5 free or cheap Google apps for SMB success

If you’re a small or mid-sized business (SMB) operator seeking a low-cost yet effective way to optimize your Web site, publicize your products, and track your site’s performance — the answer may be closer than you think.

Google has a range of online applications and services to help SMBs (and consumers) accomplish all this. “The best thing is that they’re all cheap or free,” notes Frederick Vallaeys, Google Adwords evangelist based in Mountain View, Calif

At least one Canadian SMB operator who has used these tools can attest to their usefulness.  

Jeff Pelletier is owner and executive producer of Basetwo Media, a corporate video production firm in Vancouver, BC

It’s tough for newcomers to penetrate the corporate video market, so Pelletier opted to market his company’s services online.  

Four years ago, he tried out Google Adwords, the search engine’s popular advertising product that offers pay-per-click, and site-targeted advertising for text and banner ads.

Rather than first arranging face-to-face meetings with potential customers, Pelletier’s strategy was to attract them to the Basetwo Media site , where they could view samples of his firm’s video work.  

A key part of this strategy was the use of Adwords to get the Baset wo Media ad to figure among the top Search results for corporate video producers.  

(Essentially, you link an ad promoting your business to specific keywords . AdWords displays your ad when someone performs a search with those keywords).

BaseTwo Media keeps advertising costs down because Adwords charges on a pay-per-click basis — businesses only pay Google when somebody clicks on BaseTwo’s online ad.

“We pay 10 cents to $2.50 per click depending on the search words we’ve purchased,” said Pelletier. “That’s way cheaper than spending money on a print or TV ad which is not as targeted. People who click on are ads are more ready to buy,”

He said 75 per cent of his business comes from online sales. “Of that, two-thirds comes through Google. Our sales shot up by 300 to 400 per cent in our first year with Adwords. ”  

Apart from Adwords, Vallaey (a former wedding photographer) lists other cheap or free Google apps and services that help small firms boost brand and revenues in a fiercely competitive market.

Google Docs – Google’s Internet-based suite of productivity applications has online collaboration features that allow an entire team to work together on Web-based documents. The feature lets users work simultaneously on the same document before publishing it to a wider audience.

No longer do team members need to send documents and PDFs back and forth to one another, Vallaeys said. ” It’s a great time saver. The best part is it’s for free.” An enterprise version is available for as little as $50, per user for a year.

Google Calendar  This Google offering lets users stay on top of your  p ersonal and business schedule wherever they go.

Users can create multiple online calendars for various activities such as: family; business; hobbies; sports; or volunteer work.

You can share  your calendar with other users so workplace colleagues, business partners or family members can be alerted about your activities and availability.

The calendar can also be stored on your desktop, laptop, smartphone.

Google Sites – lets users create and share Web pages and wikis. 

Vallaeys noted that this free and easy-to-use application can be a bonanza for SMB operators, whose skills may not include Web design, and who may not have the funds to hire an outside specialist for the job.

Google Sites is loaded with design templates and editing tools easy enough to handle for anyone who has used a word processing or e-mail program.

The application enables users to gather a variety of content — including text, calendars, images and videos — and load them onto their sites.  

Google Sites also integrates very well with other Google applications. For example, users can load Google Spreadsheets and turn the application into an online survey tool.

Google site also allows users to control who gets to view or collaborate on editing the site.  

Google Analytics – Web marketing campaigns, regardless of how savvy they are, avail little unless you can measure their performance. But professional Web analytics’ firms often charge rates that small businesses can’t afford.

For firms seeking a cheaper option, Google Analytics might fit the bill.

And you can’t beat the price – it’s entirely free.

The tool enables firms to get a bunch of facts about traffic to their site:  how many people visited the site , which parts of the page they clicked on, and how they eventually left the site.

Google Web Optimizer tool enables users to pinpoint which part of their site or content is being clicked on by visitors, and driving results for the business.

A statistics tool also allows users to create different versions of a Web campaign and measure which version was a hit with customers.

Click here to find more free or cheap online marketing tools.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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