Monday, October 28, 2013

Meet The Team

We all know how it’s important to approach a named person at a magazine when we want to send them some work, or pitch an idea, and scrutinising the publication for this information isn’t always easy. The staff list can’t always be found at the beginning of the magazine - sometimes it’s in the middle, or even near the end.

However, these days, it is becoming a little easier with the advent of what I call the Meet The Team section - an area devoted to the thoughts or opinions of the staff. These comments are often tied into the theme of the issue. Country Walking magazine, for example, might ask the staff for a few words about their favourite view in an issue devoted to Britain’s best views. Country Living magazine has gone one step further and devoted a whole article to their staff’s Christmas Projects. (Yes, the December issue is out now - see picture.)

From the freelance writer’s perspective this is a great way of finding a useful contact name, along with a photo of the staff (thus proving that those who work for magazines are not rejection-issuing dragons, but real people), and occasionally, their contact details. What makes these useful to the freelance writer is that these pieces often include junior members of staff, not just the editors, and it’s these people who can be useful. 

For example, the editorial secretary may be the best person to contact first if you want to pitch an idea by phone to an editor and want to ensure you don’t call them just as the publication is going to press. Nor do you want to ring them when they’re just about to go into a meeting. A quick email or phone call to the editorial secretary may just steer you to the perfect time to call.

Likewise, an editorial assistant may be a better contact to email if you want to check whether your submission arrived safely. And the administrative assistant can be a good starting point to find out who’s the best person to contact regarding the missing payment you’re still waiting for.

So, the next time you come across one of these Meet The Team sections, or articles, get out your contacts book and add the names, job titles and contact information (and don’t forget to record the date you added them so you know how up to date they are when you next look them up). You never know when they may come in useful.

Good luck!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Create offers in minutes and reach customers on Google Maps with Google Offers

Back in July we announced new ways for consumers to discover offers with Google. Today we’re introducing an updated self-service tool for all businesses in the U.S. to easily create offers and attract customers to their stores. Using the simple offer creation tool, businesses can create their offer in minutes and showcase it to local customers across Google, including Google Maps.

Create your offer in minutes and see it go live in just a few hours
With the updated creation tool, which is rolling out within the next week, you can create your offer in minutes. Simply choose the type of offer you’d like to create and assign a budget.

Unlike traditional promotions or coupons, Google Offers will show your offer to customers based on their location, what they like, and what they're looking for. You'll only pay when a customer saves your offer, and you keep the full value of the sales you make.

Reach the right customers, at the right time, now through Google Maps
With this launch, your offer can reach customers on Google Maps when they are searching for places nearby or looking for local businesses like yours. Your business will be prominently displayed with a blue tag icon next to it, alerting customers to your offer.

Once a customer saves your offer, we’ll bring them to your door by sharing an offer reminder when they are near your store. We can help remind them when your offer is expiring too, through email and mobile alerts. Just create the offer; we’ll take care of the rest. To get started and drive more traffic to your store, visit Google Offers.

Posted by Gayathri Rajan, Director of Product Management, Google Offers

Monday, October 21, 2013

Saying thank you to our Google Top Contributors

Cross-posted with the Official Google Blog.

Every day, Google Top Contributors from around the world share their product expertise with people in Google’s official forums, from sharing helpful tips to answering burning user questions. Top Contributors not only help users directly, they champion user feedback, which gives our teams valuable insight on opportunities for improvement across various products. They contribute to 250 product communities in 26 different languages, and their expertise touches hundreds of millions of users each year. These Top Contributors are a critical part of the Google family and we brought many of them together at this year's Top Contributor Summit to say thank you.

Building on our first summit in 2011, we kicked off the second Top Contributor Summit last week near Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. Over three days, Top Contributors came together to discuss their favorite Google products, meet with our engineers and product managers, see demos of new products and collaborate with fellow Top Contributors.

Sebastian Miƛniakiewicz, Top Contributor in the Webmasters Polish forum, talks with Program Manager Oahn Nguyen and Map Maker Program Manager Nicole Drobeck

Top Contributors met with product managers and community managers to learn the latest about some of Google’s products, and had the unique opportunity to give their feedback directly to the product team. They also sat down with designers and support team members to discuss the long and short-term vision for various products. Multi-product Top Contributor Manny Barwin (known as “The C Man” in our forums) said, “what impressed me most was the interest taken in our feedback.”

Yogi Anand, Docs Top Contributor from Michigan, tries Google Glass

Top Contributors also got a sneak peek at recently released Google products. After hearing a presentation directly from the Google Glass team, each Top Contributor was given the opportunity to try Glass for themselves. AdWords Top Contributor Adam Briggs said, “I found the best part was being able to try out Glass; it's such an awesome product and I'm really looking forward to it becoming public."

We also put on several social events where the group was able to meet Googlers, chat with their fellow Top Contributors, and have a little fun!

Top Contributors play air hockey during a social event at the San Jose Convention Center
Photograph by Paciano Triunfo

We had a great time at the summit saying thanks to our Top Contributors for all they do for our users. If you’re interested in becoming a Top Contributor, get started by becoming active in your favorite Google product’s forum or learn more about the Top Contributor Program.

Top Contributors and Googlers show their excitement on campus
Photograph by Paciano Triunfo

What Kate Said ...

Saturday was our writers’ group’s annual workshop day as part of the Wellington Literary Festival, and this year we were fortunate enough to have bestselling novelist Kate Long come and talk to us. She gave us two great workshops: one on creating characters and another on using dialogue.

Kate also offered us her top tips, and this is what she had to say:

- Write regularly and often. Ideally, try to write at least two or three times a week. The more your exercise your brain, the more toned your writing muscle will be.

- Set yourself targets, but make them achievable. Kate explained that she sets herself a target of 3,000 words a week (600 a day, for five days a week). However, she understands that many people claim they don’t have enough time to write, but it’s all down to how much you want it. Her bestselling novel The Bad Mother’s Handbook was written whilst she was holding down a day job as a teacher and then as a mother with a young child.

- Give yourself some personal writing space where you don’t have to tidy up after anyone else, and they don’t clear up after you … then she reminisced about the days when the family only had one computer and she had to clear away the lego first in order to get at the keyboard!

- It’s okay to feel selfish about your writing. Writing is a solitary activity, but you’re entitled to your own personal time and hobbies. Her son made a sign for her room door - on one side it says It’s OK To Come in, whilst on the other side it says, No, Go Away, I’m Busy!

- Read widely - both within your target genre, and also outside of it. Not only is to important to keep up with trends, but’s it’s a great way to learn how other writers express and treat ideas.

- Keep notebooks. Ideas will disappear if you don’t write them down. (Incidentally, Kate writes in the dark! She jots down notes in bed, with the light off, and then types them up in the morning. She wonders whether not being able to see what she’s writing enables her to gets her thoughts down without feeling the need to edit and review her work.)

- Go on a course - residential, if possible. A residential course will take you away from life’s distractions - and it tells you that it’s okay to be a writer and spend your time, whilst away, to write.

- Meet authors wherever you can. If there’s an author visiting your local bookshop go and talk to them, even if it’s an author you don’t know, or who writes in a different genre to you. They may just pass on a vital nugget of information … and don’t forget to buy a copy of their book!

- Get feedback on your work where possible, but get the right feedback. Don’t ask family. Don’t ask a members of a writers’ group who specialise in writing romance to give you feedback on your horror story. Ask people whose opinion will be relevant.

- And finally, get your work out there!

Good luck!  

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New Learn with Google Fall Webinars

We’re excited to share our fall series of Learn with Google webinars. These web events will demonstrate how to use digital marketing to build brand awareness and give you the tools you need to drive sales. This season we’re focusing on Search and Display, two fundamental building blocks for digital marketing. We will be introducing new tools, as well as providing tips for existing ones. Every webinar is led by Google product experts and includes time for live Q&A. Sign up to start becoming a smarter digital marketer today.

Upcoming webinars:

17 [Wallet] Maximize mobile conversions with Google Wallet Instant Buy
22 [Search] Automate your AdWords bids to achieve your Target ROAS (return on ad spend) Goal
23 [Shopping] Google Shopping - Mobile/Local
29 [Mobile] Driving More Revenue from App Installs

7 [Display] A Creative Approach to Engage with Your Customers Online
13 [Search] Measuring Conversions Across Devices
14 [Display] Three Strategies to Increase Customer Engagement with Your Brand
19 [Mobile] Building Multi-Screen Websites
21 [Search] Increase Relevancy with New Ad Formats and Extensions

3 [Search] Using Your Cross-Device Conversion Data
11 [Search] Improving Search Ad Relevance with Creative Optimizations

Webinars are held Tuesdays through Thursdays at 10am Pacific/1pm Eastern,

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

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, October 14, 2013

NaNoWriMo Preparation

The countdown has begun for anyone considering attempting this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). For those of you who don’t know, the idea behind this scheme is that writers around the world sit down on 1st November, with the aim of writing 50,000 words by midnight on 30th November. They don’t have to be perfectly honed words, just the first draft.

Whilst it’s aimed at novelists, I think the basic idea works well for any writer. If you want to write a non-fiction book, well, consider getting it written in November. Whereas most novels are at least 80,000 words, many non-fiction books are 50,000 words - so why not use November to write a WHOLE non-fiction book, rather than five-eighths of a novel? And don’t think just books - consider what else you could do with the 50,000-word target. Article writers could set themselves the challenge of writing fifty 1,000 word articles in November. Short story writers could write 25 two thousand word stories. Those of you who write both fiction and non-fiction could do a combination of both!

If you’re going to consider undertaking this exercise, a little preparation goes a long way:

- The rest of the world doesn’t stop in November, much as we’d like it to. Work out when you can fit in, or what you need to give up in order to fit in, the necessary time to write. If you can identify roughly the same time every day, that works best. Can you do every day of the week, or can you only write during the week, or at weekends?

- Once you now when and how frequently you can write, identify what your word count target is for each writing session. So, if you’re going to write every day in November, you need to write 1,667 words (rounded) every day to hit your 50,000 target. If you can’t write at weekends, there are 21 working days in November, which means you need to write 2,381 words in each writing session.

- Do any necessary research now. Collect your data. Do you background reading. Create your characters. Draft your plot. Think of different angles for your article ideas. You stand more chance of success if you can use your writing time to write. 

- Set up a system for recording your word counts. A spreadsheet, document, or even a Post-It Note will suffice. Simply record the total number of words you achieve during each writing session. You need to be able to see how you are progressing.

- If you have a good day and write more than your daily target, don’t think you have fewer words to write tomorrow. Stick to meeting your minimum word count target every day. If you hot your target by 27th November, you’ll feel even better!

And I can’t let an opportunity like this pass without mentioning my own book, The Positively Productive Writer, which has advice on how to stay motivated.

For more details about NaNoWriMo visit the official website at

Good luck.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Foggy Day Writing

Last week, a student apologised when she sent in her assignment, because she felt it wasn’t particularly original. It was a travel piece and she’d written about the venues and attractions that everybody writes about for that particular destination.

I call this Foggy Day Writing because writers are blinded by the obvious to see the creative detail. A similar thing happens with photography. When photographers wake up to be greeted by a foggy morning, many simply assume that it’s not a good day for photography. This is because all they see is the fog. Fog can be highly creative for photographers.

Fog is actually great weather for capturing the colour green. Zoom in on anything green and it appears more saturated: greener. (It’s all to do with how the light is reflected, apparently.) Fog is also a reminder that being creative is all about viewpoint. It frequently collects in valleys, which means if you can climb above it you’ll be rewarded with a completely different perspective of fog.

Foggy day writing tends to focus on the obvious, yet creativity can be found with a little effort. For the advice for photographers:

A) look for the green, or rather home in on the smaller details.

B) change your perspective. Look at your subject from a different angle.

I recently had to undertake a writing exercise where I had to write a complaint letter. Fortunately, or should that be unfortunately, I had several real-life complaint letters to write and tried drawing upon one of them for inspiration. But no matter how frustrating the experience was in real life as a creative piece is wasn’t working. It was then that I realised it was a foggy day piece of writing. I was simply drawing upon the obvious. Instead, I decided to focus on one small detail. I created a story where the tiniest of details was wrong and this led to a series of catastrophic disasters. Then I added a twist, turning the complaint into a thank you piece. This piece turned out to be far more creative and interesting than my previous idea.

So next time you begin writing something, ask yourself: am I producing Foggy Day Writing? If you answer “Yes,” then do what photographers do. Look for some small detail, or change your perspective.

Good luck.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Helping small businesses grow on the web: Teaming up with Chase for Mission Main Street Grants

We know that every small business has big ideas for what they want to do next. Maybe you’d like to expand your store, hire more employees, or launch a new product line. Today, we’re working with Chase’s Mission Main Street Grants program to help small businesses across America bring some of those ideas to life. Twelve businesses will each get a $250,000 grant from Chase, as well as a Chromebook Pixel, and a trip to Google for a two-day small business marketing workshop with Google experts.

We know how important the web can be to help small businesses grow, so we worked with Chase to provide a Social Media Toolkit on The toolkit shares tips that every business can use, like best practices for digital marketing and social media, as well as how to make the most of online advertising and analytics. Small businesses can also take advantage of a special AdWords Express offer to help them reach new customers.

The program is open to current businesses that have been operating for at least two years and have less than 100 year-round full-time employees. Businesses must receive at least 250 votes to be eligible for a grant. The deadline to apply is October 31, 2013, and voting is open from October 1-November 15, 2013. You can find out more information about the program and eligibility requirements at There you can also check out a Google Hangout with some of last year’s grant recipients sharing how they used social media to rally support and improve their applications.

The web opens up countless opportunities for small businesses to grow and reach new customers, and we’re excited to see your great submissions. Good luck!

Posted by Jon Kaplan, Vice President of US Sales & Operations