With more people online today, an online presence is increasingly important for every small and medium sized businesses.
These days, customers don’t go around looking for businesses street by street. Instead, they use the internet to analyze and consider product reviews, customer comments and proximity before they even leave the house, let alone make a buying decision.
Unfortunately, many SMEs still don’t have an online presence. Most of these businesses, which include restaurants, small manufacturers and retail stores, prefer to focus on their day to day operations, and that’s where Google comes in.
Google is world’s and Kenya’s most used search engine and they help small businesses get online and grow. They have a wide selection of products that can get your business a basic online presence up and running in less than 10 minutes; and in this article, we will talk about some of these tools from Google that you can take advantage of.
Basic online presence tools
Google My Business
This is a free tool that lets you manage how your business appears on Google Search and Maps. That includes adding your business name, location, and hours; monitoring and replying to customer reviews; adding photos; learning where and how people are searching for you, and more.
Your Google My Business listing is a great place to focus your early Search Engine Optimization efforts. When people search for a product or service near them, they’re usually very close to making a purchase – so it’s important to have the information about your business, that shows up when people search Google, is as accurate, complete, and optimized as possible.
Here is how you can create your Google My Business account;
Log into the Google Account you want associated with your business (or create a Google Account if you don’t already have one).
Go to google.com/business and select “Start now” in the top right-hand corner.
Enter your business name.
Enter your business address.
If you go to your customers’ locations, rather than having them come to you, check the box “I deliver goods and services to my customers.” And if you work out of your house or another address you don’t want publicly shown, Check “Hide my address (it’s not a store) Only show region.” Finally, select your Delivery area.
Choose your business category. Try to choose the most accurate category possible — you’re essentially telling Google which type of customers should see your business listing.
Add your business phone number or website.
Choose a verification option. If you’re not ready to verify your business yet, click “Try a different method” → “Later.”
You’ll be required to verify your business using one of the options available. Once you’ve verified your business, it’s time to finish fleshing out your profile.
Go to the Google My Business dashboard, click the listing you’d like to work on, select “Info,” and then choose a section to fill out or update.
You need to add as much information and media as possible; these include , including a business profile photo, the area you serve, your hours, the day and year you opened, and your business phone number.
Since anyone can “suggest an edit” to your listing, it’s important to:
- get everything right the first time (so you don’t encourage random people to make their own changes), and
- periodically log into your Google My Business dashboard and make sure all the details look right.
Once your listing is up and running, your business should appear when people search for your services;
Online marketing and advertising tools
Google also provides a simpler version of Google Ads, for small businesses called AdWords Express.
For starters, Google Ads is a platform that you use when you want your prospects to see your ads when they search for your products and services on Google.
Google Ads is an incredibly tough platform to adjust to, let alone to find success with. The number of details that you have to be aware of to successfully run an Ads account is mind-boggling; there are countless metrics, tools, and graphs to use and analyze.
In 2011, Google released AdWords Express to the public, with the goal of simplifying their original, complex platform into an easier way to advertise with Google.
By simplifying the user experience, AdWords Express is much easier to navigate for someone who either:
- Has limited time and resources or
- Little to no experience with pay per click advertising.
In addition to the SMB-focused services, Google has an extensive education and outreach program.
It provides online education resources on the Google Small Business YouTube channel, but it also provides free in-person seminars and workshops with local businesses. These sessions, which are part of Google’s larger business initiative Grow with Google, provide small business owners hands-on learning with Google tools as well as higher-level concepts like digital marketing.
Google is working with small businesses to provide tools that make it easier for customers to find the products and services they want. By helping more businesses get online, Google is laying a foundation for small business owners looking to grow their business locally.
In as much as many business owners may not see the advantage of being online, customers are increasingly going online. So, if you’re lost and not sure how to go about getting your business online, Google may be the place to start.