Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Get design tips to boost the impact of your display ad

[Cross-posted from Inside AdWords]

While the right text and placement of your display ad are always crucial, you should also make sure that your ad is well designed. But how exactly can you ensure that your ad stands out on a web page, looks professional and is consistent with your overall brand message?

On Thursday, September 2nd, we’ll be holding a short one-off live course on effective display ad design. The session will give you a set of practical design tips including key insights on using color, font and images. The focus will be on the Display Ad Builder tool, although the tips are applicable to display design in general. The course is suitable for anyone interested in display advertising.

The course will be held on Thursday, September 2nd at: 3pm - 4pm BST / GMT+1 (London), 10am-11am EDT (New York), 7am-8am PDT (San Francisco).

Sign up here to attend.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Email overload? Try Priority Inbox.

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Information overload is a reality of the modern workplace. The average corporate worker sends and receives more than 150 messages per day1, an email deluge of varying importance: key project updates from colleagues, requests from higher-ups, appointment reminders, and automated mail that’s often much less important. With so much information to process, simply figuring out what needs to be be read and what needs a reply takes up a lot of time. Today, we’re excited to introduce Priority Inbox Beta in Gmail, an experimental new way of reducing information overload.

Priority Inbox is a new view of your inbox that automatically helps you focus on your most important messages. Gmail has always kept spam messages out of your inbox, and now we’ve improved Gmail’s filter to help you see the emails that matter faster without requiring you to set up complex rules.

Here’s how it works: Priority Inbox splits your inbox into three sections: “Important and unread,” “Starred,” and “Everything else”:

Messages are automatically categorized as they arrive in your inbox. Gmail uses a variety of signals to predict which messages are important, including the people you email most and which messages you open and reply to (these are likely more important than the ones you skip over). And as you use Gmail, it will get better. You can improve the ranking in Priority Inbox by clicking the buttons at the top of the inbox to mark conversations as important or not important.

As a result, your inbox is better organized, and you can spend your time addressing your most important emails right away. When we tested Priority Inbox at Google, we found that people spent 6% less time on email after enabling this feature. This translates to a week’s worth of time saved each year for information workers who typically spend 13 hours per week on email today!2

Luke Leonhard, Web Services Manager for Brady Corporation, says “Like many of our users, I get over a hundred messages each day. Priority Inbox saves me time by displaying emails in order of importance, letting me process them more efficiently than before. The time I save can then be spent on new projects that add value to Brady rather than managing my inbox.”

Over the next week, we’ll be rolling out Priority Inbox settings to users in organizations with the “Enable pre-release features” option selected in the Google Apps control panel.

Helping users manage lots of information has always been a core goal of Gmail, and we’re excited to see how Priority Inbox helps users in organizations mitigate information overload and get to important messages faster.

1. “Email Statistics Report, 2009-2013”, The Radicati Group, Inc, 2009

2. “Hidden Costs of Information Work in the Enterprise Exposed in New IDC Progress Report”, IDC, 2009

More advertiser control on YouTube

[Cross-posted from the YouTube Blog]

At YouTube, we’re constantly working to give advertisers control and flexibility over their YouTube campaigns. We place great value on this because ads are an extension of what a company represents as a business, and we want YouTube to be a place where that reputation and image can flourish.

To that end, we’ve been rolling out features to keep advertisers in control of their campaigns. We announced one such example last week, when we launched a feature that gives select advertisers the ability to voluntarily age-restrict their videos. But there’s more work to do.

To date, we’ve given advertisers the ability to pick and choose individual videos on YouTube to target using our Video Targeting Tool. But one of the most frequently requested features we’ve heard from advertisers is the ability to exclude individual videos and channels from the campaigns they run on our site. Today, we’re excited to announce video and channel exclusions, a way for advertisers to pick specific YouTube videos and channel URLs that they don’t want their ads to appear with.

Here’s an example: let’s say you run a vegan bakery. You want to strike a balance between good exposure for your baked goods online, while staying true to your company values in offering items free of animal or dairy-products. Now you can indicate which videos are not the best fit for your audience. Since your customers are probably not watching ‘Homewrecker Hot Dog’, you can provide this video exclusion under the "Networks" tab.

Similarly, you might run a keyword-targeted campaign on bakery-related keywords, and exclude whole channels that you don’t feel suit your audience. So if FoodNetworkTV has videos centered mostly around cooking meat dishes, you have the controls to prevent ads from showing on that channel.

Alternatively, if your ads are appearing on a video that has content you deem inappropriate for your audience, or perhaps isn’t performing in terms of click-through rate or conversions, you can optimize your campaign by using this new feature to exclude it.

Google has also been investing significantly in ensuring brand safety, transparency and control for advertisers across the Google Display Network. We’re hoping that these added layers of control will make your campaign targeting even more precise. Keep sending us your feedback so we can make future product improvements.

Baljeet Singh, Senior Product Manager recently watched “AH NOM NOM: Wholesome Bakery Best Vegan Bakery Food Cart In San Francisco

Friday, August 27, 2010

Going Google across the 50 States: Bowery Lane Bicycles in New York rides towards success with Google Apps

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

Two years ago, Patrick Benard and Sean Naughton completed their first handmade bicycle. Shortly after, they opened Bowery Lane Bicycles in Manhattan with a commitment to having a positive impact on the environment and the local community. Today, they continue to design bicycles for the urban cyclist, build them by hand in New York – in a local factory that uses solar panels to generate 30% of its power – and sell them from their showroom and at city cycling events. Even on the business side, the founders have taken a community approach, working only with local vendors and freelancers.

A year after Bowery Lane Bicycles opened, Michael Salvatore, chief officer of just about everything, was brought on board to help run the business. His first task was to get the company operating and communicating on a more professional level by banning personal email addresses for work and implementing Google Apps so everyone had @bowerylanebicycles.com email addresses. From experience at previous companies, Michael knew that email addresses were only the beginning and started using Google Apps to improve other business processes. He shares with us how this was done.

“We rely on freelancers and friends located throughout the city to get projects done, and Google Docs makes this possible. Our friends have day jobs so being able to access everything online and collaborate with us in real-time, from anywhere, is not only convenient, it’s essential.

Google Calendar also helps us quickly spread the word among our friends about upcoming cycling and charity events where we’ll need staffing help. We keep a master calendar of all events and send out invites directly from Google Calendar. On the sales end, our showroom is viewed by appointment only, so we use a shared calendar for all of our scheduling.

To track inventory, I use Google forms. When a sale is made the model number of the bicycle purchased and other relevant information is inputted into a form. All the details are then populated directly into my spreadsheet and I can keep track of which bikes are low in inventory and when I need to order more. It’s simple but efficient.

With most of our business software needs taken care of, we can focus on our main goal – manufacturing the best bikes we can. Yes, we’re a small start-up, but we realized early on that successful companies need to be able to communicate quickly and keep track of their business as they expand. We can do just that, thanks to Google Apps.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

YouTube Homepage: Promoted Videos advertisers can get it while it's hot

[Cross-posted from the YouTube blog]

For big advertisers on YouTube, the YouTube homepage is often seen as the holy grail. It's the highest-profile placement on YouTube, providing marketers with the ability to deliver a big impact and drive attention to content, trailers or advertising. To give you an idea of the scale we’re talking about, the homepage has been delivering nearly 45 million impressions per day and 18 million unique visitors a day in the U.S. — that's the equivalent to the ratings of several top-rated prime-time television shows combined. While impressions and unique visitors are never guaranteed, users who visit the homepage are actively looking for the next video to watch, so advertisers naturally want to be part of the action.

A little known fact is that a few days each quarter, we open up the YouTube homepage to Promoted Video advertisers. These companies end up getting a bit of extra exposure from their campaigns. There are a couple of ways to make sure your ads show up on the homepage, should the opportunity arise. First, log into your AdWords account, and under "Campaign Settings," consider the following:
  • In order for Promoted Videos ads to appear on YouTube browse pages, watch pages, and on the homepage, select "Display Network"
  • To appear *only* on YouTube placements, select "Relevant pages only on the placements I manage" and add youtube.com as a managed placement.
  • To appear *only* on the homepage, select "Relevant pages only on the placements I manage" and add youtube.com::pyv-top-right-homepage as a managed placement
  • Set a specific bid for the homepage and keep in mind that it is a more competitive placement
  • Please note: this feature is only available in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K., and The U.S.
Because the dates we run Promoted Videos on the YouTube homepage vary, we unfortunately don't have a set schedule to provide to our advertisers. However, we typically know about 48 hours in advance. If you have a managed account, you can ask your Google representative to let you know when these opportunities arise so that you can increase your bids to improve your chances of showing up.

Several advertisers – large and small – have found great success showing Promoted Videos on the homepage. One YouTube advertiser, Dynomighty Design, grew their entire business by using Promoted Videos and getting placements on the YouTube homepage. Founder Terrence Kelleman says: "YouTube helps us sell our product, learn about our audience and build a strong brand image. And as a small company with a limited advertising budget, YouTube has become our main advertising strategy. Not only are costs low with Promoted Videos, but healthy conversions also make YouTube our #1 referring site in terms of traffic and revenue." To read more about Dynomighty's story, check out their original YouTube video and their feature on the Official Google Blog.

The YouTube homepage has a captive, engaged audience and it's our goal to let advertisers understand how best to reach customers that would be interested in hearing from them. For more information about advertising on YouTube, visit youtube.com/advertising, and for more information on Promoted Videos, check out ads.youtube.com.

Mark Sabec, Product Marketing Manager, recently checked out YouTube Show & Tell, home of the best creative marketing examples on YouTube.

Guidance and Updated Policies for Writing Reviews

[Cross-posted from the LatLong blog. While this post about writing reviews may not be actionable for business owners like you, we wanted to share this information about the guidelines and policies we have in place to help ensure that reviews about your business that appear on your Place Page are useful and relevant. -Ed.]

Three years ago we launched reviews for places on Google so that you could share your opinion of any place in the world. Your reviews help other users find places that are right for them.

We encourage you to continue sharing your experiences and opinions -- both good and bad. At the same time, we want to ensure that the information posted in reviews is useful and relevant for everyone. So today, we’ve updated and clarified the guidelines and policies for writing reviews. These guidelines help to make sure that reviewers understand how to write thoughtful reviews, that readers will find them informative, and that the content of the reviews provide useful feedback for Google Places business owners. We’re also sharing more information about when and why some reviews may be removed from a Place page. Below is a quick summary of the updates. Be sure to review the updated policy for more details.

Tips for writing great reviews
There isn’t an exact formula to writing a great review. Reviews are best when they reflect the unique opinion and viewpoint of an individual. You can share as much or as little information as you’d like: you might choose to describe the intricate details of a restaurant’s decor, or simply recommend your favorite dish. In the updated policy, you’ll find several best practices to consider when reviewing a business. These tips can help you convey your personal opinions clearly and effectively.

Does Google remove reviews?
The short answer is yes. Reviews are intended as a way for people to share useful and relevant information. That encompasses a wide range of opinions, most of which are permitted by our policy. However, in instances in which a review is in violation of our policy, we will remove the review. It’s important to remember that negative reviews aren’t against our policy. We encourage you to share your honest opinions about a business. And if you’re a business owner, you can directly respond to reviews to share your side of the story.

The process for reporting a review that violates our policies hasn’t changed. You can still report a review using the Flag as inappropriate link found next to each review submitted through Google Maps. When a review is flagged, we'll check to determine if the review violates our guidelines and take action accordingly.

This policy update is our latest step in our ongoing effort to improve your experience with business reviews. We hope you continue to voice your experiences, thoughts and opinions of the places you visit!

Building your web presence with Google Sites and Google Places

Today, we’re launching a Getting Started Guide for Google Sites and Google Places to help local business owners who are looking to increase their presence on the web and on Google Maps. Creating a Google site for your business will allow potential customers to learn more about your products, hours, and location before they even set foot in your store. It should also help answer some of those frequently-asked-questions that you’d otherwise have to take over the phone.

With Google Sites, you can easily create a free website for your business. We have site templates that you can choose from, and, within a few minutes, you can create a new website. There are also some quick tips available on how to customize it with images of your business, a map of your location, or a menu.

This guide will also show you how to ensure that a listing about your business appears for free when potential customers search for you on Google.com or Google Maps. The listing, which you can quickly and easily create through Google Places, includes basic information like your business name, location, and phone number. You can also edit it at any time with additional details like coupons, customized messages and more to help your business stand out. To find out more about Google Places listings, please see this blog post on the official Google Blog.

We hope that you find this Getting Started Guide useful!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How to Run, Get Online, and Promote Your Business with Google Tools

When first starting a business, everything is new and different. So what are the first things you need to do to turn your vision into reality? This process can be a bit intimidating -- and unnecessarily resource-consuming -- without the right tools and guidance.

Through a complementary suite of services, Google aims to help small businesses like yours navigate this uncharted territory. So as your business goes through the three phases of getting up and running, getting online and getting in front of customers, think of our products as tools designed to help you on your journey to success!

Run Your Business with Google Apps
Google Apps helps small businesses get up and running with email, calendaring, instant messaging, document, spreadsheets and presentations, site creation and video. The applications are hosted by Google, so you can just turn them on and get to work quickly. With this cloud computing approach, you don't need to worry about installing, maintaining or upgrading software, and you always have access to the latest technology. You can also use any device: PC, Mac, Linux, Android or iPad, if it has a web browser and a connection to the Internet you can access your information from anywhere. This is particularly helpful for people who need to work from various locations, like their office, home and car.

The cost savings are compelling, especially when you're on a tight budget: cloud computing is about 1/10th of the cost of on-premises software. It's also more secure than storing data on laptops and USB keys that are easily lost or stolen. But the biggest advantage of Google Apps is hardest to quantify: increased productivity through easier collaboration. Employees often work in teams, with colleagues in various locations. Web applications make it possible for them to share documents and files without attachments or version control issues because everything's online and up to date. They can also collaborate together in real time, which makes work more efficient. For more information, check out this video series on getting started with Google Apps.

Get Online with Google Places
Google Places offers an easy way to establish and maintain an online presence even if you don’t have a website. It allows business owners to add a brand new listing to Google's local database, or to edit their existing listing that appears for free when potential customers search for them on Google.com or Google Maps.

By ensuring that basic information - like your business name, location, hours of operation and phone number - is up-to-date, customers can quickly and easily find you online. And with the option to provide additional details - such as photos, videos and coupons - business owners can stand out on the map to attract more customers. You can also edit and check your info at any time to discover how many people have seen and clicked on your free listing.

Promote Your Business with AdWords
AdWords is Google’s online advertising program that acts as a matchmaking service between businesses and customers. AdWords ads are displayed along with search results when someone searches Google using one of your keywords. That way, you'll be advertising to an audience that's already interested in your business.

No matter your budget, you'll only pay when people click your ads, and there's no minimum monthly charge with AdWords. Ad performance tracking reports are built right into your account, so you can tell what's working and what needs improving.

We look forward to providing additional tips and tricks for your small business on this blog, and hope these help to get you started. So what are you waiting for? Get your business going, establish your online presence and promote your business using any of our tools that you find helpful. Good luck!

Posted by Kat Eller, Small Business Blog Team

Monday, August 23, 2010

Going Google across the 50 States: Google Apps eliminates geographical challenges for New Jersey-based virtual assistant agency

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple of months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

This week we’ll hear from Sarah Leah Gootnick, founder of Secretary in Israel, based in New Jersey and Israel. Secretary in Israel and Virtual Assistant Israel match college-educated, American virtual assistants living in Israel with business owners from across the United States and abroad.

The idea for Secretary in Israel came about when an entrepreneurial friend of mine in San Francisco told me how overwhelmed he was with all the administrative work for his IT business. He struggled to find a talented assistant within his price range locally. I introduced him to my friend who had just moved from the US to Israel. Not long after, he called to tell me that she was the best assistant he had had in years, and he encouraged me to start a business to provide this same service to other entrepreneurs.

As a result of his encouragement, we started Secretary in Israel approximately 2.5 years ago. At the time, we were in an unusual situation: our virtual assistants, all of whom are American college graduates, were living in Israel, and our client base of successful entrepreneurs were spread throughout the United States and abroad (including the UK, Australia, and Thailand). With our team located thousands of miles from our clients, we were, as you might say, “geographically challenged”.

However, with the help of Google Apps, geographical distance became irrelevant. Our virtual assistants all use Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar, which enable us to work with our clients and seamlessly integrate into their businesses as if we were sitting in the rooms next to them.

One particular benefit that our virtual assistants and clients love is the ability to edit docs and spreadsheets simultaneously. Gone are the days of worry about who has the right version of a document and whether the hours of changes you’ve just made were put into the right version or not. With Apps, the document or spreadsheet is always current, and our team and clients can rest assured that important edits were entered in the right version.

Google Apps also allows our virtual assistants to work so seamlessly with their clients and their clients’ business associates that most people don’t realize our assistants aren’t in the same office. One of our clients told us that when people finally do meet him at his office, they often ask, “Where’s Hilary? She was so lovely on the phone. I’d like to meet her!” It’s at that point that he says with a smile, “Oh. She’s not here at the moment. She’s in Israel!”

Because of the collaborative focus of Google Apps, we’re able to run a business that provides a great service to successful entrepreneurs in the United States and abroad as well as career opportunities for professional, Americans in Israel.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Bankrupt Newspapers Leave Employee Unions and Government Corporation Holding the Pension Bills

It has not been a good month for newspaper unions at bankrupt newspaper companies or the government corporation that insures pension funds. As part of their reorganizations, a number of bankrupt newspaper firms are not paying money owed union pensions or are quietly letting the guaranty pick up the tab for retiree costs.

  • Unions of Philadelphia Newspapers LLC (The Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News) were forced to accept 12 cents on the dollar for the $12 million the bankrupt company owned to employee pension plans as part the reorganization plan.
  • The Chicago Sun-Times off-loaded $49.1 million of its underfunded pension obligations for 2300 retirees and employees to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. The paper and it suburban subsidiaries were purchased out of bankruptcy without the new owners assuming the pension obligations.
  • The Dayton News Journal dumped $15.4 million in underfunded pensions payments on the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. , which will ensure 1,100 current and former employees receive benefits owed to them. The newspaper and its assets were purchased out of bankruptcy by Halifax Media, but it did not take on the pension liability.

The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. is a federal corporation designed to protect pensions when company-run pension funds collapse or cannot pay agree benefits.

These types of problems occur when money due for benefits is not paid into pension funds or money is removed from company-run funds by the company. When this occurs companies use the money for other purposes: increasing liquidity, paying bills, giving executive bonuses, etc. However, this creates problems if the company ceases operating or if liabilities of underfunded pension obligations weigh too heavily on the balance sheet.

Existing laws allows employers to take money from company-run funds if they are overfunded, but do not require them to immediately fully fund them when they are underfunded. Overfunding and underfunding, however, are normal conditions caused by fluctuations in stock and bond markets in which pension funds are invested. Because overfunding and underfunding tend to even out over time, companies using the funds like a bank can create problems. Even when pension funds are not run by companies, delays in paying obligations create problems if the company closes or goes into receivership.

Newspapers across the U.S. have carried large stories about pension payment problems at other bankrupt companies, but coverage of the problems at their newspaper colleagues have drawn scant attention.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Going Google across the 50 States: Google Apps “just works” for Massachusetts -based marketing firm

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

In Massachusetts, we find Sean Leach, Systems Architect for EPS Communications — a strategic marketing firm near Boston. With experienced staff, EPS marries multiple disciplines to offer client services including direct response media, interactive development, design, and custom content and publishing. EPS is so excited to have gone Google that Sean created the picture below showing each of his co-workers, and shared the story of why the company switched.

“In late 2007 we made the switch from a traditional email POP server and a ‘whatever you can find’ calendar and docs solution to Google Apps. We haven't looked back since.

Within Google Apps, we mainly use Gmail, Calendar, and Docs. Because of the tight integration between the three services, as well as the ‘it just works’ nature of the products, we've definitely had a marked increase in productivity and user happiness. No more POP server being down, no more having to try and track down an email or document. It's all there in the cloud, all the time, and easy to find because of Google search.

Our other favorite part of Google Apps is that everything is accessible from any computer or mobile phone with a web browser, no matter where our jobs take us. Our employees can be just as productive outside the office as they can inside it. That is a big deal for a small company. It allows us to be both flexible and productive. It's something we truly can't live without.

If you haven't tried Google Apps, you really owe it to yourself (and your company) to give it a shot. It's wonderful.”

Thursday, August 19, 2010

New features in Google Docs and Google Sites

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Google’s multi-tenant infrastructure allows us to launch new features to our customers seamlessly, and with over 50 launches in first half of this year alone, the pace of innovation in Google Apps continues to accelerate.

Today we keep up the innovation with several new updates in Google Sites and Google Docs. We’ve improved Google Sites with several highly-requested features including horizontal navigation, global footers, and a new section for deleted items.

Horizontal navigation enables site owners to easily add links across the top of their sites.

Site owners can also add a global footer that displays across all pages on a site, and we added a new section for deleted items in sites, making it easier to get to deleted pages and attachments.

We’ve also added quick links to open Google Docs that are embedded in a site, making it easier for collaborators to open embedded documents.

For more information, on these new features in Google Sites, check out the Google Docs blog.

In addition to these updates to Google Sites, this week we also launched several improvements in Google Docs:
  • Typing links just got a little faster in Google documents. Now when you type something that we recognize as a web address, it will automatically become a link.
  • We’ve also added a few more page sizes for your documents. So if you’ve been craving an Executive sized page (7.25” x 10.5”), you’re in luck. For more information on autolinks and page sizes, head to the Google Docs blog.
  • Correct spelling is an essential part of document creation, and to that end we’ve added spellcheck to Google spreadsheets. For more information on spelling checker in spreadsheets, visit the Google Docs blog.

As with all updates on Google Apps, users can get new features just by refreshing their browsers, and improvements roll out to customers with no need for administrators to manage patches or install software.

Stay tuned for more updates to Google Docs and Google Sites.

Introducing the AdWords Small Business Corner, a new forum discussion category for SMBs

[Cross-posted from the Inside AdWords blog]

We’ve heard from many of you that you’d like to be able to easily share tips for developing a successful AdWords strategy with others like you. To help you do that, we’ve created a new category in the AdWords Help Forum: the Small Business Corner. The Small Business Corner is designed to give those of you who are running your own AdWords accounts the opportunity to share best practices in discussions with your peers so that you can make sure your AdWords account is doing all it can to support your business goals.

This new category is not about troubleshooting specific account issues, but rather about sharing and learning from the experiences of others. To give you a preview of the kinds of topics that we hope to discuss, here are a few conversation starters that we had in mind:
  • Choosing the right tools to measure results
  • How to write great ads
  • Finding the right frequency to sign in to AdWords
Of course, this category is about your interests and needs, so we hope you’ll suggest the small business-related topics that you’d like to cover. For any other topics, please consider the other existing forum categories available to you.

Getting started
To join the conversation now, just visit the Small Business Corner. If you’re new to the AdWords Help Forum, you may want to create a Google Profile (while signed in to your AdWords account), introducing yourself and your business before jumping in. In the meantime, you can check out the introductory discussion thread here.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Going Google across the 50 States: Oregon-based ice cream company goes Google, blissfully

[Cross-posted from the Google Enterprise Blog]

Editor’s note: Over the past couple months, thousands of businesses have added their Gone Google story to our community map and even more have used the Go Google cloud calculator to test drive life in the cloud. To highlight some of these companies’ Gone Google stories, we decided to talk to Google Apps customers across the United States. Check back each week to see which state we visit next. To learn more about other organizations that have gone Google and share your story, visit our community map.

This week we’re traveling to Eugene, Oregon to hear from Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss. Luna and Larry Kaplowitz began making Coconut Bliss non-dairy, organic ice cream to provide a healthier alternative to typical ice cream loaded with processed sugar and saturated fat. Coconut Bliss is a local favorite in Oregon and the word is spreading as many more find their “bliss.” Kiley Gwyn, Online Community Manager at Coconut Bliss, tells us about going Google.

“Going Google was an easy choice for us to make at Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss. We're a small company with no IT person on staff, and we were looking for an easy solution to email, shared calendars, an internal wiki, and document sharing. As we are a growing business with employees often on the road it was important to us that we have secure, easy access to everything no matter where we might be. I was already a Gmail convert and knew that the suite of Google Apps would be perfect for our needs.

Google Apps has allowed us to expand our productivity and creativity in ways I couldn't have imagined when we first signed up. Sometimes it’s just the simple things that are better with Google Apps. For example, when I was sick at home recently, I didn’t have to cancel a critical marketing meeting. We just turned on the video chat and pointed the camera at the white board so I could work with my team without sharing my cold. Google Apps helps keep us connected and makes working together simple.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Collect audience input with Google Sites & Moderator

[Cross-posted from the Google Docs Blog]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

App Tuesday: nine new apps introduced to the Google Apps Marketplace

It’s App Tuesday again, which means we’re excited to launch nine new apps in the Google Apps Marketplace. Like the other 150+ installable apps in the Marketplace, these apps help solve some of the toughest challenges that many businesses face today. While all apps are accessible from a user’s universal navigation bar, some of these apps integrate even further with Gmail, Calendar, Docs and more.

This new batch of apps helps users seamlessly and easily tackle all kinds of issues—from time management with RescueTime to procurement with Ketera.

Check out our post on the Enterprise Blog for more information on these apps as well as the other seven launching today, or go right to the Marketplace.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Google and SBA Launch “Tools for Online Success” Small Business Partnership

Google and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) recently announced an exciting new partnership aimed at providing resources and tools that can help small businesses learn how to succeed online. “Tools for Online Success” is a website featuring videos and tutorials from small business owners who have used the Internet to grow their businesses, and advice from Google’s experts.

You can visit www.google.com/help/sba for the full rundown and tutorials, but here are a few easy tips that all small business owners should be employing:

Establish an online presence: As more and more people get online to find information and local searches grow, an online presence is increasingly important for a small business. Whether it’s creating a website or starting a Twitter feed, there are many steps that you can take to enhance your visibility online. For example, Google Places allows you to claim your listing and input specific information about your business. This means that when people look on the Internet to learn more about your business, you are able to build and control the profile they’ll view.

Utilize free marketing tools to reach your consumer base: Services like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube allow you to communicate with customers and grow your fan base. These tools are great “word-of-mouth” platforms where your customers can tell their friends about your products. Keep customers in-the-loop about new promotions or specials, or exciting events.

Know your customers: Easy-to-use web analytics tools, such as Google Analytics, can help you better understand how your content is being received by customers. You can analyze what search term brought visitors to your webpage and what content they look at while they are there. This information will help you make more intelligent decisions about what products to feature and what terms your might want to run on to trigger your search engine advertisements.

Stay aware of the latest trends: The recent growing popularity of smart phones has meant that more and more customers search for information on the go. This makes it crucial for your business information to be up-to-date and online. To cater to consumers with smart phones, you can provide driving directions, post digital coupons or link to your menu.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Google goes to Boise

For years, we’ve focused on building tools like Google Places and Google AdWords that help small businesses grow and succeed online. The tools we build are often free or flexible for any budget, and are already being used by small businesses all around the world. However, we still hear, “Wow, I didn’t know you could do that!” from many small businesses we talk to. That’s why last week, a team from Google headed to Boise, Idaho.

Why Boise? Boise happens to be one of the fastest growing small business communities in the U.S. according to Forbes, CNN and bizjournals, but we also recently learned that Google played a role in helping make this happen. In 2009, we estimate that our online advertising tools generated over $72M in revenue for Idaho businesses.

During our two-day visit to Boise we met with more than 40 small business owners including Dakota Routh, who, in less than one year, opened three Body Renew gyms with the help of Google Places and Google AdWords. According to Dakota, he makes $3 in sales for every $1 he spends on Google AdWords.

Dakota Routh of Body Renew shows a few Googlers his Meridian, Idaho gym

We also partnered with the Idaho Small Business Development Center to offer free 60-minute seminars to more than 300 local small businesses interested in learning about online marketing tools and strategies.

AdWords Evangelist Fred Vallaeys speaking to small business owners at Boise State University

We hope to visit more towns across the U.S. later this year. If you’re a small business owner and are interested in having us visit you in your city, please let us know. For more information on how you can use Google Places or Google AdWords for your small business, checkout the Hire Google website.

Introducing the Google Small Business Blog

Most every business, including ours, starts small. These days, technology is giving businesses even more ways to grow bigger... faster.

In our recent Small Business series on the Official Google Blog, a handful of real-life entrepreneurs have shared their experiences building companies from scratch and embracing Internet tools that have taken their businesses to the next level. We’ve received fantastic feedback about these posts, and realized that there’s a healthy appetite among small- and medium-sized business owners who want to know all about the latest web tools and tricks. Fortunately, we have lots more to share with you, too!

That’s why we’re introducing the Google Small Business Blog, a central hub that brings together all the information about our products, features and projects of specific interest to the small business community. Rather than having to sleuth around in many different locations for details about templates for creating video ads on YouTube, tips for your employees using Gmail or how to respond to the business reviews on your Place Page, you can find all of this helpful information right here in one place.

Of course, we’ll continue to post relevant news about individual services such as AdWords, Apps, Google Places and YouTube on their respective “home” blogs, but feel free to visit or subscribe to this Google Small Business Blog to get everything relating to your small business needs. We’re starting small today, but who knows what tomorrow will have in store!