thursday, May 31, 2012

Webmaster Academy: How Search Works

Many of the questions we get from webmasters boil down to “How does Google work?” What most webmasters are really asking is, how do I get my site to appear in search results? The first step of this answer is that your site needs to be discovered and comprehended by search engines, and understanding the fundamentals of how search works will help with this.

Google has lots of computers that continually visit and analyze web pages it knows about. These computers are collectively known as Googlebot. We give Googlebot an initial set of sites, then send it out to visit those sites. It scans the content, and then follows links to other sites or pages that it finds. It then repeats the process on each page it lands on, and continues to spider out, hence the term "spidering" or "crawling" many use to refer to a search engine's discovery process.

When Googlebot visits a webpage, it downloads and stores a copy (called a “cached” page) to our index. It analyzes each page, noting the words and any other relevant content. Googlebot understands some types of content, like text, better than others, like images or Flash (you can find some ways to make these better understood in Webmaster Academy). In order to perform well when customers search for you, it’s important that Googlebot can access and understand the content of your website.

Each time someone searches on Google, our ranking algorithms draw up a list of relevant webpages from the index of information that Googlebot has saved while “crawling” the web. This list is given back as the Google Search results page. To see if your website is included in Google’s index, you can use the site search operator, restricting search results to your site’s domain. For example a search for [site:youtube.com] would only show results from the website youtube.com.

For a more visual look at Google Search, check out the How Search Works video below:

If you’re interested, there’s a lot more to learn that’ll help you build your online presence at the Webmaster Academy. In our next post, we’ll explain best practices for brick and mortar business owners.

Posted by Garen Checkly, Search Quality Team

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Helping people discover and share local businesses with Google+

When a business owner's hard work and passion are celebrated and shared by customers, a humble space can become more than just bricks and mortar, but a favorite spot, a local landmark, or a meaningful memory.

With the release of Google+ Local, rolling out today, we are bringing the community of Google+ to local business owners around the world. We aim to improve the way people discover new businesses, rediscover places they love, and share them with their friends across the web.

Simple experience for your customers
The first thing you’ll notice is the new layout and design for the listing for your business. All your basic business information is still available. And by streamlining the layout and putting more focus on photos and reviews, we hope to help you highlight what makes your business truly unique.

                   

Helping people find, rate and share your business
With these updates, we’re connecting the millions of people on Google+ to local businesses around the world. With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review.

Integrated Zagat reviews
For years, Zagat has provided trustworthy, concise, user-generated reviews, and we are excited to bring these to Google+ Local. We’ve also updated our scoring system to Zagat’s time-tested 30-point scale, so that users can better share their view about what makes a place unique.

Continue to manage through Google Places for Business
If you are a business owner, you should continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business. You’ll still be able to verify your basic listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews. For those who use AdWords Express, your ads will operate as normal as they’ll automatically redirect people to the destination you selected, or your current listing.

More changes coming soon for business owners
We know many of you have already created a Google+ Page for your business, and have been hosting hangouts and sharing photos, videos and posts. We’re excited that we’ll soon extend these social experiences to more local Google+ pages in the weeks and months ahead. To give you a sense of what’s coming, we've worked with a few business owners to fully upgrade their listings early and share their Google+ business identity across Search, Maps and Mobile.


If you don’t yet have a Google+ Page for your business, we encourage you to create one now. And if you do already have one, hold tight for news on how to get it linked to your local listing. Follow our blog, or our Google+ page, for additional updates.

Posted by Jen Fitzpatrick, VP Engineering

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Helping you grow your business, one post at a time

The Google Small Business blog has been around for a couple years now. Some things have changed since we first started, but the idea has always been to introduce business owners to Google tools and tips that help them grow their businesses and run them more effectively.

But we got to thinking - the name “Google Small Business Blog” doesn’t really capture what we’re trying to achieve anymore. OK, the words “Google” and “business” were pretty good, but these days no one is really small anymore. Our blog is really about bringing you the stories, best practices and updates that can help you make the web work for your business, and we wanted to emphasize that.

With that in mind we’d like to introduce the new Google and Your Business blog, here at googleandyourbusiness.blogspot.com. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date about new tools, product news and general tips to help you grow your business.

Posted by Vicky Tait, Google and Your Business Blog Team

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Little Preparation Goes A Long Way

Last week, I drove 16 miles to see the Olympic Torch Relay (yes, I'm one of the 5% of the population who isn't within 10 miles of the route.) I'm not particularly sports-orientated, so the Olympics don't interest me that much (not until a Brit gets through to a final heat, anyway), but I did want to see the Olympic Flame - or rather the 'child' of the Olympic Flame, because the 'Mother Flame' is kept in one of the many convey vehicles, in case a torch flame goes out.

I didn't just jump into my car and drive the 16 miles to Ludlow, though. A few days beforehand, I did a bit of research. I looked into the exact route of the torch relay, and made a note of where it was scheduled to be at what time. Because of the rather circuitous route it was taking, I realised that I could find a place to watch it enter Ludlow, and then once it had passed, I could cut through the town and catch it again as It was leaving the town.

This wasn't the only preparation though. I specialise in landscape photography, which means I'm used to putting my camera on a tripod and sorting out everything else whilst the landscape in front of me sits still, patiently. Now, the Olympic Torch Relay wasn't going to hang around for me to get myself sorted. So I spent some time, learning which settings on my camera I was going to need to capture movement, as well as find the setting that allows you to take several images in quick succession - one press of the button and suddenly you have 50 photos (of which, hopefully, one is in focus and sharp!).

With my preparation sorted, I was ready, and on the day in question, managed to get myself set up in the position I'd planned, just as the relay came across the bridge. First came the police cars, followed by the police bikes, and then some more police cars, and then more police bikes, followed by a fire engine (presumably in case the Olympic flame set light to anything it shouldn't have done), then came the police dogs (in a van), then some more police bikes and a couple of more police cars. (Incidentally, the police motorcycle outriders were clearly having fun, blowing whistles whilst riding ... and there was me thinking that it was an offence if you weren't concentrating solely on the road ahead!)

Then, eventually, the official Olympic Torch Relay vehicles arrived ... followed by the sponsors' vehicles!

But, my planning paid off, because finally, the runner with the torch finally arrived!

Oh, by the way, the torch runner is flanked by several Metropolitan Police out-runners, so if anyone living in London is reading this, and you're wondering where half your police force is, then now you know!

Should any of you be planning to see the torch, just bear in mind the following - there's a lot of 'traffic' before the torch - police, olympic relay vehicles, and the sponsor vehicles, then suddenly the torch arrives and within seconds it has gone past.

As soon as the torch had gone by, I left the crowds and began heading back through town, as planned. I had to cross the route again, this time, at the Bull Ring, and did so just as the relay had passed through. Because of the route they were taking, they had further to go, than I did. But even this image here, shows how quickly people began dispersing as soon as the torch had gone by (you can just make out the tail end of the final vehicle in this photo).

With minutes to spare, I managed to get in position again in preparation to see the torch go by on its way out of town.

Moments later, a different runner came around the corner with the torch (thankfully I'd missed all the sponsor vehicles again!).

The point of this post (yes, there is one) is that planning is the key. It can make such a difference. The Olympic Torch was travelling through Ludlow once. I couldn't ask it to go back 300 yards, to give me time to take another photos. Planning is about using your time efficiently. The same goes with our writing too.

It's easy to be excited when we have an idea, and want to start writing it down, there and then. But it's worth taking a few minutes just outlining what it is you want to say. Once you're clear about where you are going, and what you want to say, the actual writing process will become easier. I spent a few minutes planning my photographs for the Olympic Torch Relay, and I got the shots I wanted. Everything worked out how I wanted it to. If you want everything to work out with your writing, a little preparation can go a long way.

Good luck.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Help Desk Hangout: Learn about Google Earth Pro


Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, Google Earth experts +Dan Cohen and +Alex Kain taught us how your business can use Earth Pro to help you visualize your company’s data. Missed it? You can watch the full hour-long Hangout on the Google Business YouTube channel (look for the minute-by-minute breakdown in the description so you can easily skip around):


Here are a few of the questions you asked us to answer during the Hangout:

What is Google Earth?
Google Earth’s client software that's used primarily as a visualization tool. You may have even used it once or twice to swoop in to the globe and check out your house! And Earth Pro is a professional product with a few additional features you can use, which we dive deeper into during the Hangout.

What are some features of Earth Pro that can help my business?

A ton! Let’s break this down into the highlights:

  • Advanced measuring tools: Quickly and easily measure and stylize complex polygons. Property developers and building designers can quickly estimate the area and perimeter of a property. Afterward, they can quickly stylize the polygon so it’s easily seen on their map.
  • Save premium imagery: Save premium images of the maps you create in Earth Pro for inclusion in your business materials. Save a premium image of all your customer locations to share with your investors.
  • Bulk data import: Import and stylize CSV files (with address or lat/long data), GIS shapefiles, or GPS data to include in the maps you create. Real estate agents quickly upload and locate all the properties in their portfolios by importing CSV files containing the addresses of their properties.
  • U.S. premium data layers: Take advantage of the robust U.S. Demographic, Parcel and Traffic Count data layers that are a part of the Earth Pro package. Architects fly to the location of their next project, use the parcel data layer to find the parcel number, and use the parcel number to find the zoning restrictions for the property they’ll be working on.
  • Movie Maker: Quickly and easily create high-definition movies. Nature touring companies create high-definition videos using Earth Pro that take you along the path of their tours.

Do I have to commit to buying Earth Pro upfront? 
Nope — just sign up for a free seven-day trial to see how you like it.

To learn more about how to get started with Google Earth Pro, check out our overview site (FAQs, customer stories, and more!). And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout at 11 a.m. PT Wednesday May 30 when we teach you more about AdWords.

Posted by Vanessa Schneider, Google Places community manager

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Small businesses talk about growing online

With so much advice about what businesses should be doing online and not always enough time to sort through it all, sometimes the most useful thing is to hear from someone that’s doing it right.

Recently in Detroit, Accelerate with Google was proud to take the stage with several local small business leaders for a panel discussion on growing businesses and relationships online. Joined by 80 other Detroit-area businesses at the Michigan Minority Procurement Conference, the panelists shared stories of their successes and challenges forming relationships in the digital age.

Google has worked with these businesses to help them grow their presence online, and they’ve really embraced a digital-first strategy to finding new customers. Here are some of their tips:

Amy Courter, Chief Information Officer, VisionIT
“A good starting point is to first define and align your strategy for being online. Determine your goals, audience, message and interaction. For VisionIT, our roots were in web development and part of this industry requires us to continually evaluate our online presence. The new age of marketing is about building brand, interest and awareness through customer loyalty and adding value for the consumer. As traditional models lose their efficacy, and inbound marketing gains popularity, we learn that it’s more important to earn people’s interest, instead of buying and forcing it.”

Leah Fairman, Director of Sales, Corporate Snobs
“Having an online presence has opened many doors for our company. We have been able to capture a particular market share in our business that our local competitors haven't due to a lack of their online presence. Getting noticed when your customers are looking for your products and services speaks volumes for your company. It sends the message that you are serious about your business, trustworthy and in tune with current technology. This makes you a serious player in your industry.”

Linzie Venegas, Chief Marketing Officer, Ideal Shield
“The most important thing that I have learned since I have moved to online space is that you must put someone in charge; this person must continuously evaluate your website as well as website presence. I have also learned that it is important to adapt to new technology. For instance, we are looking to move to Google Apps for Business, and this will save our company money and allow our IT people to work more efficiently.”

Later this week, another group of entrepreneurs we admire – some of the startup founders from the NewMe Accelerator – will sit down at Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference and share their wisdom on growing their internet businesses. Google will also be there to share classroom-style workshops staffed by our team on how to grow and promote your business online, and mastering search engine strategies. The Entrepreneurs Conference has been a great venue every year for entrepreneurs to network and find successful strategies for growth, and we are looking forward to meeting some of you there!

Posted by Chris Genteel, Business Development Manager - Global Diversity

Monday, May 21, 2012

Introducing the Webmaster Academy

As more and more customers are searching for products and services online, it’s important for businesses to have an established presence on the Internet. We’ve heard a lot of business owners say they’d like to learn how to do this, so we are excited to announce Webmaster Academy. Webmaster Academy will walk you through the information you need to get your site up and running with Google in easy to understand steps.

For example, the Academy has information about how Google Search works and how to create a great website for your users, along with information on how to use great (and free!) diagnostic tools such as Webmaster Tools. It’s divided up into easy, short lessons so you can track your progress. At the end of every lesson you’ll be one step closer to having a great website.

Stay tuned here for upcoming posts from the Webmaster Academy, including topics like:

  • An explanation of how Google Search works (get a sneak peek by watching this video)
  • How best to represent a brick and mortar business online
  • An introduction to Search Engine Optimization

We’re excited to share more with business owners of all sizes. Be sure to check out the Webmaster Academy and spend some time exploring!

Posted by Garen Checkly, Search Quality Team

Measuring what matters for your small business

Editor's Note: The SMB Blog team wants to wish everyone a Happy National Small Business Week! To kick off the week, we're continuing a new series we're calling Measurement Mondays. Stay tuned to the hashtag #MeasurementMondays on Google+ for ongoing tips and thoughts to help businesses measure the things that matter.

As a business owner, there are many different metrics that are important to you - like what were my sales this month, and how many new employees can I hire this year? Similarly, there are important things that you should be measuring for your online marketing efforts which can help you improve your customer experience and potentially drive more sales.

Here are five things that every business should consider:

  • Start by identifying the right goals for you: Think about the business objectives of your website and marketing efforts, and identify specific customer actions that represent success. For instance, maybe your goal is to drive foot traffic to your store or to boost requests for an online quote. Other goals like signing up for a newsletter, viewing an important page on your site, or filling out an inquiry form can also be important indicators. Just as every business is unique, the metrics that signal success will vary. But it’s crucial for every business to know what matters to you so that you can make the most of your marketing efforts.
  • Understand how to measure ad effectiveness: Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to create ads that drive people to your store or site to achieve those goals. The most basic measure of your online ad effectiveness is your clickthrough rate (or CTR) which is the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown (called impressions). CTR shows you how often the people who see your ad end up clicking on it, and a high CTR signals that users find your ads helpful and relevant.
  • See whether clicks are leading to conversions: It can also be important to see whether those ad clicks actually led someone to buy from you. To do this, you can use tools like AdWords Conversion Tracking, which is a free tool in AdWords that shows you what happens after a customer clicks on your ad. Did they ultimately buy something from your site or sign up for an email newsletter? By looking at how your ads impact conversions on your site, you’ll learn which keywords and ads are effective at bringing valuable customers which can help you invest more wisely.
  • Examine how online efforts are driving offline customers: For some businesses, driving traffic or calls to your brick and mortar store can be more valuable than a website visit. When people search for local products and services on their mobile phones, like a nearby hardware store or a local restaurant, they often prefer to call the business directly. With click-to-call ads, mobile shoppers can easily call your business directly from an ad that they see. Within your ad reports you can see the number of calls that were driven by your ad campaigns. Asking your customers at checkout how they heard about your company can also be an easy way to keep track of what is really bringing them through your door.
  • Keep measuring, keep experimenting: Businesses these days have no shortage of data available to them, and I know that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. The important thing about measurement for every business is to just get started and keep experimenting. Your customers and your business are constantly evolving, so remember not to set it and forget it. There often isn’t a right or wrong answer, but the data can reveal insights that help you win the moments that matter with your customers.
I hope these tips have given you some food for thought about how measurement can help you reach more customers and drive more sales. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how you can take your website measurement to the next level. Happy measuring!

Posted by Francoise Brougher, Vice President of SMB Sales and Operations

Sometimes It Takes More Than One Attempt ...

I'm sure the European leaders won't be sitting around a table soon to agree to the abolition of the Euro. There's far too much at stake, even for those of us not in the single currency. Whether Greece stays in the Euro is not a debate for this blog, but the point I want to make is that Europe's leaders aren't just going to give up and start another project.

I try to say to students tackling the course, not to simply produce an assignment, send it in for me to mark, and then move onto the next assignment. And for all writers having a go at a new area, or genre, don't let despondency set in after your first attempt.

The first time we write an article, short story, poem or novel, we're learning. But, that's the start of the learning process ... not the end. So, if you write an article and it gets rejected, that doesn't mean that you can't write articles. It doesn't mean that the idea wasn't suitable. It simply means there's still a bit more to learn. So, have another go. Review what worked and what didn't work with your last project, and learn from it ... then have another go. Put what you've learned into practise.

Don't put it to one side and say, "Oh well, at least I had a go." Just because that first travel feature didn't work, it doesn't mean that the next one won't. Have another go. And another. And then another.

Good luck.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Help Desk Hangouts: Getting to know Chromebooks, Part II

Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, we continued our conversation about Chromebooks for your business (if you missed the first one, check out our recap). Chrome product manager Glenn Wilson and Will Paulus walked us through the management console, which allows you to oversee your fleet of Chromebooks in a low-touch, scalable way. Miss the event? You can watch the whole thing on the Google and Your Business YouTube channel. And, if you’re interested in learning more about Chromebooks, fill out this form (http://goo.gl/pP0mg) to stay up to date on all the latest news and product announcements.


Check out the video description on the YouTube page for a minute-by-minute breakdown.

Some of the questions we answered during the Hangout:

What can I do with the Chromebooks management console?

Quite a bit! The typical actions include:
  • Setting configuration settings for your managed (enrolled) devices, like turning off Guest mode.
  • Setting configuration settings for users on your domain, like force-installing certain extensions.
  • Tracking device state, like when a device was last used, or what version of the OS it is running.
What about user login tracking? I want to know who the last person to use a Chromebook was.

We’ve heard this request a lot recently — it’s on our to-do list.

Will there be remote wipe available if the Chromebook is lost or stolen? Similar to the mobile policy in the management console.

First, it’s important to note that every Chromebook encrypts all user data, so even if it is stolen, there’s no way for anyone to get to your data without your password. Remote Wipe is on our list.

Can you block based on content type? Like block gaming and adult sites?

We don’t have content type filter in the management console; however, most administrators use a third-party filtering service to do this. You would simply set your devices and users to use the proxy setting the third-party service gives you. If you are interested in finding which filtering services work well with Chromebooks, please contact sales.

Be sure to join us for next week’s Hangout at 11 a.m. PDT Wednesday May 2, when we discuss Google Earth Pro. We’ll be collecting your Earth questions early next week on the Google+ Your Business page.

Posted by Toby Stein, Google+ community manager

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Announcing the next series of Learn with Google webinars!

Earlier this year, we introduced the Learn with Google webinar program, and we were delighted to see thousands of you show up to learn about a variety of Google advertising products and solutions. Today, weíre happy to announce the continuation of our series with 10 new webinars over the next few months. During each webinar weíll share tips and how-toís to help make the web work for your business.

Check out our upcoming live webinars below:

  • May 23 at 10am PDT: Getting Started with Google Analytics
  • May 24 at 9am PDT: Building Blocks of Digital Attribution
  • May 31 at 10am PDT: Introduction to TrueView for YouTube
  • June 5 at 10am PDT: GoMo: Mobilize your Site with Quick and Easy New Tools
  • June 6 at 10am PDT: Our Mobile Planet: Understanding U.S. Smartphone Consumers
  • June 7 at 10am PDT: Introducing Mobile Apps Inventory in AdWords
  • June 12 at 10am PDT: Get Local with ZIP Code Targeting to Increase Sales/Leads
  • June 14 at 10am PDT: Search Optimization: Tips, Tricks, and Tools
  • June 19 at 10am PDT: Bringing the Power and Control of Search to Display
  • July 10 at 10am PDT: Account Management Tools for Large Advertisers and Agencies

Visit our webinar page to register for any of the sessions and to access past webinars on-demand. Weíll be adding new webinars as theyíre scheduled, so check back regularly for updates. You can also stay up-to-date on the schedule by downloading our Learn with Google Webinar calendar to automatically see upcoming webinars in your Google Calendar.

Whether your goal is to engage the right customers in the moments that matter, make better decisions, or go bigger, faster, we hope that youíll use these best practices and how-toís to maximize the impact of digital and grow your business. Weíre looking forward to having you at an upcoming Learn with Google webinar!

Posted by Erin Green, Marketing Coordinator

Monday, May 14, 2012

Google Apps brings Brazos Bookstore into the 21st Century

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Enterprise Blog.)

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blogger is Jeremy Ellis, General Manager of Brazos Bookstore, a neighborhood institution based in Houston, Texas.

Brazos Bookstore has been part of the Houston literary community since 1974. In addition to selling a diverse collection of books, we pride ourselves in connecting our community with authors from our area and around the globe. When the store’s ownership changed in 2006 and the possibility of shutting down became known, the community of Brazos fans petitioned to keep our doors open. Thanks to them, we’ve been able to continue our long-standing tradition where we host author events, readings and exhibitions from writers such as Walter Cronkite, Julia Child, Kofi Annan, and P. J. O’Rourke, to name a few.

                                                      

When I joined the staff in September 2011, Brazos was still operating in many ways as it did in the 70s and 80s. Employees would schedule the author series on a single paper calendar, and only one of our computers had email set up. All of our software was outdated, and the programs that were available ended up causing more roadblocks than value.

We needed a system that could better manage our day-to-day operations. Since I was already familiar with Google from personal use, moving the bookstore to Google Apps for Business was a natural transition. Today, all seven of our employees are able to access their email and calendars from any computer in the store, at home, and on their smartphones. This accessibility not only eases communication between the staff, but also keeps everyone up to speed on events, shipments and other activities at the shop.

Scheduling author visits on Google Calendar is easy, instant, and live, and it’s saved us from double-booking authors. I’m now able to easily collaborate with our buyer when we’re planning in-store events, which has streamlined the process for ordering books and helps me track book sales from author readings.

Google Apps has given us the organizational tools we need to continue serving Houston’s literary and arts culture. Our vision over the past forty years hasn’t changed, and now we have the technology to support our store for the future.

How (NOT) To Be A Magazine Model

Last Tuesday I was a magazine model for the day. It was one of those classic situations when the magazine rang up, asked if I could help out, and I said Yes, but it wasn't until I put the phone down that I began thinking about what I had just let myself in for.

(Perhaps now is the time to point out that I hate having my photo taken, which is why I prefer to be the one taking the photos.)

Anyway, Rachel (pictured), staff writer at Country Walking, rang to say that she was coming to Much Wenlock to do a feature and was going to walk one of the walking routes I'd recently been commissioned to write. She was bringing the photographer, Tom (pictured) with her, and wanted to have another mug walker in the photos too. Would I be able to help them out?

Thankfully, the weather was good, but being a magazine model isn't all it's cracked up to be. Firstly, there was no Winnebago or make-up entourage to make me look photogenic (but then there are some things in life that are unachievable, so why waste the effort trying?). We met in an isolated Shropshire Wildlife Trust car park on Wenlock Edge at 10.30am, with Rachel and Tom having left Peterborough at 7am and driven straight across to Shropshire.

Now, being a (walking) magazine model isn't just about putting one foot in front of the other. No. Firstly, the photographer has to spot a potential shot. When he does, this usually involves asking the models to retrace their steps for the previous 200 yards, so the photographer can capture them walking through the scene ... yet again. At which point the sun goes in, which upsets the photographer, meaning the models have to retrace their steps once more and wait for the sun to re-appear. We did a lot of cloud watching that day. They don't tell you that in the "How To Be A Model' guides do they?

There's also an art to being a walking magazine model. You have to be able to stride out confidently, whilst gazing out across the amazing view, without tripping over. (You try walking and not looking at where you're putting your feet.) I also learned that to be a photographer of magazine models, you need to be able to shout, "Look up!" every two seconds.

Then there was the section of the route marked on the Ordnance Survey map as Jacob's Ladder. It's a 270 feet climb at an angle of 1:2. There are no steps, and after the wettest April on record, we decided it should be renamed as Jacob's Slide. Cue photographer at the foot of the climb, as we climbed up. Hmmm ... does my bum look big in this? I bet it does as a double-page spread - that's all I can say.

In the photo above (yes, I managed to get my revenge on the staff photographer!) you'll see Rachel and Tom sitting on a water trough. Tom thought this trough would make a good photo and asked Rachel to sit on the trough, with me standing beside her, passing her my water bottle. Now, photographers like to take several photos because we models aren't perfect all of the time - the false grin sometimes slips, the wind might blow a strand of hair across our faces, a horsefly might land on our nose. So Rachel then had to pass the bottle back to me, so that I could then give it back to her. We spent several minutes passing the water-bottle-baton back and forth, until Tom was happy he'd caught a good shot. At the end of that one shot, I felt as though I'd passed more batons than every nation taking part in the Olympics this year.

Later on, the route travelled through a section of track where the path and the local stream share the same bit of land for about 100 yards. When I walked the route in March (dry) the stream was only 2 inches deep. After the wettest April, it was now nearly a foot deep. Of course, as magazine models, we had to do this three times - once wading through with the photographer taking photos from behind, then we had to retrace our steps through the water and then walk through it all again, so the photographer could take our photo as we were walking towards him.

As you can imagine, our 8.5 mile catwalk turned out to be nearer 10 miles with all the to-ing and fro-ing. And after 10 miles of walking, one doesn't tend to look their best, so I bet the magazine uses the shots taken near the end of the walk, not the start!

We got back to the car park at 3pm, which was lucky, because Rachel and Tom were meeting someone from the Wenlock Olympian Society at 4pm. Then in the evening, they were off to a festival event to interview someone else. (Short working day, then. Just remember that the next time your email pitching your latest brilliant idea doesn't get answered straight away.)

So, if you've always wanted to get into magazines, perhaps you should give modelling a try. Especially if you enjoy getting hot and sweaty and retracing your steps several times a day.

Good luck.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Help Desk Hangouts: Connect with customers using Hangouts On Air

Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, the lovely Amanda Rosenberg showed us how to use a Hangout On Air - the ability to broadcast a Hangout to the world - and heard some tips and tricks from two power users, pio dal cin and Dan McDermott. Missed it? You can watch the full hour-long Hangout on the Google Business YouTube channel (check out the video description for a minute-by-minute breakdown):


Here are a few of the questions you asked us to answer during the Hangout:

What kind of technical setup should I have for something like this?
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy equipment, but many users have found having a dedicated microphone and webcam, plus an ethernet connection, make for a much smoother experience. Dan and Pio make some specific hardware recommendations during the Hangout.

What should I talk about in my Hangout?
Get creative! Make an announcement to your customers, or demo a new product. Invite a panel of experts in your field on to discuss topics, and take questions from users via your Google+ page. Own a bakery? Show viewers how to make a certain recipe. Book store? Host a live author reading. There’s really no end to the possibilities. We see users come up with new uses every day — kick around your ideas with other Google+ users to hone in on something you’d like to try.

Who can join the Hangout, and who can watch it? Can I broadcast to a select group?
When you hit broadcast, Hangouts On Air are public for the world to watch live. A member of that “public,” however, can not join the Hangout; they can only watch it. To get people in the Hangout, you as the Hangout owner need to invite them.

Where does the recording of the Hangout live?
The recording will be uploaded to your YouTube account (if you’re hosting the Hangout from a Google+ page, the video will live in the account of whoever’s admin’ing the page at the time of the Hangout). After the Hangout, visit your YouTube Video Manager to see your video and make edits if you need to. Note: This video will upload to your account as a Public video; you can change the video at any time to “private” or “unlisted” via the Video Manager.

Why do I need to verify my YouTube account?
In order to record YouTube videos longer than 15 minutes, you’ll need to verify your account.

Anything else I should keep in mind?
Posting a recording of a particularly long Hangout? List a minute-by-minute breakdown (timestamps like 1:36, 5:47) in the video’s description so that users can jump to different parts of the video (like this). Also, practice makes perfect: None of us gets it 100% right the first time, but in no time at all, you’ll soon be a Hangouts pro.

Who has access to Hangouts On Air?
We’re rolling this functionality out gradually over the next several weeks. Keep your eyes peeled!

To learn more about how to get started with Hangouts On Air, check out this detailed technical guide, and if you still have questions, drop in to the Google+ discussion forum. And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout at 11 a.m. PT Wednesday May 16 when we dive deeper into the world of Chromebooks (read up on our first Chromebooks Hangout).

Posted by Toby Stein, Google+ Community Manager

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Manage multiple locations more easily with a new tool for Google Places

Businesses with multiple locations have a big task in front of them when trying to manage their online presence. How can they connect their customers with the locations closest to them? How can they make data changes to a group of their locations all at once? The challenges of managing multiple businesses in the real world can sometimes carry over online.

We’ve heard plenty of feedback about how you want to manage your listings on Google, which is why we’re excited today to announce an upgraded bulk listing management tool for Google Places for business.

We’ve made many improvements and now enable the following actions:
  • Edit one or more of your listings’ data at once
  • Search through your listings, filtering by specific information or for listings with errors
  • Upload new listings using a data file or by adding them individually within the interface
  • Tell us how we can improve this new interface by clicking the “Give Feedback” link
Before you get started with the new bulk management tool, watch the video tutorial that’s relevant to you or visit our Help Center for more information:   


New user? Learn how to manage multiple locations.


Already managing verified listings? Here's what's new.

Starting today, you’ll be routed to the new interface whenever you click to upload or edit a data file via the Places dashboard, or by visiting https://places.google.com/manage directly. You’ll still use the Places dashboard to see your listing analytics and to perform PIN verification on single locations. Remember that your updates will still take a few days to appear on Google Maps.

We hope the new tool makes managing your business on Google Places much easier. We look forward to hearing your feedback and seeing your listings up on Google Maps!

Posted by Derek Wetzel, Consumer Experience Specialist, Google Places

GoMo: Mark your calendar to ‘Hangout on Air’ and learn how to build a mobile site in minutes

Did you know that 40% of mobile web users reported that they’ve turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience1? With about half of all Americans now owning a smartphone2, it’s time for businesses to meet user expectations by delivering a mobile experience as good as the desktop experience. In short, it’s time to step up to the plate and build a site optimized for the mobile web.              
                          

Google can help. We recently teamed up with DudaMobile to release a free mobile site builder.  In three easy steps you’re able to get started with mobile: (1) enter your site’s URL, (2) customize your site and (3) redirect mobile users automatically to the new mobile-friendly version.  It’s free and takes just a few minutes to complete!

Join us on Thursday, May 10th at 1pm EST/10am PST and watch as Google showcases how two businesses, Top Mast Resort in Massachusetts and Sava’s Restaurant in Michigan, go mobile and build mobile-friendly sites--live on air.

You’ll see how Top Mast is preparing to take advantage of mobile travel purchase intent - which is five times higher than online travel purchase intent, according to InsightExpress.  You’ll also see Sava’s move ahead of 95% of restaurants that do not have mobile-friendly sites, according to a study by Restaurant Science.

Finally, you’ll hear from the CMO of Dudamobile, Dennis Mink; he’ll talk about best practices when using the mobile site builder and walk through important questions to ask yourself when building a mobile-friendly site.

Details on how to tune in:
  • Sign into Google+ on Thursday, May 10 at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST
  • Go to the Think with Google Google+ page
  • Look for the stream post and click to enter the live stream  
Be sure to set a reminder in your calendar! If you have questions before or during the Hangout, post them with the hashtag #GoMoSite as a comment on the Google+ page.

Posted by Suzanne Mumford, Google Mobile Ads Marketing

Source: (1) Gomez 2011 (2) Nielsen February 2012

Monday, May 7, 2012

Google+ stories: Meet Best Made Company (again)

Editor’s Note: This is the final installment 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. Thanks for following along!

Millions of businesses are now using Google+ to better connect with their customers. Since the launch of Google+ pages last November, we’ve watched as page owners hosted Hangouts with clients, announced news and deals in the Stream, and shared exclusive photos and videos. We’ve loved all the creativity out there and hope that this series has given you a few new tips for engaging with your customers on Google.

Over the last several months, we introduced you to some cool small businesses who had recently joined Google+, both here on the SMB Blog and on the Google+ Your Business page. The first company we introduced back in February was Best Made Company, a group of outdoor enthusiasts that specializes in designing and handcrafting wilderness supplies. We wanted to take one more look at their story as a final farewell to this series. Watch on as they create a magic moment for a very special pair of customers.


Want to learn more? Visit the Google+ Your Business site. And remember to visit all of our special guests in this small business series below at their +Pages and say hello!
Thanks for being a part of the journey, and be sure to share your own on the Google+ Your Business page.

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

Does Life Get In The Way Sometimes?

Finding time to write is always difficult, even for those of us who write full time!

Arrshie emailed me recently, explaining that a new job meant he'd have very little time in which to write. With a 3-hour commute and working 6 days a week, that didn't leave much time in the week to do any writing, especially as he'll need day 7 to recover from his six-day working week.

At first, it might seem that his writing aspirations are doomed, but this needn't be the case. Remember, we all have the same amount of time in a day, it's all down to how we choose to use it. I gave Arrshie the following suggestions, some of which may be of use others, perhaps, completely useless, but I hope it shows how thinking a little differently can help you achieve some writing during your week.


  • Can you use the commute? If you commute to work by public transport, can you use that time to do your writing? Sitting on a train (assuming you can get a seat) for three hours a day offers an opportunity. You don't need to be typing on a laptop. Spending thirty minutes scribbling in a notebook will be of use. Pop some earphone in your lugholes to blank out the rest of the train and write to your heart's content. It's how Anthony Trollope wrote some of his novels.
  • If your commute means you have to drive, can you use the time to think instead? When you arrive at work (or back at home), jot down the ideas and thoughts you've had before you step out of the car.  
  • Use your lunch break. I know the one hour lunch break is rare these days, but can you take yourself away from your desk for thirty minutes? Go and sit in your car, if you have to, or find a quiet room to escape to. And walking away from your work desk will help to reduce your anxiety levels, which may mean your afternoon is less stressful - your line manager will be happier about that!
  • Don't make every lunch break a writing session though. Limit it to two or three sessions a week. Use the other lunch sessions to do writing related stuff, like reading the writing magazines, or doing market analysis.
  • When you're at home, can you find fifteen minutes in the evening, just before you go to bed to scribble down some thoughts? Fifteen minutes a day doesn't sound a lot, but over a six day week, that an hour and a half. It soon mounts up.
Snatching ten minutes here, fifteen there, and another thirty minutes elsewhere means you'd be surprised how much time you can find. It might take a little preparation. For example, if you're going to spend your lunch break analysing a potential publication, then remember to take the publication with you to work!

Does anyone else have any tips for Arrshie, they'd like to share?

Before I go this week, I'd also like to mention an opportunity for any expat writers. the expat writers group, Writers Abroad, are currently seeking submissions for their next anthology. For more information, visit their website at www.writersabroad.com

Good luck!  

Friday, May 4, 2012

Help Desk Hangouts: Display Network Advertising with Google AdWords

Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, we discussed advertising on the Google Display Network with Googlers Dori Storbeck, Courtney Pannell, Joanna Kim, Neil Mendelowitz, and two Top Contributors from the AdWords CommunityKim Clinkunbroomer and Theresa Zook. The group shared tips and tricks for the Display Network, and the TCs shared some of their personal experiences. If you missed it, you can watch the full hour-long Hangout on the Google Business YouTube channel (check out the video description for a minute-by-minute breakdown):


Here are a few of the questions you asked us to answer during the Hangout:

Can independent consultants take advantage of the Display Network? 
Yes, anyone can utilize the Display Network for advertising their products and services; however, whether it is right for you may depend on your specific business and your advertising goals.

Where is the Display Network available?
The Display Network is available in all countries that AdWords serves.

Which clicks are more likely to become conversions search or display?
Search and display perform very differently, depending on your overall campaign goals.

What’s more effective: automatic placements or manual?
If you’re trying to reach a specific audience or target users who demonstrate a particular interest and you have an idea of some Display Network websites where you want your ads to appear, managed placements are probably the best bet for you. If you’re just starting out with Display, we would suggest opting into automatic placements at first and then reviewing the domains you show on to further refine and optimize.

If in your industry search approximate cpc is = to display approximate cpc why would you do display?(Besides the obvious increase in potential traffic.)
The Display Network is a great way to find customers that may not be actively searching for your product. Other than potentially increasing traffic to your website, you can potentially grow your customer base and get more conversions.

Tips on how to get JPEG ads approved quickly?
Our ad review turn around time is usually 1-3 business days. If your ads are under review for more than 3 business days, please get in touch with us or submit your ads directly to our review team.

For remarketing, how do I set the ad up to show people the products they viewed but not purchased?
You can create different audience lists so that you create an audience for users who visited your product pages and users who completed a purchase. You can then create a “custom combination” list to subtract those who purchased from those who visited your pages and did not purchase.

What is the difference between topics and interest categories? How are these compiled?
Topic targeting allows you to place ads on pages directly related to the topic you've selected, whereas interest categories allow you to reach users across the Display Network who have shown specific interests, regardless of the page they're currently on.

For remarketing, would you suggest using just one method per ad group, i.e., contextual, topic, interest, managed placements, or is it OK to mix them?
Remarketing operates by showing your ads to users on your audience list, so within your ad group, the audience list should be the only targeting you have set up.

If you could only choose between search and display and the approximate cpc was the same. Which would you chose and why?
This question really depends on your business and your advertising goals. In general, we tend to see advertisers looking for more direct response focus on the Search Network, while those who are interested in branding and remarketing might want to focus on the Display Network.

Of course, if you’re interested in both, we’d recommend creating a specific campaign to target each network individually.

Any suggestions on frequency capping numbers?
When you turn on frequency capping for a campaign, you can set a limit for the number of impressions you allow an individual user to have per day, per week, or per month, and you can choose whether this is applicable to each ad, ad group, or campaign. So ultimately, the frequency capping number you select depends on your goals and the size of your advertising endeavor. Kim and Theresa suggested numbers around 5-15 impressions per day for an individual user.

I know there is a placement tool in AdWords - however it doesn’t seem to show "all" of the websites available in the network. I have found sites displaying relevant ads, but I did not find it in tool. Is there another way to identify these potential sites?
Yes! In addition to our Placement Tool, you can check the DoubleClick Ad Planner for other sites that are in the Display Network.

To learn more about how to get started with the Display Network, visit our Help Center or check out the AdWords Community forum. And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout at 11 a.m. PT Wednesday May 9 — topic to be announced on the Google+ Your Business page early next week!

Posted by Dori Storbeck and Courtney Pannell, Global Online Advertising Associates

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Google+ page stories: CoffeeCakeKC

Editor’s Note: This is the seventh 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 CoffeeCakeKC, one part decadent food truck (serving cupcakes, muffins, biscotti, and coffee cake) and one part delicious coffee. Their Big Orange Truck makes daily stops through downtown Kansas City. Brian Jurgens, or “Stubbie,” is an extreme hobbyist who started CoffeeCakeKC out of his love for the true flavor of coffee. Watch as he and his wife Melanie use Google+ to bring their followers along for the ride:


Looking to grow your followers on Google? Here are a few steps to get you started:

  • Like CoffeeCakeKC, add the Google+ badge to your site and connect it to your Google+ page. This badge lets people +1, see personal annotations, and follow your page directly from your site. Or, just install the Google+ icon. Whenever someone who visits your site clicks the icon, they will be taken to your Google+ page where they can follow your page and see your posts from then on.
Use Google+ badges on your website to direct customers to your Google+ page for the latest news.
  • Use Google+ badges on your website to direct customers to your Google+ page for the latest news.
  • People often turn to friends and family for help making decisions. The +1 button combines the power of these personal recommendations with the reach of Google, making it easy to start conversations and offer timely recommendations to your social circles across the web.
  • Connect your +1’s. Help people see their friends’ recommendations, wherever they find you on the web by connecting +1's for your website with +1's on your Google+ page and ads. Once you’ve created your page, you need to put a snippet of code on your site, and advertisers just need to enable Social Extensions in AdWords.
Connect the +1s for your website to your Google+ page and ads. This will help spread recommendations by your followers to their friends.
  • Connect the +1s for your website to your Google+ page and ads. This will help spread recommendations by your followers to their friends.
  • Learn more. Find additional tips and tricks for promoting your page at the Google+ Your Business site.

How are you growing your page’s community? 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, May 1, 2012

Bringing Business Photos to more users and business owners

Since April 2010, we’ve been testing and developing the Business Photos program, which gives users a virtual peek inside businesses through interactive 360-degree imagery. After hearing your positive feedback about how showing off panoramic views of your business interiors helps you attract potential customers, we’re excited to announce further expansion of this program. Starting today, in addition to the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and France, this service is now available in Canada, Ireland and the Netherlands.

Through the Business Photos program, if you’re a business owner in any of these locations around the world, getting started is easy. Just hire a Trusted Photographer in your area to take pictures of your establishment at a time convenient for you. Panoramas are created using the photos, and customers can easily find the resulting panoramic images on Google.com, on Google Maps, and on your Google Places listing. This self-service model, introduced several months ago, not only supports talented photographers in your local community, but also gives people who are thinking about visiting your location a sense of what they can expect when they walk through your doors. And if a local photographer isn’t yet available in your neighborhood, let us know so we can figure out where else to expand the program.

And whether you’re a professional photographer or an enthusiastic amateur, we’d love to have you on board! We are actively recruiting more Trusted Photographers to bring imagery of more local businesses online for millions across the globe to see. Visit our website for photographers to learn more and sign up.

Click and drag to view the inside of Casa Artelexia in San Diego, California

And if you’re simply curious and want to explore businesses — from top-rated restaurants to exotic pet stores — check out this gallery of interior business photos on the Street View website.

Posted by Gadi Royz, Product Manager, Google Maps

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