Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Win moments that matter in 2013 with Learn with Google webinars

Cross-posted with Google Inside Adwords.

What was your business’ New Year’s resolution, and how do you plan to keep it? At Google, ours is to help make the web work for you. Our new series of Learn with Google webinars will teach you how to use digital to build brand awareness, and they’ll give you the tools you need to drive sales. By tapping into technology that works together across your business needs, you can resolve to win moments that matter in 2013.

Check out our upcoming live webinars:

Build Awareness

02/12 [Multiscreen] Brand Building in a Multiscreen World
02/20 [YouTube] How to Build your Business with YouTube Video Ads
03/05 [Social] How to Use Google+ and Make Social Work for You
03/12 [Mobile] Understanding Mobile Ads Across Marketing Objectives
03/27 [Wildfire by Google] The Call for Converged Media

Drive Sales

01/29 [Analytics] Google Tag Manager: Technical Implementation *today*
02/07 [Search] Your Shelf Space on Google: Get Started with Google Shopping
02/26 [YouTube] From Awareness to Sales: Making the Most of Video Remarketing
02/27 [Search] What's New and Next in AdWords
03/06 [Display] Biggest Loser: Digital Ad Spend Edition
03/13 [Mobile] The Full Value of Mobile
03/20 [Display] Getting Started with Dynamic Remarketing

Visit our webinar site to register for any of the sessions and to access past webinars on-demand. You can also stay up-to-date on the schedule by adding our Learn with Google Webinar calendar to your own Google calendar to automatically see upcoming webinars.

During our last series of webinars, attendees had the chance to win a Nexus 7. Our lucky winner was Donella Cohen, who is happily enjoying her new tablet. Check out our upcoming webinars for another chance to win!

Learn with Google is a program to help businesses succeed through winning moments that matter, enabling better decisions and constantly innovating. We hope that you’ll use these best practices and how-to’s to maximize the impact of digital and grow your business. We’re looking forward to seeing you at an upcoming session!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Writing For Free

The topic of writing for free seems to be popular at the moment, so I thought I’d add my take on the subject. (There’s an article on the subject in the latest issue of Writers’ Forum magazine, Alex Gazzola has written a post on his blog http://mistakeswritersmake.blogspot.co.uk, and the topic has cropped up in a couple of Facebook groups too.)

Many writers are horrified to hear about others writing for free. It does them out of a job, they argue, and they have a point. To use the example that writers often trot out on this topic, who expects a plumber to come out and work for free? But, if two plumbers knocked on your door and one offered to charge £80 for the job, whereas the other was prepared to do it for free, which one would you choose? (Mind you, which one would you expect would do a better job: the plumber charging for their expertise and skill, or the one who doesn’t value their craft?)

Of course, whether you should write for free is something that only you can decide. Have I written for free? Yes. But there’s usually a benefit for me, for doing so. As an author, I’ve occasionally written free articles to help publicise my books. Sometimes, I’ve offered free articles as an investment in potential future work, which has resulted in opportunities.

There are also other times when I write for free. I like to support a couple of small organisations for writers with free articles, because they helped me so much at the start of my writing career. And, occasionally, I submit to anthologies that are produced for charitable purposes.

At the start of their writing career, some writers are so keen to see their name in print, they’re happy to write for free. And, on occasions, there can be some merit in this. Being published might provide the motivation to start on the next project. It might give the writer the confidence to try a bigger, paying, market in the future. And being able to tell an editor that you’ve been published in XYZ magazine can be useful (especially as most editors won’t know how much XYZ magazine paid you, even if it was zilch).

But you should always be sensible and realistic. Would you expect Cosmopolitan, or Good Housekeeping magazine not to pay their writers? If a publication charges advertisers for advertising within its pages, then it should be paying its writers for the work they produce to appear within those pages. It is those written words that attract the readers to buy the publication in the first place - not the advertisements.

There are many small press publications out there who claim to operate on tight budgets - and many do. Some claim they don’t have the resources to pay for submissions. Others work hard to offer something, even if it only amounts to a few pounds. At least those that offer a minuscule payment acknowledge that a writer should be paid for their craft.

Even writers who (pay to) enter writing competitions do so in the hope that they will win … and be paid for their efforts in prize money.

So, in my view, writing for free has its place, but it should be a small part of a writer’s productivity. If you value your craft, then you should target most of your work at markets who are prepared to put a monetary value to that craft. For someone like me, writing for free doesn’t put a roof over my head or food on the table.

Good luck.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Game on! See the power of apps in the Ping-Pong Hangout

Looking to add a little spice into your social media presence on the web?

Last week at Creative Sandbox NYC, which celebrates how technology is shaping culture and storytelling, we announced the launch of the Ping-Pong Hangout brought to you by Google+. This Hangout app allows users to play a game of Ping-Pong with an opponent by using their faces to control the paddle.

As fun as the Ping-Pong Hangout is, we’re most excited about what’s behind it: The Google+ Hangouts API. The API can help you to build deep, engaging and unique experiences for Hangouts. Just take a look at:

For more examples and info, see the Hangout Apps Showcase, check out the recording of our Hangout with the agencies behind the game, flip through our Getting Started guide or ask questions of the Google+ Developers team via Hangout Tuesdays at 2:30pm PT.

What could a Hangout App do your business? How might you use one to add your character to video chats and broadcasts, or to provide more information to users? Head on over to the site to get inspired.

Under the AdWords Hood: Breaking Down Ad Rank

AdWords Specialists Courtney Pannell, Philip Stern, and Sarah Claxton Deming hosted a Hangout on Air yesterday as the second installment in the “Under the AdWords Hood” series.

During the Hangout, the AdWords experts discussed the basics of ad rank, like how bidding and quality score factor into determining the positioning of your ads. Specifically, Phil shared his best practices for bidding to achieve your optimal ranking, and Sarah discussed how quality score is calculated.

You can watch the full 25-minute Hangout on Air below, or on the Google Business YouTube channel:

To learn more about how to get started with AdWords, visit our Help Center, check out the AdWords Community forum, or call us at 866-2-GOOGLE if you already have an AdWords account.

And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout on Air at 11 a.m. PDT, Thursday February 7, when we discuss remarketing tips.

Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Using 1:1s to communicate with your employees

Editor’s note: In this post, we’re featuring a management technique that we use at Google, which might be useful at your business.

As a manager or the owner of a business, how often do you get to interact with your employees on an individual basis? With busy and conflicting schedules, it can be hard to find times outside of team meetings or performance evaluations to talk more generally to an employee.

To help make sure that employees always have an open channel of communication with managers, we have weekly 1:1s, which is a 30-minute block of time for a manager to meet with just one person. The purpose of 1:1s isn’t evaluation or getting assignments, although those might be outcomes. Instead, it should be an chance for an employee to share projects, questions, concerns, and anything else with his or her manager.

Because the intention of a 1:1 is to have easy communication across levels, the employee should be the person leading the meeting, not the manager. Employees should provide the agenda and direct the discussion, while managers should make sure to listen and provide constructive feedback. Here are a few other tips to get the most out of 1:1 time:
  • Prepare and share an agenda in advance to keep the meeting efficient.
  • Use a running document to keep your agenda and notes in to refer to later, and make sure both the employee and manager can edit it.
  • Discuss career development more broadly, and what skills you can gain at work outside of your core job.
If weekly 1:1s seems too often, try bi-weekly or maybe even monthly. You could also try scheduling a regular office hour on your calendar where employees can just drop in to talk. Does your business have another strategy that helps with communication? Share them with us on Google+ and tag #smbtips!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Inspiration from the Past

When was the last time you went and REALLY looked at a gravestone? If ever people pass through one they tend not to linger or, if they do, it's at a grave of a loved one. But think about all of the other stories that lie there.

Some of the older graves often have an interesting story to tell. In my local churchyard lies Ann Cook, wife of Thomas, who died in 18?4 (the grave is weathered too much to make out the detail), and underneath, in four simple lines, is her life story:

On a Thursday she was born,
On a Thursday she was a bride,
On a Thursday her leg was broke,
On a Thursday died.

Clearly, Thursdays were a mixed blessing for her, some being good, whilst others being not so good. But what a wonderful overview, and how poignant that such things all happened on a Thursday (albeit that, mathematically, there was a one in seven chance of these things happening on a Thursday anyway). Do other people remember the day such things happened in their lives?

In this cold weather, it's worth nipping into the church too. In the nearby village of Eardisley, the church has a memorial plaque, near the vestry, to the Barnsley family which recounts the terrible tale of their 'Bubbles Broken'. Anyone who has read Charles Dickens' Bleak House will spot the plot line laid out for all to see in this memorial. (And yes, records show that Dickens did visit the area.)

So, if you're stuck for inspiration, it might be worth hanging out with some folks of the past. You never know what you might come across. And if it was good enough for Dickens, then it's good enough for us!

Good luck!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Help Desk Hangouts: Going Google

Editor’s note: 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 chatted with the Going Google team, who showed us a guide to help businesses transition to Google Apps. We walked through the Going Google guide, learning about change management and how it can make the transition to Google Apps for any business much smoother. The guide’s got training resources, checklists, and tips to help businesses manage the transition timeline.

Miss the event? You can watch the whole thing on the Google and Your Business YouTube channel.

Some of the questions we answered during the Hangout:

Who is the guide intended for? Is it free? 
The guide is a free resource available on our Google Apps Documentation and Support site. It is intended for anyone who is helping an organization evaluate Google Apps or make the switch to Google Apps. The guide is targeted to organizations with 250 users or more, but parts of the guide are relevant to smaller organizations too. We also have a guide focused on smaller businesses here.

How does the guide recommend you approach Going google? 
At Google, we have a user focus in everything we do. We recommend you have a focused approach to your users' transition to Google Apps. We've created a simple and flexible, three-step model you can use to plan your change management approach when you switch to Google Apps: (1) Get ready, (2) communicate, and (3) train.

Will the guide be updated as Google Apps is updated? 
Yes, the guide will be updated on a regular basis. Throughout the year, we will add new stories from customers and partners about their change management approach for switching to Google Apps. The guide will also be updated as our Google Apps services are updated.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Let Customers “See Inside” Your Business with Google Business Photos

Since the official launch of Google Business Photos in January 2012, over 100,000 businesses have used the feature to virtually invite customers inside their doors. With the use of high-quality panoramic imagery and Street View technology, businesses have been able to offer customers an interactive tour without physically setting foot inside - perfect for showcasing the ambiance of a wine bar or the layout of a gym.

Check out our new video to see what Business Owners are saying about Google Business Photos:

Over the past year, Google has made it even easier for customers to find Business Photos on Google Search, Google Maps and Google+ Local; with just one click, you can now “See Inside” businesses from a computer or tablet.

Or, from your mobile phone click “See Inside” on the Place Sheet.

Google Maps on Android
Google Maps on iOS

If you would like to feature your establishment on Google with Business Photos, please visit our website for more information. You’ll have the opportunity to select from a list of Google Trusted Photographers in your area. You can contact a photographer to negotiate a rate and schedule a time for a photoshoot.

Google Business Photos is currently available in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Spain, Italy, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. We are working to expand the service to more areas so that more businesses can reach more customers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Dee Do Do Do, Dee Dah Dah Dah ...

A student asked me last week about quoting a song lyric in a piece they were writing. Because they were only quoting one line, and were attributing it to the song and the composer, that was all right, wasn’t it?

No. The safest thing is not to quote a song lyric at all. Even if it’s only one line. To avoid breaching someone’s copyright, you should seek written permission from the copyright holder to use their words in your work. When permission is granted, you should then attribute that quote correctly to the copyright holder. (Authors often use the acknowledgments section of their book to formally thank those copyright holders who have given their permission for their work to be quoted in their text.) 

Whilst the law allows you to quote someone’s work without permission, it does so on the condition that you attribute those words to the person who owns the copyright, the amount you quote is deemed as reasonable, and you are quoting for review purposes. Of course, the law doesn’t actually stipulate how much is reasonable, which is where the lawyers come in!

So, if you’re not quoting for review purposes, then you must seek permission (and this student wasn’t reviewing the song). It is the copyright holder’s choice how much they charge for quoting their work. Some charge a fee, others are happy to waive a fee and simply ask for an acknowledgement. That’s up to them. However, many music copyright holders charge a fee - and rightly so - you are using their creation. (It's no different to writers charging a fee to magazines and book publishers for publishing their words.)

These fees can be substantial. In my book, The Positively Productive Writer, I wanted to quote the chorus from a song, but after making enquiries I realised the cost for this could be prohibitive. Instead, I found a different way of explaining the point I wanted to make. Thinking the cost might have been a touch unreasonable, I did a quick search on the Internet and discovered that, actually, the cost was similar to what other writers were being charged.

Blake Morrison wrote an excellent article about this in The Guardian about how he found out, to his cost, how expensive quoting lyrics could be. I recommend reading it. It could save you a fortune. http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2010/may/01/blake-morrison-lyrics-copyright

So, if you absolutely must quote a particular song lyric in your work, get permission and then get out your chequebook. Because if you don’t get permission, the legal consequences could mean that bailing out Greece would be cheaper.

Good luck.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Under the AdWords Hood Series: AdWords Policy

Director of Engineering for Advertising at Google, David Baker and AdWords Specialist Lindsay Brownell hosted a Hangout on Air yesterday as the first installment of the four-part “Under the AdWords Hood” series. This series sheds light on topics that you chose in a vote on the Google Ads page!

David and Lindsay broke AdWords Policy down into and delved into three areas:

  1. Ad Policy
  2. Landing Page Policy
  3. Account Policy
You can watch the full 30-minute Hangout on Air below, or on the Google Business YouTube channel.

To learn more about how to get started with AdWords, visit our Help Center, check out the AdWords Community forum, or call us at 866-2-GOOGLE if you already have an AdWords account.

And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout on Air at 11 a.m. PDT, January 24th 2013 when we go Under the Hood and learn all about Ad Rank.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Insights for 2013: Understanding Your Customers & The Full Value of Digital

(cross-posted from the Analytics blog)

We’re just a week into 2013, and we’re undeniably living in the new multi-screen age. Our day-to-day interactions with technology—and our expectations—have increased dramatically. We’re no longer content to wait until later to buy shoes or schedule travel or find a hot spot to eat. Technology lets us act now, and we expect reliable results. In fact, we’ve become so dependent on being connected all the time that 43% of U.S. adults would be willing to give up beer for a month if it meant they could keep accessing the Internet on their smartphones, and 36% said they’d be willing to give up chocolate.*

What does this mean for you? Many businesses have fallen behind consumer behavior—in a world where people look first to mobile devices and real-time streams, the digital journey has grown more complex, and it’s become more challenging to gain a clear picture of these interactions. As a marketer or analyst, your success depends on adapting to this new reality. We’re working to provide tools that let you connect the dots, so you can regain visibility into your customers’ preferences and behaviors and take advantage of the full value of digital.

Holistic Measurement: Capture the full customer experience
Your customers are active all the time and everywhere, so you should be as well. To truly win moments that matter across all screens and situations, you must acknowledge, and measure, all relevant touch-points. For example, are you running related marketing efforts across email, display, and search ads? Do you see customers performing some tasks more frequently on smartphones while other tasks are more common on laptop? Rather than evaluating these programs and behaviors separately, your measurement strategy should focus on connecting the dots between these consumer moments. Consider your overall business goals and then measure the role that each touch-point plays in achieving those goals, keeping in mind the complementary effects of multiple channels and devices.

Active measurement: Plan ahead and optimize throughout
Harnessing the power of location, intent and social connections is possible today, and smart marketers are always on, always optimized—using customer signals to create winning experiences for their brand. Active measurement is about quickly acting on the insights you uncover as you go, but more importantly, it’s about good measurement planning. This proactive piece is often overlooked, even by the savviest marketers and analysts. To effectively measure, you must define expectations about how your customer will interact with your brand before you look at the numbers. Then, question any surprising results. Is it normal or strange for your business to have a 3% conversion rate? Is it good or bad if event tracking shows that 3,000 people view a video on your homepage in a single day? Are your TV spots driving viewers to your website in Real-Time, or do you see more traffic at other times? Are you bringing together data sources and devices holistically? Active measurement means examining real human behavior and influences instead of reporting the same old data on clicks or bounce-rates.

Media-Agnostic Measurement: Give credit where it’s due
As technology usage has expanded, patterns of research and influence have become more diverse (with many consumers consulting 10 or more sources before a purchase)*—but also more identifiable. In the new digital age, it’s no longer realistic or smart to judge campaigns solely by the final interaction using a last-click model, or to think only about single-device or single-session interactions. Customers move fluidly across channels and devices. To truly understand the value of your digital investments, you have to overhaul your conversion goals to capture all the large and small behaviors that lead to business success. Once you have visibility into the customer journey, you can begin assigning credit with attribution models to determine your best channel and investment mix. Next, optimize your programs and run controlled experiments to see how you could improve your results even further. It’s an active, ongoing process.

So, make a New Year’s resolution to take a more proactive approach: consider and give credit to all the interactions in the customer journey, and act on your measurement insights. Throughout 2013 we’ll be sharing practical advice to help you dive in and join your customers in the always-on world. Good luck!

*Source for statistics in this post:

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sometimes "Yes" Is The Right Answer

I would like to point out that I don’t make a habit of standing on street corners touting for work. Before Christmas, I was stopped by a woman in the street who made a proposition. I was merely going about my usual daily walk when this woman, who I knew by sight, stopped me and said, “You’re that writer aren’t you?” (Which is always a difficult question to answer because you don’t know who that writer is, that they’re thinking about.)

Anyway, she asked me if I would be interested in writing a story for her, which she would give as a present for a relative. She didn’t want me to ghost-write the story - she wanted a writer to write a story that met her requirements.

“What do you want the story to be about?” I asked.

“Oh, anything you like,” she replied. “Except that it must have my relatives’ three cats in it.”

“Okay,” I replied. “ I’m sure I can come up with something.”

“Oh, and he likes the Lord of the Rings trilogy, so a fantasy story is what he’d really enjoy reading.”

“Right …”I replied, now panicking.

I don’t write a lot of fiction, but I do dabble. But I don’t do fantasy. I tried reading Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but they just don’t do it for me. I can’t be doing with those unusual names. I need to substitute Frodo for Fred, and Gandalf for Garry, but after a few pages I forget who Frodo should be, and who Gandalf was. Is he Garry or Graham? And then I realise that it’s too much hard work, so I stop reading them. But this woman was convinced I could do what she wanted and before I knew it, I’d uttered the word, “Yes.”

It wasn’t until I started walking home that I began to think about what I’d taken on. And this is a birthday present to someone celebrating a significant milestone - so no pressure there, then.

When I came to sit down and write this story, I had no idea what I was going to write about. The blank screen stared back and I racked my brain for an idea. Then I cursed myself, for yet again, I’d said “Yes,” to some work without thinking things through.

But as I’ve said here on this blog many times, it doesn’t matter what you write, just writing something. Only when you’ve written some words, do you have something to edit and work with. I assumed that I’d write a story of about 1,500 words. I felt that would be a suitable story length.

After an hour, I’d written nearly 1,000 words, and some semblance of a storyline was coming together. The following day I wrote another 2,000 words and a structure was beginning to reveal itself in the plot line. I couldn’t believe that I was 3,000 words in and not at the end of the story yet.

Three days later, I finished the first draft of the story, at 6,000 words. I was dead chuffed. There on the screen were 6,000 words I never dreamed I would ever write. It was even a (sort of) fantasy story.

After spending a couple of days editing and polishing, I finally plucked up the courage to deliver a copy to my commissioning woman. She telephone the following day to tell me how much she loved it. Phew! And because it is 6,000 words long, I’m getting it printed into a little book.

Looking back, I surprised myself how much I enjoyed writing the story. It was a style and subject matter that I never thought I would enjoy writing. But I did. And in the next few days there’ll be a little book - something tangible - for me to hand over to my customer. And there’s a clue as to how I eventually tackled this. This was any other writing job. I’m a supplier, and I had a customer who needed a job doing.

Sometimes in this writing world it’s a good idea to say, “Yes,” to something before you’ve really thought things through. It forces us out of our comfort zones. 

A few years ago there was a film produced on this principle, based loosely on a book by Danny Wallace, about a man who decided to say “Yes,” whenever an opportunity came his way. I’m not saying you need to change your life this drastically, but it can be beneficial to tackle a writing project where your gut instinct is to run a mile in the opposite direction. 

Good luck! 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Make some New Year’s resolutions for your business

Cross posted from the Official Google Blog.

When Melodie Bishop heard about our Get Your Business Online program (an initiative that makes it fast, easy and free for U.S. businesses to get online), she jumped at the opportunity to turn her hobby of creating Chicago-themed gift baskets into a full-time business. Since launching her website, Send Them Chicago, this past summer, Melodie has seen a 70 percent increase in new customers.

Melodie Bishop with one of her gift baskets

As the holidays wrap up and the New Year starts, millions of business owners just like Melodie are thinking about how they can grow in 2013. For many, this means getting found and connecting with customers on the web.

Yet often, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why we’re helping business owners create a list of New Year’s resolutions for 2013.

Let us know what you hope to accomplish in the New Year. Do you want to get your basic business information online? Or do you already have a website and want to reach more customers? Once you select your goals, we’ll create a customized list of resolutions with resources to help you stick to it.

In the U.S., 58 percent of small businesses don’t have a website, but 97 percent of Internet users look online for local products and services. So it’s not surprising that businesses with a web presence are expected to grow 40 percent faster than those without. Creating a list of resolutions for your business may just be one of the easiest things you can do to help your business grow.

We’ll see you on the web.

P.S. If you aren’t a small business owner, it’s not too late to give that business you know the gift of a free website.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

13 business tips to countdown to 2013, Part III

Happy 2013! Over the past 13 days, we've been posting one tip daily on the Google+ Your Business page to countdown to January 1st and get your business ready for the new year. We previously shared our first and second set of five tips, and our final three of our top 13 tips are below. Now you can turn some of these tips into New Year's resolutions for your business!

Tip #11: Schedule due dates for tasks in emails on Google Calendar
When your inbox is overflowing, you don’t always have time to follow up on tasks discussed in emails immediately. And since you’ve already seen the email, you might not want to mark it as unread.

Make your workflow easier by saving emails that you need to follow up on in your Gmail Tasks list. When you have the email open, just click More > Add to Tasks and it will be automatically added to your list. Click “Related email” under the task to open the email whenever you need.

You can even schedule a due date--click on > next to the task then on the Calendar icon. When you select “Back to list” the date will be saved on the list and you’ll also get a reminder in your Google Calendar so you don’t miss a deadline!

Tip #12: Save online images right to Google Drive
Summarized from the Google Drive blog

If your business ever saves files from websites, you know it can cumbersome--right click on an image, download it to your computer, open it and rename it, save the file, and maybe even attach it to an email.
Instead, streamline the process with the Save to Drive Chrome extension, which lets you capture content from anywhere on the web and store it neatly online in Google Drive. Once you install the extension, just right click on the file or click on the Drive extension icon to save:
  • an image of an entire page or an image of the visible page
  • the HTML source code
  • a Web archive (.mht)
After you save with the extension, you’ll see options to immediately open the file in Drive, rename it, or view it in your Drive list, where you can do things like add it to a folder or share it with others. You can install it from the Chrome Webstore.

Tip #13: Use Google Maps on your website
Bring the power of Google Maps directly to your website! You can embed a simple map, a set of driving directions, a local search result, or a My Map (http://goo.gl/CcWDN) created by another user. Here's how:
  1. Ensure that the map you'd like to embed appears in the current map display.
  2. Click the link icon at the top of the left panel.
  3. In the box that appears, copy the HTML under 'Paste HTML to embed in website,' and paste it into the source code of your website or blog.
If you'd like to adjust the size of the map before you embed it, click “Customize and preview embedded map”, select your preferred size, and take a look at the preview map. Once you're happy with what you see, copy the HTML that appears in the box at the bottom of the window. For more advanced maps, learn about the Google Maps API: http://developers.google.com/maps/