Google will be 20 years old in September. Most of us use it as the default search engine for when we are looking for products, holidays, sports results, tips, celebrity gossip and much more. This equates to 3.5 billion searches per day or 1.2 trillion searches per year. Staggering, isn’t it?
But there is so much more to Google than just searches and Google has built up quite an array of Applications which are designed to make life a lot easier for businesses (it also allows Google to amass a wealth of information on us and our activities on the Internet). In this article I plan to give you a brief overview of some of the applications that can benefit you and/or your organisation.
Google Analytics started life as Urchin, an analytics package which Google acquired in 2005. Today Google Analytics is, without doubt, the number one application used by businesses to analyse website activity. But I still find it surprising the number of businesses I come across that don't use it or are unaware of how to use it properly.
Once you open a GA account, you will be supplied with tracking code which you put on your website and then you’re good to go. GA allows customers to monitor visitor activity based on four standard reports: audience, acquisition, behaviour and conversion. Broadly speaking, it gives you insights into the visitors who arrive on your website, and where they came from, what areas of your website they find of interest and whether you have managed to convert them. Looking at it from one perspective, you could find out where they came from (social media or search engines), what pages they found of interest (blog posts, or product/service pages)and whether they bought from you or downloaded a document. And, it’s completely free.
Google Trends is a useful tool which shows you how frequently a search term is entered relative to the site’s total search volume over a given time period. So, if you’d like to know when search terms like, “Dove”, “Wind turbines”, “Baftas” or, for that matter, anything is popular Google Trends will give you the answer. It can give insight into, for example, when you should do your advertising, the effectiveness of ad campaigns, the popularity, or not, of certain search terms and even allow you to compare search traffic to websites:
Google Keyword Planner
For many involved in the SEO and PPC industry this is an invaluable tool. Google Keyword Planner sits within the Google Adwords platform and is designed to give advertisers an insight into the keywords that their target audience might be typing in to the Google search engine to find their products and services.
As you might be aware Google ads are triggered by keywords that users type into the search engines and when they click on the ads they usually get taken to the advertiser’s website. Understanding which keywords are important in driving visitors to your ads and the to your website, is obviously, very important. And this the primary function of keyword planner.
However, aside from this use MANY people use keyword planner as a tool that can help them create better page titles, content, links and meta descriptions for Search Engine Optimisation purposes. It's also an ideal tool for researching the right keywords to be using in your social media updates, optimising your YouTube videos and creating the right content for your email marketing campaigns
Google Search Console
If you wanna steal a lead over your competitors, Search Console is definitely the tool you want to get to grips with. On the digital marketing courses I run the number of people who have heard, or even used, search console is very few and far between. Therefore, this could be the ideal tool to help give you an advantage over your competitors.
Search Console helps you monitor your site’s performance in the search engine rankings — Google basically reports back to you on how well your site is performing. Once you have signed up for Search Console you will be able to carry out a number of activities designed to help you monitor and maintain good rankings on Google. Here are some of the tools available within this package:
1. Search Traffic — includes Search Analytics which gives you an idea of the number of clicks, impressions and position of search queries and both links to your site and internal links.
2. Search Appearance includes Data Highlighter which allows you to flag up key information on your website, like Events, so that Google can display them better in search results.
3. Crawl — within this section you have the ability to identify crawl errors, add sitemaps and even to notify Google of pages that you have created or modified on your website through fetch as Google. This feature alone allows you to get your pages indexed within minutes!
Google My Business
When people search for your company name they will more than likely get presented with not just search results but a Google listing on the right-hand side of the page. To present your business in the best way it is recommended that you both claim and verify your local business’ Google My Business (GMB) listing. Don’t forget if your business can be found and you have not verified/claimed it, then others can suggest their own edits! Most of the sections within this tool are fairly self explanatory but one that I think that many people aren’t using is Google Posts. This is pretty neat in that it allows you to publish posts (about blog articles, products, services, events, announcements, etc) which is then displayed under your GMB listing.
Google URL Builder
Quite a few of the Google Products, such as Google analytics and Google search console, work very well with one another. One example of this is Google URL Builder and Google Analytics. Many digital marketers will use a wide range of digital marketing tools such as SEO, PPC, email marketing and social media amongst others. As an example, they may be using both Facebook organic and Facebook paid listings to drive traffic to the website landing page. Within Analytics itself it might be difficult to work out exactly which of these mediums are driving traffic into the website and that is where Google URL builder comes in. It allows you to indicate your landing page and then to add additional parameters to help you identify specifically which medium drove traffic into your website. I use this for many of my campaigns and, here’s a tip for you, I put the generated URL into Bit.ly to give me shortened URL, which I can attach to my digital campaigns for tracking.
Google Alerts is a fairly simple tool that works on the premise that you enter a search term and Google will alert you (through email or RSS) when that word is triggered by new results. These reesults can be found on the web, news, blogs, discussion and even on books. It can be pretty useful for research, competitor analysis, social media ideas and SEO.
Google Drive is a great tool for storing, creating and sharing files. Google gives you up to 15 GB free, thereafter you select a paid plan and you can store any file within Google Drive. For many people it is used as a secure place to back up files from desktop computers. I find it particularly useful for sharing Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents with people, especially if they have different computers or operating systems to myself (Apple). You can also create Google Forms for capturing information which can then be embedded into your website! One particularly interesting feature of Google sheets (Excel) is the ability to create add-ons, such as creating Google Analytics reports. For those who are Excel proficient this might be of great interest.
As you can see there are number of great free tools which Google offers to digital marketers (businesses). Used correctly they can be used to gain insight, competitive advantage, monitor issues, collaborate, track and much more.
About the author
Alun John runs Marketing Tom Media, an accredited Chartered Insitute of MA Marketing Study Cenre based in Cardiff. We offer CIM courses like CIM Digital Diploma in Professional Marketing and the CIM Certificate in Professional Marketing. We also run 1-day Social Media, Google Analytics and other digital courses.