Webmaster Academy: How Search Works

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Many of the questions we get from webmasters boil down to “How does Google work?” What most webmasters are really asking is, how do I get my site to appear in search results? The first step of this answer is that your site needs to be discovered and comprehended by search engines, and understanding the fundamentals of how search works will help with this.

Google has lots of computers that continually visit and analyze web pages it knows about. These computers are collectively known as Googlebot. We give Googlebot an initial set of sites, then send it out to visit those sites. It scans the content, and then follows links to other sites or pages that it finds. It then repeats the process on each page it lands on, and continues to spider out, hence the term "spidering" or "crawling" many use to refer to a search engine's discovery process.

When Googlebot visits a webpage, it downloads and stores a copy (called a “cached” page) to our index. It analyzes each page, noting the words and any other relevant content. Googlebot understands some types of content, like text, better than others, like images or Flash (you can find some ways to make these better understood in Webmaster Academy). In order to perform well when customers search for you, it’s important that Googlebot can access and understand the content of your website.

Each time someone searches on Google, our ranking algorithms draw up a list of relevant webpages from the index of information that Googlebot has saved while “crawling” the web. This list is given back as the Google Search results page. To see if your website is included in Google’s index, you can use the site search operator, restricting search results to your site’s domain. For example a search for [site:youtube.com] would only show results from the website youtube.com.

For a more visual look at Google Search, check out the How Search Works video below:

If you’re interested, there’s a lot more to learn that’ll help you build your online presence at the Webmaster Academy. In our next post, we’ll explain best practices for brick and mortar business owners.

Posted by Garen Checkly, Search Quality Team

Do you do a lot of traveling? Whether you biking for amusement or for business this commodity may be able to account you greatly. There are some things you should accumulate up on if you are an ardent traveler. One of the things, which can admonition you accumulate up to date on a lot of information, is a business traveler's guide. In this commodity we will acquaint you what the business travelers adviser is and why you should never leave home after it.

A business travelers adviser will accumulate you abreast on airlines and what is traveling on with them. This way you are consistently acquainted of what is traveling on in your bounded airports and destination airports you are traveling to. It will acquaint you which airline is blurred or adopting their prices.

It will aswell accord you traveler's tips. It may accord you some things you should do and those that you should not. It may action you accessible admonition on what to do or not to do if traveling to assertive cities. These action abundant admonition and let you apperceive what is traveling on at your next destination.

There may be a biking blog. It can be on altered capacity like biking assurance for example. It may accord you some tips on befitting safe during your biking experience. You can never accept abundant tips on safety. There may be something there, which you never anticipation of.

With the travelers adviser you will aswell be able to calmly acquisition capacity you wish to browse. It can be airlines, airports and/or car rentals. It can acquaint you about flights out of altered airports. It may accord you admonition about car rentals. So you can acquisition the best abode to hire a car. There are consistently accessible and adorning capacity to accept from.

There may be altered online writing to apprehend on altered capacity apropos traveling. These can be on a advanced arrangement of topics. For archetype there could be one on 'How to save allowance if packing'. Or 'Green Biking Tips'.

There can be videos for you to watch also. One video archetype ability be, 'How to abstain Jet Lag'. Another one they could accept would be, 'Tips for traveling with a laptop'.

There are abounding sites, which you can go too and apprehend a traveler's business guide. If you blazon it in several options will appear up. Places like biz-Journals and WHY Go business campaign can calmly be found. There is aswell a business traveler's adviser in places like the newspaper. The New York Times has one and a lot of added affidavit do as well.

If you are an ardent business adventurer or even one who campaign for pleasure, the business traveler's adviser will be an advantage for you. It will accumulate you abreast about a lot of your traveling needs. It will aswell admonition you acquisition some abundant traveling deals. It can acquaint you how to acquire credibility while flying. Acquaint you about the best hotels in the city-limits you are traveling too. The possibilities assume to be endless.

If you accept never arrested out these business guides, I would admonish you to do so afore you yield your next trip.

Helping people discover and share local businesses with Google+

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
When a business owner's hard work and passion are celebrated and shared by customers, a humble space can become more than just bricks and mortar, but a favorite spot, a local landmark, or a meaningful memory.

With the release of Google+ Local, rolling out today, we are bringing the community of Google+ to local business owners around the world. We aim to improve the way people discover new businesses, rediscover places they love, and share them with their friends across the web.

Simple experience for your customers
The first thing you’ll notice is the new layout and design for the listing for your business. All your basic business information is still available. And by streamlining the layout and putting more focus on photos and reviews, we hope to help you highlight what makes your business truly unique.

                   

Helping people find, rate and share your business
With these updates, we’re connecting the millions of people on Google+ to local businesses around the world. With one listing, your business can now be found across Google search, maps, mobile and Google+, and your customers can easily recommend your business to their friends, or tell the world about it with a review.

Integrated Zagat reviews
For years, Zagat has provided trustworthy, concise, user-generated reviews, and we are excited to bring these to Google+ Local. We’ve also updated our scoring system to Zagat’s time-tested 30-point scale, so that users can better share their view about what makes a place unique.

Continue to manage through Google Places for Business
If you are a business owner, you should continue to manage your information in Google Places for Business. You’ll still be able to verify your basic listing data, make updates, and respond to reviews. For those who use AdWords Express, your ads will operate as normal as they’ll automatically redirect people to the destination you selected, or your current listing.

More changes coming soon for business owners
We know many of you have already created a Google+ Page for your business, and have been hosting hangouts and sharing photos, videos and posts. We’re excited that we’ll soon extend these social experiences to more local Google+ pages in the weeks and months ahead. To give you a sense of what’s coming, we've worked with a few business owners to fully upgrade their listings early and share their Google+ business identity across Search, Maps and Mobile.


If you don’t yet have a Google+ Page for your business, we encourage you to create one now. And if you do already have one, hold tight for news on how to get it linked to your local listing. Follow our blog, or our Google+ page, for additional updates.

Posted by Jen Fitzpatrick, VP Engineering

Helping you grow your business, one post at a time

Tuesday, May 29, 2012
The Google Small Business blog has been around for a couple years now. Some things have changed since we first started, but the idea has always been to introduce business owners to Google tools and tips that help them grow their businesses and run them more effectively.

But we got to thinking - the name “Google Small Business Blog” doesn’t really capture what we’re trying to achieve anymore. OK, the words “Google” and “business” were pretty good, but these days no one is really small anymore. Our blog is really about bringing you the stories, best practices and updates that can help you make the web work for your business, and we wanted to emphasize that.

With that in mind we’d like to introduce the new Google and Your Business blog, here at googleandyourbusiness.blogspot.com. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date about new tools, product news and general tips to help you grow your business.

Posted by Vicky Tait, Google and Your Business Blog Team

Help Desk Hangout: Learn about Google Earth Pro

Friday, May 25, 2012

Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, Google Earth experts +Dan Cohen and +Alex Kain taught us how your business can use Earth Pro to help you visualize your company’s data. Missed it? You can watch the full hour-long Hangout on the Google Business YouTube channel (look for the minute-by-minute breakdown in the description so you can easily skip around):


Here are a few of the questions you asked us to answer during the Hangout:

What is Google Earth?
Google Earth’s client software that's used primarily as a visualization tool. You may have even used it once or twice to swoop in to the globe and check out your house! And Earth Pro is a professional product with a few additional features you can use, which we dive deeper into during the Hangout.

What are some features of Earth Pro that can help my business?

A ton! Let’s break this down into the highlights:

  • Advanced measuring tools: Quickly and easily measure and stylize complex polygons. Property developers and building designers can quickly estimate the area and perimeter of a property. Afterward, they can quickly stylize the polygon so it’s easily seen on their map.
  • Save premium imagery: Save premium images of the maps you create in Earth Pro for inclusion in your business materials. Save a premium image of all your customer locations to share with your investors.
  • Bulk data import: Import and stylize CSV files (with address or lat/long data), GIS shapefiles, or GPS data to include in the maps you create. Real estate agents quickly upload and locate all the properties in their portfolios by importing CSV files containing the addresses of their properties.
  • U.S. premium data layers: Take advantage of the robust U.S. Demographic, Parcel and Traffic Count data layers that are a part of the Earth Pro package. Architects fly to the location of their next project, use the parcel data layer to find the parcel number, and use the parcel number to find the zoning restrictions for the property they’ll be working on.
  • Movie Maker: Quickly and easily create high-definition movies. Nature touring companies create high-definition videos using Earth Pro that take you along the path of their tours.

Do I have to commit to buying Earth Pro upfront? 
Nope — just sign up for a free seven-day trial to see how you like it.

To learn more about how to get started with Google Earth Pro, check out our overview site (FAQs, customer stories, and more!). And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout at 11 a.m. PT Wednesday May 30 when we teach you more about AdWords.

Posted by Vanessa Schneider, Google Places community manager

Tips For Opening a Children’s Boutique

Thursday, May 24, 2012
Some people are obsessed with fashion and open up their own clothing boutiques. But some people are expressly interested in children’s clothing. Kids’ clothes can be so cute and boutique clothing is becoming increasingly popular with young parents. They see their child as a reflection of themselves. In today’s world of clothing and identity going hand in hand, parents are looking to make sure that their children are as stylish as they are. Children’s clothes sell all year long. Seasonal spikes are bound to happen, but kids are always outgrowing clothes. They have weddings to go to, birthday parties, they need church clothes, and school clothes. There are so many opportunities to sell to the same customer over and over. Plus, a lot of your advertising should be done for you. Parents talk, create networks, and support groups. They are eager to let each other know about special deals, the latest in baby gear, and that cute little boutique where Abby got that adorable watermelon dress. Parents are more likely to go out of their way to buy clothing for their kids than they are for themselves. Parents love to make their kids stand out in the crowd so that they can brag and hear all the “ooohs” and “ahhhs” going around the room. When you decide to open a children’s boutique, make sure that you keep all of these things in mind. A parent buying a dress for a little girl looks for a lot of things. The style has to be cute, unique, well-made, and they may want to personalize. Having an embroidery service to work with can bring in lots of extra cash. You can offer special items that are meant for monogramming. Some parents may be interested in airbrushing or having their child’s name painted or screen printed on certain things. Make sure that you establish good working relationships with the companies that you will use if you offer these services. Set up the store to show parents that you have the unique items that they are after. One good move is to have your baby clothes facing out towards the customer. Don’t cram them and hide their details by using all round garment racks in your boutique. Use a flat retail display, like slatwall, so that people can easily browse your products. You can use slatwall panels to create free-standing displays as well. This is helpful in a boutique because you can change the shape and size very easily. Slatwall accessories are easy to manipulate to create that special slatwall display that is sure to help you make a name for yourself. Last but not least, be considerate of parents’ needs. Leave enough room between your displays so that parents can fit strollers through. Provide a lot of seating throughout for women that are pregnant. Strategically place activity tables for children near displays that you want parents to stop and look at. Clearly label restrooms or areas where mothers can nurse. These few things will keep parents very happy about shopping at your children’s boutique.

Are Non-Profits Prepared For Strategic Planning?

I wish I could count the number of times I have attended a non-profit strategic planning session, or discussed the need to have (or update) one in a board meeting, or been invited to serve as the facilitator. It has always - always - struck me that the strategic planning session should just be starting about the time that it is actually ending (e.g., too much time is wasted at the beginning and then a frenzy results at the end). The purpose of this article is to outline some observations over 30 years of strategic planning experience and to share suggestions that will improve the chances for a successful outcome. Holding a Strategic Planning Session At some point in time, every member of a non-profit board is going to hear the suggestion: "let's hold a strategic planning session!" from a fellow board member or staff member. It's not a bad idea but, unfortunately, it's often a waste of time and produces no measurable outcomes. I want to share some observations and thoughts about strategic planning - invite debate - and see if we can come up with some guidelines that make the investment of time worthwhile. I have often said that strategic planning is a 'process' and not an 'event' - and I still very much believe that statement is true. However, maybe I should also add the caveat that a successful 'process' does indeed require an 'event' - or series of events - which is precisely the point. If you agree with my belief that the event often ends about the time it should be starting, then you would have to agree that additional follow-up after the event is required in order to create a meaningful strategic plan because the plan stopped short of completion during the original event. And a lot of time was used inefficiently, which also makes people reluctant to participate in the future. A Working Document Without a doubt, the primary way that I judge a successful strategic plan is by seeing a copy of it a year after the 'event.' If it's a bit too dusty (which is often said in jest, but is true!) and if the pages are in pristine condition, then the event that created the plan was obviously not successful in motivating action. However, if the copy is dog-eared, marked up, added to, pages tagged, and otherwise well-used; then the event was super successful because a 'process' was indeed born and the need for ongoing action was instilled. In my opinion, successful outcomes are too rare in the strategic planning 'implementation' phase. The copy of the strategic plan that I described as a success is one that has become a working document, which is what planning is all about. Defining 'Strategic' From an analytical standpoint, one way to define something is to determine what it is not. Strategy is different from 'tactical' or 'operational' (which is actually performing a task). Strategy is more subjective and cerebral; it involves thinking about an issue in broader terms than usual; thinking about circumstances that do not currently exist (i.e., future oriented) and determining how to adapt the organization to benefit from those predicted opportunities or avoid anticipated threats. Often, it involves thinking about an issue totally differently than ever before (which is VERY hard to do). Strategy development is not the same as operations implementation. For example, when I have been invited to 'do' strategic planning for an organization, I always ask if there is an Operating Plan; i.e., if you don't know how to perform your core business every day (Operating Plan), why would you want to spend time working on a future-oriented process (Strategic Plan)? Strategy (highly subjective) is the opposite of operational (highly objective/defined/specific). Objective is 'cut and dried' - there is a procedure/process/outcome that arises from certain actions, done at certain times, in a certain way to produce known/certain outcomes. We already know if we do these certain things what we will get. Most people can adequately perform what they are taught/instructed. However, developing strategy - even the process of thinking about it - is very different. A strategic planning session led by a 'doer' instead of a 'strategist' and 'critical thinker' will yield disappointing results; however, 'doers' can be very helpful in participating in the development of strategy if they are properly guided. A couple of very simple examples of strategic vs. operational issues will make the point: Funding Operational - How are we going to make payroll next month? Strategic - How do we need to adapt our operations to comply/excel with the recent changes for non-profits by Congress? New Program Operational - We need to add a new program to our existing series. Strategic - We need to add a new series to cover new topics that will take our organization in a new direction. Operating Plans Are Important Let me be quick to tout the benefits of an Operating Plan. Properly executed, an Operating Planning Session can provide or refine specific guidance/clarification/policy on any number of day-to-day issues that really can be a big help when running the organization. The primary difference between strategic and operating (which is a huge difference) is that operating plans deal with the 'here and now' - with processes and policies that will improve the current business function - strategic plans, simply put, engage the participants in thought processes meant to challenge the current business function by looking into the future and assessing opportunities, threats, weaknesses, and strengths. A good Operating Plan can minimize daily confusion/questions about the manner in which specific job functions should be conducted. The 'event' of operations planning - getting the appropriate team together to discuss, debate, and decide the issues - is, in-of-itself, a very worthwhile team-building and clarifying session (if properly planned and executed). While Operating Plans are beyond the scope of this article, I wanted to make sure they were mentioned in a positive context. The Mission Statement and The SWOT Analysis Unfortunately, most strategic planning sessions seem to begin with either a review of the mission statement or a SWOT analysis. Both are usually 'deal-busters' in that they bog down the process of innovative thinking for strategic planning. For example, unless the core business of the organization has been totally disrupted (e.g., by lack of funding or policy, political, social, or technology changes), then the existing mission statement should be in reasonably good condition. To delve into the mission statement - and debate specific words and placement within the text - sucks the life out of the planning session and can often pit individuals against each other right from the start over silly things like wordsmithing. Not only is this unfortunate, but I would suggest that it is totally unnecessary. How can you revise a mission statement until you go through the rigors of the strategic planning process and determine whether or not there are bona-fide strategic issues worth pursuing? My preference is to hold the mission statement for a separate planning meeting after the strategic plan has at least been through an initial rough draft process. Perhaps a good analogy is to look at the mission statement from the back end - maybe it should be thought of as more of an executive summary? Preparation For The Planning Session Is Critical There is probably no exercise that requires more preparation than strategic planning. Why? Because the participants must be the right ones (those with authority and accountability), the purpose of the exercise must be made very clear (to stay 'on point' and eliminate confusion and fear), and the process must be known and engaging in advance (so participants can be prepared to contribute their very best). The most obvious difference between a private-sector strategic planning session and one for a non-profit organization is the inclusion of volunteers, namely the board of directors. The good news is that the planning session will include a diversity of opinion; the bad news is that most board members have probably been through some type of strategic planning before and have preconceived notions about the process based on their previous experiences (hence, the importance of preparing for the session in advance). I will discuss the dynamics of the volunteer participants in a later section. I strongly recommend using an experienced professional outside facilitator (not a staff member, a board member, or a friend of a friend...) for at least three reasons: (1) It is important to have 100% involvement of the entire board and staff members, so using participants to lead sessions or write on flip charts takes them out of the game. (2) The selected facilitator must fully understand the main points presented in this article and have familiarity with applying them in actual planning sessions. (I will discuss some thoughts on selecting a facilitator in a later section.) (3) You cannot be a prophet in your own land - your fellow board members and/or staff will resent you for being the strategic planning leader (even if you are experienced). Obtaining outside help eliminates this problem. If possible, share copies of previous strategic plans (with the participants and the facilitator) as part of the preparation process that takes place well in advance of the event. Successful planning takes more time in preparation than it does in execution; this is a good rule of thumb to remember. If very little (or no) planning goes into the preparation, the participants will show up without direction and without having pondered creative solutions to some known issues to get their juices flowing; the event will likely be a disaster (and a waste of a lot of precious time). Conducting The Advanced Preparation Plenty of lead time is important; six months is not too long. Start by regularly discussing the need/desire of a strategic planning session at board and staff meetings. A letter to the board from the chair is a good way to officially announce that a strategic planning session is necessary. That letter should include a few examples of issues that are pressing the organization for strategic solutions. The board may wish to name a committee responsible for the planning (or, the board may already have a Strategic Planning Committee). Remembering that the plan is intended to be forward looking, it is important to involve up-and-coming board and staff members; their participation will be critical to the future implementation of the plan, so it is imperative they be involved in the development of it. Newer participants are often more reluctant to engage during the planning session because they conclude, perhaps rightly so, that there is a lot of history that they do not know. Remembering that strategic planning is forward looking, the facilitator must work hard to bring everybody into the dialogue because past history is less important than future strategy. Let's cover a few aspects of the advanced preparation checklist: Participation Remember that inviting the participants is easier than getting them to attend the session! This is one of the best reasons for beginning the discussions about the planning session six months in advance. My suggestion (this is a bit radical) is that it be made clear that if a participant cannot arrive on time and stay for the entire event, then they should not attend. This rule will make clear the importance of full participation. Reiterating this for several months prior to the session will make it less likely to have a misunderstanding on the day of the event. (If the organization is extremely proactive, then it already has a policy on board attendance and what is considered an excused absence.) The Venue How important is the selection of the place to hold the planning session? I would argue that it is more important than most people think (i.e., it is very important). I would strongly suggest that the venue be away from the normal meeting places. In addition, distractions like golf courses should be avoided; and, selecting a location where there is no cell phone reception takes care of a whole host of problems. Included in the selection of the venue are a number of other seemingly mundane issues, but planning in advance can make the difference between success and failure. A few examples: Make sure the primary meeting room is extraordinary. It must be comfortable in every way, from the chairs to the location of the restrooms. If possible, select a meeting room with full technology tools; you want the session to be impressive. Do not expect the attendees to bunk together. Secure enough rooms in advance to accommodate all of those who plan to attend. Private bathrooms are a must. Food selections should be made in advance, particularly taking into account vegetarian preferences. Avoid caffeine and sugar as much as possible because studies have found that while both spike attention, there is ultimately an attention crash. Decisions about alcohol, smoking, group recreation activities, etc. should all be made in advance. To keep things simple, I suggest avoiding all of the above. Regular breaks - where some exercise is suggested and some quiet/alone time is provided - will increase the productivity of the output in the sessions. Make sure there is a printed agenda - distributed well in advance of the session - and spell out all events to the minute. Do not deviate from the schedule. Length of the Planning Session Determining the proper length of the session is important. I continue to believe that planning sessions end about the time they should be starting/continuing. Why? Because without a lot of advanced planning and attention to detail, the event begins sluggishly and does not naturally find a participative course until too late. However, I have never been to a multi-day 'seminar' that I thought was worth my time because I do not play golf and am not looking at seminars or planning sessions for my recreation and social outings. I feel strongly that the importance of the planning session should be kept paramount in the minds of the participants. There is no reason to draw things out just for the sake of having a lengthy planning session. How short is too short? A strategic planning session cannot be successfully held in one morning. How long is too long? Anything longer than a couple of days will cause a negative impact on the operations of the organization, given that the entire leadership team is at the strategic planning event. However, the best session I ever attended lasted the better part of three days. And, it was a Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (intentionally selected so as not to interfere with normal operations). Planning Session Case Study An appropriately sized inn was selected - in a rural area and about 90 minutes out of town - and the organization rented the entire facility. It was extremely well planned, in advance, and all contingencies were considered (private rooms, meals, walking trails, multiple meeting rooms, no cell service, personal time built into the agenda, etc.) Written materials had been distributed weeks in advance. The facilitating team (outside consultants) had met individually with each participant prior to the event; the five-person consulting team arrived Friday morning to set up. There were 24 participants (ranging from the CEO to new managers), who arrived after lunch on Friday, checked into their rooms, and were in place for the afternoon (opening) session at 3 p.m. on Friday. Another session was conducted after dinner on Friday evening and multiple sessions were conducted on Saturday. The event concluded at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Of special note is that every participant left the session with a copy of the draft strategic plan that commemorated the first session in the planning process. Updates were added as they became available in the days, weeks, and months to come. Goals and objectives were established to produce measurable outcomes and revised as necessary. Organization-wide communications were important, so assignments were made to brief the entire employee population on the plan and its iterative changes. This strategic planning event remains the best I have ever attended. Contrast this brief description with the planning events you have attended and you will see the difference that commitment can make. And, important to mention: the resulting strategic plan completely transformed the organization, as was intended (the organization reduced its service territory and its product offerings, opting to focus on its core strengths). A better outcome could not be imagined. The Cost of Strategic Planning I do not believe in the old saying, "you get what you pay for." Instead, I believe you will get no more than you pay for and you might not even get that much if you are not fully engaged with the service provider. Good strategic planning is not cheap. Many for-profit organizations cannot afford it, so it is no surprise that the non-profit organizations struggle mightily with the cost. A common practice is to have a friend-of-a-friend conduct a 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (with lunch!) planning session for free (or for a few hundred dollars). How successful is this approach? I would suggest not successful at all - and, potentially giving a negative impression to strategic planning because the session was so grossly inadequate. If this is true, then it is literally better not to have a strategic planning session that to have a bad one. Fees vary all over the board but, for example, the case study presented above cost $50,000 (negotiated down from $75,000 in conjunction with the experimentation of producing the draft plan during the session) - and that was over 15 years ago. I am familiar with a recent strategic plan for a non-profit organization - conducted by a national consulting firm specializing in the operations of that specific non-profit industry - and the cost was $75,000 about two years ago. However, take note: a donor sponsored 100% of the cost under the belief that without a strategic plan, the organization was in trouble. So, my suggestion would be to seek donor funding for the strategic planning costs. Also, I would suggest that the organization tout the existence of its strategic plan in its printed material and on its web site, thereby demonstrating that it is proactive and performs in a business-like manner, which can provide a competitive advantage during fundraising. Selecting a Strategic Planning Consultant The case study above mentions a five-person consulting team. This was part of an experiment that required that number of consultants because the end product, as explained above, was a draft copy of the strategic plan in the hands of every participant. This required the appropriate technology to be on hand (PC, projector, screen, copiers, etc.) and a typist who was the fastest I have ever seen. Part of the experiment was to enable the participants to be fully engaged in the conversation by not taking notes; instead, everything that was said was typed on the PC and projected on the screen. During breaks, the consulting team would group suggestions into logical sections. One consultant handled all contingencies. The other three took turns facilitating the various sessions to offer a distinct change of pace. During lunch on the closing day, copies were made for all participants and reviewed in the final session before adjournment. Admittedly, this was extreme; however, it certainly was effective. Generally speaking, however, find a consultant from a reference, meet with the person (or persons) to determine if you have a good personality fit (important), discuss the specific scope of work, ask for references (and check them), and ask to review copies of other strategic plans the consultant has led (these may be proprietary, but a reference can provide you with a copy - or at least let you look at a copy - so you can see the actual work product and evaluate it). Make sure that the consulting fee includes preliminary work and follow-up work. Also, make sure that the consultant's background is a good fit for the type of organization (some people believe that a good facilitator can facilitate anything, but I disagree; there are always strengths and weaknesses in a person's knowledge base). The Dynamics of the Planning Session The biggest challenge for any planning session is to keep the group 'on point' (i.e., on the subject) and to involve, ideally, everybody in the group in the dialogue. Speaking of 'dialogue,' the word is not interchangeable with 'discussion' - you want a dialogue not a discussion - the word discussion is derived from percussion which indicates 'banging, striking, scraping, etc.' (precisely the wrong connotation) and is usually an informal debate (also the wrong connotation). Dialogue, on the other hand, is a conversation and an exchange of ideas (not a debate). Managing personality differences, tenure differences (who knows what because of how long they have been associated with the organization), starting on time (even if everybody is not present!), ending on time (i.e., following the agenda), and recording the comments of the participants are rightful expectations for the client to have of the facilitator/consultant. Basic issues of respect (we are all adults) is the responsibility of each participant. I have never attended a strategic planning session where there was not at least one person who did not want to be there - and, unfortunately, it was obvious through words and body language - which projected a certain amount of negativity on the entire group. In cases such as this, it is up to the CEO to determine how the situation should best be handled; I recommend removing the negativity from the session. Next Steps for Successful Implementation Too often (if not the majority of the time!) "what happens at the strategic planning retreat stays at the strategic planning retreat..." While this may work in Vegas, it is a sorry outcome for serious strategic planning! Information must be shared after the retreat. My experience indicates that success comes from follow-up, follow-up, and more follow-up. I suggest a "champion" - an individual (or very small team) that will manage the implementation of the strategic plan - with unimpeded, direct access to the CEO. (If the CEO is not fully supportive then the strategic plan is doomed to failure.) Most importantly, I suggest that everyone involved understand, accept, and embrace the unequivocal fact that additional changes will be needed during the implementation phase. This is as it should be. Documenting these changes (and why), revising goals and objectives, timelines, assignments and providing printed copies to be inserted into all the individual strategic planning notebooks is the best way I know to keep the entire team involved in the process. (Remember, we are striving for a process, not an event...) Conclusions/Recommendations The purpose of this article was to share some observations over 30 years of strategic planning experience and to share suggestions for pre-planning that will improve the chances for a successful outcome. I remain concerned that the non-profit sector (more so than the government sector or the private sector) is typically not ready for strategic planning because they don't have the funds to do an adequate job and the pre-planning is not thorough. A successful outcome from this article would be to get non-profit leaders to think about the subject of strategic planning more seriously - and to halt any existing plans until key elements of this article are at least considered. Entire books are written on the subject of strategic planning, so this article does not portend to be conclusive, only to make clear the importance of strategic planning and doing it right. Feedback and comments are invited.

The Business May 23rd 2012, "The MVPs who are VIPs that came from LA to SF" Edition

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
We love LA. Century Boulevard? We love it. Victory Boulevard? We love it. Santa Monica Boulevard? We love it. Sixth Street? We love it. That street where a hooker beat me up with her dick after I called her out for selling me Baking Soda instead of cocaine WHO DOES S/HE THINK I AM , A RUBE?!?! We love it.

That’s why for this edition of The Business, we got some of the finest comics currently residing in the City of Angels to drop by:

Andy Haynes was born in the shadows of Mt. Rainier in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest, raised on salmon and caffeine. He now lives in Los Angeles, where he works as comedian, and writer. Part camp counselor, part debate team captain, he’s bringing his immature take on serious issue to audiences around the English speaking world. With recent performances on the Late Night with Jimmy Fallon show, and at the New Faces showcase at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival, Andy is becoming a must see performer.

Nick Turner is a humble comedian. He did TV once. He recently moved from NY to LA and he’s LAving it.

Karl Hess is a person & stand-up comedian & actor who lives in Los Angeles. He enjoys tacos and leisure. He has performed at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival, San Francisco Sketchfest, The Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland the past three years, the Laughing Skull Comedy Festival in Atlanta at which he was a finalist, HellYes Fest in Austin, and numerous others whose inclusion might render this biographical blurb unwieldy and verbose. His stand-up has been featured on G4 TV, and he plays reguarly at the top shows in LA, as well as colleges and clubs across the nation.

Scott Boxenbaum is a stand-up comic and writer living in Los Angeles. Scott has performed at clubs and colleges around the country such as Stand Up! NY, Comix NY, Yuk Yuk’s Vancouver, the Comedy Underground in Seattle, and Morty’s Comedy Joint in Indianapolis.

All this for just $5!! That’s SO CHEAP that the SF Weekly says we're the BEST at being cheap. http://www.sfweekly.com/bestof/2012/award/best-cheap-night-of-comedy-3067057/

BYOBurrito.

Your Business regulars will be there as well, except Alex, who we sent off to personally shake Randy Newman’s hand (cause you have a friend in any one who loves LA and hates short people).

Small businesses talk about growing online

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

With so much advice about what businesses should be doing online and not always enough time to sort through it all, sometimes the most useful thing is to hear from someone that’s doing it right.

Recently in Detroit, Accelerate with Google was proud to take the stage with several local small business leaders for a panel discussion on growing businesses and relationships online. Joined by 80 other Detroit-area businesses at the Michigan Minority Procurement Conference, the panelists shared stories of their successes and challenges forming relationships in the digital age.

Google has worked with these businesses to help them grow their presence online, and they’ve really embraced a digital-first strategy to finding new customers. Here are some of their tips:

Amy Courter, Chief Information Officer, VisionIT
“A good starting point is to first define and align your strategy for being online. Determine your goals, audience, message and interaction. For VisionIT, our roots were in web development and part of this industry requires us to continually evaluate our online presence. The new age of marketing is about building brand, interest and awareness through customer loyalty and adding value for the consumer. As traditional models lose their efficacy, and inbound marketing gains popularity, we learn that it’s more important to earn people’s interest, instead of buying and forcing it.”

Leah Fairman, Director of Sales, Corporate Snobs
“Having an online presence has opened many doors for our company. We have been able to capture a particular market share in our business that our local competitors haven't due to a lack of their online presence. Getting noticed when your customers are looking for your products and services speaks volumes for your company. It sends the message that you are serious about your business, trustworthy and in tune with current technology. This makes you a serious player in your industry.”

Linzie Venegas, Chief Marketing Officer, Ideal Shield
“The most important thing that I have learned since I have moved to online space is that you must put someone in charge; this person must continuously evaluate your website as well as website presence. I have also learned that it is important to adapt to new technology. For instance, we are looking to move to Google Apps for Business, and this will save our company money and allow our IT people to work more efficiently.”

Later this week, another group of entrepreneurs we admire – some of the startup founders from the NewMe Accelerator – will sit down at Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Conference and share their wisdom on growing their internet businesses. Google will also be there to share classroom-style workshops staffed by our team on how to grow and promote your business online, and mastering search engine strategies. The Entrepreneurs Conference has been a great venue every year for entrepreneurs to network and find successful strategies for growth, and we are looking forward to meeting some of you there!

Posted by Chris Genteel, Business Development Manager - Global Diversity

Introducing the Webmaster Academy

Monday, May 21, 2012

As more and more customers are searching for products and services online, it’s important for businesses to have an established presence on the Internet. We’ve heard a lot of business owners say they’d like to learn how to do this, so we are excited to announce Webmaster Academy. Webmaster Academy will walk you through the information you need to get your site up and running with Google in easy to understand steps.

For example, the Academy has information about how Google Search works and how to create a great website for your users, along with information on how to use great (and free!) diagnostic tools such as Webmaster Tools. It’s divided up into easy, short lessons so you can track your progress. At the end of every lesson you’ll be one step closer to having a great website.

Stay tuned here for upcoming posts from the Webmaster Academy, including topics like:

  • An explanation of how Google Search works (get a sneak peek by watching this video)
  • How best to represent a brick and mortar business online
  • An introduction to Search Engine Optimization

We’re excited to share more with business owners of all sizes. Be sure to check out the Webmaster Academy and spend some time exploring!

Posted by Garen Checkly, Search Quality Team

Measuring what matters for your small business

Editor's Note: The SMB Blog team wants to wish everyone a Happy National Small Business Week! To kick off the week, we're continuing a new series we're calling Measurement Mondays. Stay tuned to the hashtag #MeasurementMondays on Google+ for ongoing tips and thoughts to help businesses measure the things that matter.

As a business owner, there are many different metrics that are important to you - like what were my sales this month, and how many new employees can I hire this year? Similarly, there are important things that you should be measuring for your online marketing efforts which can help you improve your customer experience and potentially drive more sales.

Here are five things that every business should consider:

  • Start by identifying the right goals for you: Think about the business objectives of your website and marketing efforts, and identify specific customer actions that represent success. For instance, maybe your goal is to drive foot traffic to your store or to boost requests for an online quote. Other goals like signing up for a newsletter, viewing an important page on your site, or filling out an inquiry form can also be important indicators. Just as every business is unique, the metrics that signal success will vary. But it’s crucial for every business to know what matters to you so that you can make the most of your marketing efforts.
  • Understand how to measure ad effectiveness: Once you’ve identified your goals, it’s time to create ads that drive people to your store or site to achieve those goals. The most basic measure of your online ad effectiveness is your clickthrough rate (or CTR) which is the number of clicks that your ad receives divided by the number of times your ad is shown (called impressions). CTR shows you how often the people who see your ad end up clicking on it, and a high CTR signals that users find your ads helpful and relevant.
  • See whether clicks are leading to conversions: It can also be important to see whether those ad clicks actually led someone to buy from you. To do this, you can use tools like AdWords Conversion Tracking, which is a free tool in AdWords that shows you what happens after a customer clicks on your ad. Did they ultimately buy something from your site or sign up for an email newsletter? By looking at how your ads impact conversions on your site, you’ll learn which keywords and ads are effective at bringing valuable customers which can help you invest more wisely.
  • Examine how online efforts are driving offline customers: For some businesses, driving traffic or calls to your brick and mortar store can be more valuable than a website visit. When people search for local products and services on their mobile phones, like a nearby hardware store or a local restaurant, they often prefer to call the business directly. With click-to-call ads, mobile shoppers can easily call your business directly from an ad that they see. Within your ad reports you can see the number of calls that were driven by your ad campaigns. Asking your customers at checkout how they heard about your company can also be an easy way to keep track of what is really bringing them through your door.
  • Keep measuring, keep experimenting: Businesses these days have no shortage of data available to them, and I know that it can sometimes feel overwhelming. The important thing about measurement for every business is to just get started and keep experimenting. Your customers and your business are constantly evolving, so remember not to set it and forget it. There often isn’t a right or wrong answer, but the data can reveal insights that help you win the moments that matter with your customers.
I hope these tips have given you some food for thought about how measurement can help you reach more customers and drive more sales. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on how you can take your website measurement to the next level. Happy measuring!

Posted by Francoise Brougher, Vice President of SMB Sales and Operations

Help Desk Hangouts: Getting to know Chromebooks, Part II

Friday, May 18, 2012
Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, we continued our conversation about Chromebooks for your business (if you missed the first one, check out our recap). Chrome product manager Glenn Wilson and Will Paulus walked us through the management console, which allows you to oversee your fleet of Chromebooks in a low-touch, scalable way. Miss the event? You can watch the whole thing on the Google and Your Business YouTube channel. And, if you’re interested in learning more about Chromebooks, fill out this form (http://goo.gl/pP0mg) to stay up to date on all the latest news and product announcements.


Check out the video description on the YouTube page for a minute-by-minute breakdown.

Some of the questions we answered during the Hangout:

What can I do with the Chromebooks management console?

Quite a bit! The typical actions include:
  • Setting configuration settings for your managed (enrolled) devices, like turning off Guest mode.
  • Setting configuration settings for users on your domain, like force-installing certain extensions.
  • Tracking device state, like when a device was last used, or what version of the OS it is running.
What about user login tracking? I want to know who the last person to use a Chromebook was.

We’ve heard this request a lot recently — it’s on our to-do list.

Will there be remote wipe available if the Chromebook is lost or stolen? Similar to the mobile policy in the management console.

First, it’s important to note that every Chromebook encrypts all user data, so even if it is stolen, there’s no way for anyone to get to your data without your password. Remote Wipe is on our list.

Can you block based on content type? Like block gaming and adult sites?

We don’t have content type filter in the management console; however, most administrators use a third-party filtering service to do this. You would simply set your devices and users to use the proxy setting the third-party service gives you. If you are interested in finding which filtering services work well with Chromebooks, please contact sales.

Be sure to join us for next week’s Hangout at 11 a.m. PDT Wednesday May 2, when we discuss Google Earth Pro. We’ll be collecting your Earth questions early next week on the Google+ Your Business page.

Posted by Toby Stein, Google+ community manager

Announcing the next series of Learn with Google webinars!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Earlier this year, we introduced the Learn with Google webinar program, and we were delighted to see thousands of you show up to learn about a variety of Google advertising products and solutions. Today, weíre happy to announce the continuation of our series with 10 new webinars over the next few months. During each webinar weíll share tips and how-toís to help make the web work for your business.

Check out our upcoming live webinars below:

  • May 23 at 10am PDT: Getting Started with Google Analytics
  • May 24 at 9am PDT: Building Blocks of Digital Attribution
  • May 31 at 10am PDT: Introduction to TrueView for YouTube
  • June 5 at 10am PDT: GoMo: Mobilize your Site with Quick and Easy New Tools
  • June 6 at 10am PDT: Our Mobile Planet: Understanding U.S. Smartphone Consumers
  • June 7 at 10am PDT: Introducing Mobile Apps Inventory in AdWords
  • June 12 at 10am PDT: Get Local with ZIP Code Targeting to Increase Sales/Leads
  • June 14 at 10am PDT: Search Optimization: Tips, Tricks, and Tools
  • June 19 at 10am PDT: Bringing the Power and Control of Search to Display
  • July 10 at 10am PDT: Account Management Tools for Large Advertisers and Agencies

Visit our webinar page to register for any of the sessions and to access past webinars on-demand. Weíll be adding new webinars as theyíre scheduled, so check back regularly for updates. You can also stay up-to-date on the schedule by downloading our Learn with Google Webinar calendar to automatically see upcoming webinars in your Google Calendar.

Whether your goal is to engage the right customers in the moments that matter, make better decisions, or go bigger, faster, we hope that youíll use these best practices and how-toís to maximize the impact of digital and grow your business. Weíre looking forward to having you at an upcoming Learn with Google webinar!

Posted by Erin Green, Marketing Coordinator

The Business May 16th 2012, "The Tallents of the Fantastic Dr. Foxmeat" Edition (with extra Vannini!)

Monday, May 14, 2012
The Business gets feral this week. Our corporate office will be inundated with wild animals, as Sam Tallent, Cameron Vannini and Dr. Foxmeat get all up in our habitat.

Since all bios for Dr. Foxmeat have been either scratched into bark or howled at the moon, there is no written record from which to draw data. What we can conclude is that he is from Arcata, California on some kind of southward trek (which is weird, cause harvest isn’t for months).

Cameron Vannini is a dapper, young SF comic and philanthropist. Also known as the San Francisco Treat, Cameron performs regularly at the SF Punchline and is a AAA card member (even though he doesn't have a license). He has been spotted at Cobb's Comedy club, the San Jose Improv, and the Sacramento Punchline. Ingredients include the 2010 SF International Comedy competition and semi finalist in 2010 SJ Improv comedy competition.
Sam Tallent's from Denver. Alex Koll and him have done some very bad things together. Sam has been described as 'the black flag of comedy' and a zine in Denmark said 'Sam is the surreal voice of an earnestly silly generation'. Reggie Watts, TJ Miller, Joe Rogan, Kyle Kinane, Sean Patton and other quality gigglesmiths have worked with Sam and not complained to management. His home club is the Denver Comedy Works and he curates Too Much Funstival! at the end of August in Denver. His interests include Genki savory crepes, short haired women and writing in the third person.”

We will miss Chris Garcia and Bucky this week, but never fear, they will return from their walkabouts with new stories of misadventure and poop.

Bring your burritos and $5 to the Dark Room and get your wild thing on (RIP, Maurice). Come on, when’s the last time you had Foxmeat?!?

Google Apps brings Brazos Bookstore into the 21st Century

(Cross-posted on the Official Google Enterprise Blog.)

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blogger is Jeremy Ellis, General Manager of Brazos Bookstore, a neighborhood institution based in Houston, Texas.

Brazos Bookstore has been part of the Houston literary community since 1974. In addition to selling a diverse collection of books, we pride ourselves in connecting our community with authors from our area and around the globe. When the store’s ownership changed in 2006 and the possibility of shutting down became known, the community of Brazos fans petitioned to keep our doors open. Thanks to them, we’ve been able to continue our long-standing tradition where we host author events, readings and exhibitions from writers such as Walter Cronkite, Julia Child, Kofi Annan, and P. J. O’Rourke, to name a few.

                                                      

When I joined the staff in September 2011, Brazos was still operating in many ways as it did in the 70s and 80s. Employees would schedule the author series on a single paper calendar, and only one of our computers had email set up. All of our software was outdated, and the programs that were available ended up causing more roadblocks than value.

We needed a system that could better manage our day-to-day operations. Since I was already familiar with Google from personal use, moving the bookstore to Google Apps for Business was a natural transition. Today, all seven of our employees are able to access their email and calendars from any computer in the store, at home, and on their smartphones. This accessibility not only eases communication between the staff, but also keeps everyone up to speed on events, shipments and other activities at the shop.

Scheduling author visits on Google Calendar is easy, instant, and live, and it’s saved us from double-booking authors. I’m now able to easily collaborate with our buyer when we’re planning in-store events, which has streamlined the process for ordering books and helps me track book sales from author readings.

Google Apps has given us the organizational tools we need to continue serving Houston’s literary and arts culture. Our vision over the past forty years hasn’t changed, and now we have the technology to support our store for the future.

Help Desk Hangouts: Connect with customers using Hangouts On Air

Friday, May 11, 2012
Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, the lovely Amanda Rosenberg showed us how to use a Hangout On Air - the ability to broadcast a Hangout to the world - and heard some tips and tricks from two power users, pio dal cin and Dan McDermott. Missed it? You can watch the full hour-long Hangout on the Google Business YouTube channel (check out the video description for a minute-by-minute breakdown):


Here are a few of the questions you asked us to answer during the Hangout:

What kind of technical setup should I have for something like this?
You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars on fancy equipment, but many users have found having a dedicated microphone and webcam, plus an ethernet connection, make for a much smoother experience. Dan and Pio make some specific hardware recommendations during the Hangout.

What should I talk about in my Hangout?
Get creative! Make an announcement to your customers, or demo a new product. Invite a panel of experts in your field on to discuss topics, and take questions from users via your Google+ page. Own a bakery? Show viewers how to make a certain recipe. Book store? Host a live author reading. There’s really no end to the possibilities. We see users come up with new uses every day — kick around your ideas with other Google+ users to hone in on something you’d like to try.

Who can join the Hangout, and who can watch it? Can I broadcast to a select group?
When you hit broadcast, Hangouts On Air are public for the world to watch live. A member of that “public,” however, can not join the Hangout; they can only watch it. To get people in the Hangout, you as the Hangout owner need to invite them.

Where does the recording of the Hangout live?
The recording will be uploaded to your YouTube account (if you’re hosting the Hangout from a Google+ page, the video will live in the account of whoever’s admin’ing the page at the time of the Hangout). After the Hangout, visit your YouTube Video Manager to see your video and make edits if you need to. Note: This video will upload to your account as a Public video; you can change the video at any time to “private” or “unlisted” via the Video Manager.

Why do I need to verify my YouTube account?
In order to record YouTube videos longer than 15 minutes, you’ll need to verify your account.

Anything else I should keep in mind?
Posting a recording of a particularly long Hangout? List a minute-by-minute breakdown (timestamps like 1:36, 5:47) in the video’s description so that users can jump to different parts of the video (like this). Also, practice makes perfect: None of us gets it 100% right the first time, but in no time at all, you’ll soon be a Hangouts pro.

Who has access to Hangouts On Air?
We’re rolling this functionality out gradually over the next several weeks. Keep your eyes peeled!

To learn more about how to get started with Hangouts On Air, check out this detailed technical guide, and if you still have questions, drop in to the Google+ discussion forum. And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout at 11 a.m. PT Wednesday May 16 when we dive deeper into the world of Chromebooks (read up on our first Chromebooks Hangout).

Posted by Toby Stein, Google+ Community Manager

Manage multiple locations more easily with a new tool for Google Places

Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Businesses with multiple locations have a big task in front of them when trying to manage their online presence. How can they connect their customers with the locations closest to them? How can they make data changes to a group of their locations all at once? The challenges of managing multiple businesses in the real world can sometimes carry over online.

We’ve heard plenty of feedback about how you want to manage your listings on Google, which is why we’re excited today to announce an upgraded bulk listing management tool for Google Places for business.

We’ve made many improvements and now enable the following actions:
  • Edit one or more of your listings’ data at once
  • Search through your listings, filtering by specific information or for listings with errors
  • Upload new listings using a data file or by adding them individually within the interface
  • Tell us how we can improve this new interface by clicking the “Give Feedback” link
Before you get started with the new bulk management tool, watch the video tutorial that’s relevant to you or visit our Help Center for more information:   


New user? Learn how to manage multiple locations.


Already managing verified listings? Here's what's new.

Starting today, you’ll be routed to the new interface whenever you click to upload or edit a data file via the Places dashboard, or by visiting https://places.google.com/manage directly. You’ll still use the Places dashboard to see your listing analytics and to perform PIN verification on single locations. Remember that your updates will still take a few days to appear on Google Maps.

We hope the new tool makes managing your business on Google Places much easier. We look forward to hearing your feedback and seeing your listings up on Google Maps!

Posted by Derek Wetzel, Consumer Experience Specialist, Google Places

GoMo: Mark your calendar to ‘Hangout on Air’ and learn how to build a mobile site in minutes

Did you know that 40% of mobile web users reported that they’ve turned to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience1? With about half of all Americans now owning a smartphone2, it’s time for businesses to meet user expectations by delivering a mobile experience as good as the desktop experience. In short, it’s time to step up to the plate and build a site optimized for the mobile web.              
                          

Google can help. We recently teamed up with DudaMobile to release a free mobile site builder.  In three easy steps you’re able to get started with mobile: (1) enter your site’s URL, (2) customize your site and (3) redirect mobile users automatically to the new mobile-friendly version.  It’s free and takes just a few minutes to complete!

Join us on Thursday, May 10th at 1pm EST/10am PST and watch as Google showcases how two businesses, Top Mast Resort in Massachusetts and Sava’s Restaurant in Michigan, go mobile and build mobile-friendly sites--live on air.

You’ll see how Top Mast is preparing to take advantage of mobile travel purchase intent - which is five times higher than online travel purchase intent, according to InsightExpress.  You’ll also see Sava’s move ahead of 95% of restaurants that do not have mobile-friendly sites, according to a study by Restaurant Science.

Finally, you’ll hear from the CMO of Dudamobile, Dennis Mink; he’ll talk about best practices when using the mobile site builder and walk through important questions to ask yourself when building a mobile-friendly site.

Details on how to tune in:
  • Sign into Google+ on Thursday, May 10 at 1 p.m. EST/10 a.m. PST
  • Go to the Think with Google Google+ page
  • Look for the stream post and click to enter the live stream  
Be sure to set a reminder in your calendar! If you have questions before or during the Hangout, post them with the hashtag #GoMoSite as a comment on the Google+ page.

Posted by Suzanne Mumford, Google Mobile Ads Marketing

Source: (1) Gomez 2011 (2) Nielsen February 2012

Google+ stories: Meet Best Made Company (again)

Monday, May 7, 2012
Editor’s Note: This is the final installment in a series of posts about small businesses on Google+ and their tips and tricks for managing a great page. Visit our YouTube channel to see all the videos in this series and join the discussion on the Google+ Your Business page. Thanks for following along!

Millions of businesses are now using Google+ to better connect with their customers. Since the launch of Google+ pages last November, we’ve watched as page owners hosted Hangouts with clients, announced news and deals in the Stream, and shared exclusive photos and videos. We’ve loved all the creativity out there and hope that this series has given you a few new tips for engaging with your customers on Google.

Over the last several months, we introduced you to some cool small businesses who had recently joined Google+, both here on the SMB Blog and on the Google+ Your Business page. The first company we introduced back in February was Best Made Company, a group of outdoor enthusiasts that specializes in designing and handcrafting wilderness supplies. We wanted to take one more look at their story as a final farewell to this series. Watch on as they create a magic moment for a very special pair of customers.


Want to learn more? Visit the Google+ Your Business site. And remember to visit all of our special guests in this small business series below at their +Pages and say hello!
Thanks for being a part of the journey, and be sure to share your own on the Google+ Your Business page.

Posted by Evelyn Lee, Google+ Pages Associate Product Marketing Manager

Help Desk Hangouts: Display Network Advertising with Google AdWords

Friday, May 4, 2012
Editor’s note: Each week on the Google+ Your Business page, we’re putting you in touch with Googlers and users who can help you as a business owner get the most out of our products and features.

In our latest Help Desk Hangout On Air, we discussed advertising on the Google Display Network with Googlers Dori Storbeck, Courtney Pannell, Joanna Kim, Neil Mendelowitz, and two Top Contributors from the AdWords CommunityKim Clinkunbroomer and Theresa Zook. The group shared tips and tricks for the Display Network, and the TCs shared some of their personal experiences. If you missed it, you can watch the full hour-long Hangout on the Google Business YouTube channel (check out the video description for a minute-by-minute breakdown):


Here are a few of the questions you asked us to answer during the Hangout:

Can independent consultants take advantage of the Display Network? 
Yes, anyone can utilize the Display Network for advertising their products and services; however, whether it is right for you may depend on your specific business and your advertising goals.

Where is the Display Network available?
The Display Network is available in all countries that AdWords serves.

Which clicks are more likely to become conversions search or display?
Search and display perform very differently, depending on your overall campaign goals.

What’s more effective: automatic placements or manual?
If you’re trying to reach a specific audience or target users who demonstrate a particular interest and you have an idea of some Display Network websites where you want your ads to appear, managed placements are probably the best bet for you. If you’re just starting out with Display, we would suggest opting into automatic placements at first and then reviewing the domains you show on to further refine and optimize.

If in your industry search approximate cpc is = to display approximate cpc why would you do display?(Besides the obvious increase in potential traffic.)
The Display Network is a great way to find customers that may not be actively searching for your product. Other than potentially increasing traffic to your website, you can potentially grow your customer base and get more conversions.

Tips on how to get JPEG ads approved quickly?
Our ad review turn around time is usually 1-3 business days. If your ads are under review for more than 3 business days, please get in touch with us or submit your ads directly to our review team.

For remarketing, how do I set the ad up to show people the products they viewed but not purchased?
You can create different audience lists so that you create an audience for users who visited your product pages and users who completed a purchase. You can then create a “custom combination” list to subtract those who purchased from those who visited your pages and did not purchase.

What is the difference between topics and interest categories? How are these compiled?
Topic targeting allows you to place ads on pages directly related to the topic you've selected, whereas interest categories allow you to reach users across the Display Network who have shown specific interests, regardless of the page they're currently on.

For remarketing, would you suggest using just one method per ad group, i.e., contextual, topic, interest, managed placements, or is it OK to mix them?
Remarketing operates by showing your ads to users on your audience list, so within your ad group, the audience list should be the only targeting you have set up.

If you could only choose between search and display and the approximate cpc was the same. Which would you chose and why?
This question really depends on your business and your advertising goals. In general, we tend to see advertisers looking for more direct response focus on the Search Network, while those who are interested in branding and remarketing might want to focus on the Display Network.

Of course, if you’re interested in both, we’d recommend creating a specific campaign to target each network individually.

Any suggestions on frequency capping numbers?
When you turn on frequency capping for a campaign, you can set a limit for the number of impressions you allow an individual user to have per day, per week, or per month, and you can choose whether this is applicable to each ad, ad group, or campaign. So ultimately, the frequency capping number you select depends on your goals and the size of your advertising endeavor. Kim and Theresa suggested numbers around 5-15 impressions per day for an individual user.

I know there is a placement tool in AdWords - however it doesn’t seem to show "all" of the websites available in the network. I have found sites displaying relevant ads, but I did not find it in tool. Is there another way to identify these potential sites?
Yes! In addition to our Placement Tool, you can check the DoubleClick Ad Planner for other sites that are in the Display Network.

To learn more about how to get started with the Display Network, visit our Help Center or check out the AdWords Community forum. And remember to tune in to the live stream of our next Hangout at 11 a.m. PT Wednesday May 9 — topic to be announced on the Google+ Your Business page early next week!

Posted by Dori Storbeck and Courtney Pannell, Global Online Advertising Associates

The Business May 2nd 2012, "Seregina & Dhar" Edition

Wednesday, May 2, 2012



This week the Business loses Chris and Chris, but welcomes back two local faves Anna Seregina and Rajeev Dhar to make up for our Chris-less-ness.

Anna Seregina is a San Francisco-based stand-up comic and performer. She was born in Moscow, Russia, which could explain her deep-rooted cynicism. It could also explain nothing. After being involved in theater and improv for nearly a decade and being funny for nearly a lifetime, she decided to take the plunge into stand-up comedy. Her style can nearly be defined as vocal and un-lady-like, drawing heavily on what little life experience she has. She has been described as having the “worst aura.” Most facts about her are true. Most truths about her are facts.

Rajeev Dhar (Phd) has a Tumblr page, but it's password protected, so I couldn't lift his bio from it word-for-word like I did Anna's. Regardless, he is very funny and runs the Tuesday night comedy show called The Break Room at Amnesia in the Mission, not far from yours truly. I've only caught him looking in the mirror at himself once, but I don't blame him.

Bucky returns to us this week from Portland, and Alex, Caitlin and Sean will also be on hand. Will Hologram Bucky confront his flesh-and-blood counterpart? Come down and see.

As always show is at 8pm, only $5 and all burritos welcome.