Is Google Right for Your Business?
When the Google search engine launched in 1998, the company’s mission was to “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Over the years, that objective hasn’t changed, but they have added a ridiculous amount of tools to reach it. Now, not only can we search for “Goats falling over and making funny sounds” whenever we want, but we can use a variety of applications and sites to help educate ourselves, connect with people around the world, and, most relevant to this post, grow our companies.
Google Business accounts come with a lot of free, or otherwise inexpensive, enterprise products that can help small businesses get started. Here at DCD, we’ve given some of Google’s business products a test run, and are here to share our results with you.
Google+ is the company’s fourth attempt at cashing in on the social networking craze, and was proceeded by applications such Google Buzz (which launched in 2010 but only lasted a year), Google Friend Connect (which managed to exist from 2008-2012), and Orkut (which did surprisingly well in India and Brazil, and had the longest run of all, lasting 2004 to 2014).
Full of potential…
Google+ gives businesses a free place to market their company on a Google-sanctioned platform by letting you advertise a business you have claimed in the Google Local database. When potential customers have questions about local businesses, search engines like Google make finding answers quicker and easier than searching through the phone book or newspaper ads, and having a Google+ Business account means that when people search for your business or industry, you have a better chance of landing on the front page.
Creating a Google+ account for your business provides a page for displaying important information, such a the company’s location, hours of operation, contact information, and a brief company description. It also gives companies a way to connect with their customers. Company news updates and events can be posted, as well as information regarding promotions and services. In addition, customers can leave feedback, submit questions, and share company posts among their friends.
…but not much else
Unfortunately for small businesses, many of these benefits are more or less theoretical. While DCD does have a Google+ account, and we make a weekly effort to update and maintain it, we don’t get a lot of feedback or many clickthroughs to our professional website. Google+ on the whole just doesn’t have the userbase that sites like Twitter and Facebook have, which means it can be hard for a small business or start-ups to make connections or engage an audience. Could a more aggressive social media/marketing team have more success on Google+? Potentially, but not many small businesses have a team dedicated to just social media, and marketing departments don’t usually have a lot of time to spare.
The DCD Google+ About page, in all its glory.
As for getting your company on the front page? Once again, it seems to rely heavily on the strength of your brand name, the uniqueness of your company name, or how much you’re willing to invest in the account. Googling Deep Core Data, especially if you live in the greater Boston area, will certainly bring our page up as the first listing. However, we don’t turn up at all during search for computer consultants near Waltham, MA, where DCD headquarters is located. Overall, Google+ really shouldn’t be relied on as the main form of lead generation, especially if you’re a small business.
Google Analytics is a free service that monitors traffic from website visitors, enabling companies to see which pages are doing the best, as well as gather demographic information. Analytics also tracks where visitors are coming from, how long they spend on a page, if they return, and how they found the site. Business News Daily’s article on 10 Google Analytics Tools Your Businesses Should Be Using features a more in-depth look at some of the many options available through Google Analytics.
Knowing is (only) half the battle
At DCD, we’ve found Google Analytics to be a useful tool for understanding where your traffic is coming from, but it doesn’t work very well as standalone product. It essentially does exactly what it says on the tin; it provides information regarding who’s visiting your site, where they’re coming from (whether it’s through a link, or through a search engine), and how long they’re staying on each page. These are all very useful pieces of information, but ultimately, what you do with that information is up to you. Thankfully, it integrates well with other products, like Google Local for Business, Webmaster Tools, and AdWords, so it is a very useful (and in many cases, necessary) source of information. Just make sure it isn’t the only tool you’re using.
A sample Google Analytics overview report, courtesy of analytics.blogspot.com/
Gmail + Google Applications
Google offers an enterprise package similar to Microsoft Outlook at a rate of $5 per user per month, and can be accessed from any device with a WiFi connection (including phones and tablets). Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Hangouts, and Google Drive, complete with 30GB of cloud storage per user, all come standard with the Google Apps package, as well as Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, which can be shared between users for collaborative document creation. Many other productivity applications, such GQueues, a task manager and to-do list app, or Google Keep, a list and memo storage app, can be downloaded at no additional cost from the Google Play store. So how does it hold up?
No barrier to entry
There really isn’t a noticeable difference between a personal Gmail account and a Gmail business account in terms of operation. The same goes for Google Calendar, Hangouts, and Drive. So for anyone who has a Google account for personal use, there aren’t really any surprises. Google Business accounts with Gmail do have one very important feature, though – the ability to use a custom email address with your company’s domain name. It looks professional, and lends credit to your business. It’s a small thing that can go a long way for your company’s image.
Don’t be fooled by the lack of files, inside each of those folders, this Google Drive is meticulously organized.
Get your head in the cloud
One positive thing is that, as stated before, Google Drive does come with a substantial 30GB of cloud storage per user. Although individual use may vary, and some companies may have larger files to store, it can take some time to fill that space. The greatest feature that Google Drive has, however, is the ease with which files are shared, and the capacity for multiple simultaneous editors. A lot of Google’s productivity apps include the option to share things with multiple users, and since the apps are bound to the user’s Gmail account, all their contacts are readily available at a push of a button. Once access to an application or a file has been shared, and a user has been granted permission to edit it, users can work collaboratively on different parts of the file. Granted, this is primarily Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides, but as of yet, no other company on the market has this feature.
Ground control to Major Tom?
The main issue we have seen in terms of using the Google suite is that there are some technical issues that can cause difficulty with communication. For example, Google Calendar and Hangouts need to work on their integration feature, as we’ve run into connection issues when trying to launch a video chat through a calendar event. We’ve been able to resolve most of these errors fairly quickly, but it is disappointing for a professional product to have those kinds of problems.
Additionally, Google Drive has rare, but often perplexing errors when sharing documents. On more than one occasion, we have shared a document with a coworker, only to be told that they have no access or record of it ever being shared. As with the Hangouts error, it’s usually an easy fix (generally, you just need to delete the user and reshare with them), but it can cause problems if you were waiting on something with a tight deadline.
Overall, those of us at DCD feel that Google’s Enterprise products are a pretty good fit for a small business or startup company just beginning to find their feet. However, there are still a number of gaps, and there is software out there that can do it better, if you have the overhead.