Most people know Google as a search engine. You can ask any specific question, and it’ll return the best possible answer.
What you might not know is that Google has developed beyond that. It’s created a suite of tools to allow business owners to better manage their web presences and discover information about their web users.
There are four Google tools I believe are paramount for every business owner who wants to put their best digital foot forward: Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Google My Business, and Google Adwords.
Read on to learn what these tools are and why you need them for your business.
Google Analytics is a free digital analytics tool that tracks and categorizes your website’s traffic to help you better understand your digital consumer.
It will shed light on where your traffic is coming from and what actions people are taking on your site, as well as general demographic information about your audience. As a business owner, when you understand how consumers are finding you online and what they’re doing on your site, you can make better decisions on how to market to them and communicate your brand’s value.
Installation is easy. Create a Google Analytics account with a Gmail email address. Google will walk you through the steps one by one. Then, forward the script of code you’re provided to your web developer, so he or she can insert it in the header of your website. It’s a simple addition that will allow you to start tracking your web visitors today!
Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools)
Google Search Console is a free tool to help website administrators make sure their site is being indexed and included in Google’s search results.
This tool is the best friend of every search engine optimization expert (including yours truly). It gives insight into what search terms consumers are using to find your website. You can use this information to better understand what searchers are looking for and craft content to proactively answer their questions as thoroughly as possible.
You can also use Search Console to ensure that you can be found if people are searching for you. If there are any errors within your site that would halt Google from crawling it correctly, this tool will let you know.
Getting set up is easier if you’ve already installed the Google Analytics code on your site. After you’ve done that, sign into Google Search Console, and create a property with your website’s URL. Once you’ve created a property, verify ownership of the website within your Google Analytics account to complete the process.
Google My Business
Google My Business is the best way for business owners to edit the information about their company that shows up within Google’s search results – and it’s free.
If someone’s searching for your business, your Google My Business profile is often the first thing that appears on the right side of the search results listing page. This box of info is called the knowledge graph.
As a brand, you can control what people see in that section. This includes your address, phone number, website, and hours of operation, as well as pictures and videos of your business, products, and staff.
To set this up, go to Google My Business, and see if your business already has a profile (most do). After you’ve found or created your profile, you need to verify ownership of it.
To verify, Google will either send a physical postcard to your business address or an email to your business email address. Or you can request a phone call to your business phone number. These will include a verification code for you to enter into Google My Business to confirm that you are officially with the business and should have ownership of the profile.
AdWords is a quick way to drive traffic to your site while you’re working your way up the Google search page rankings with a search engine optimization strategy.
This is the only of the four tools I’ve outlined that requires a budget.
If your web presence is still young or you have a lot of competition, you might not have enough domain authority to rank for all your target keywords. For example, if you’re Clumpies Ice Cream Co., you can probably pretty easily rank for the brand-name term “Clumpies.” But your goal is to rank for every term related to “ice cream.”
Google created AdWords for business owners like Clumpies to be able to pay to get in front of web users who search for terms like “ice cream.” Once Clumpies starts a campaign, an ad will appear at the top of the Google search results page when someone with the demographics they defined searches for “ice cream.”
They will have to pay for every click on that ad that leads a user to their site. But once that person is on the Clumpies site, the company has the opportunity to show off their brand and product offering (and hopefully sell them some ice cream!).
This tool is little complicated, but Google is taking huge strides to make it easier. To start, create an AdWords account, plug in a credit card and walk through the campaign building process.
It seems like Google’s always creating a new product or changing its algorithm. The aim is to better serve customers, but, as a business owner or website admin, it can be hard to keep up.
That’s why I recommend focusing on these four tools. Get them set up and master the basics, then branch out from there.
You’ll be amazed at what you can discover when you dig in. Those discoveries can help you alter your digital strategy with small tweaks that add up to big wins in your bottom line.
It’s not about being an expert – just get started! You’ll find that it’s not as complicated as it seems, and you’re smarter than you thought you were.
Tripp Stanford is a digital marketer at Papercut Interactive, a web development and digital marketing company founded in 2001. Papercut services include website audits, custom website development, search engine optimization and digital marketing. Learn more at papercutinteractive.com.