I’m talking about Google, of course. In addition to PPC (AdWords) and organic search optimization (on-site linking and content development), there are ways to leverage Google to promote your business and grow your customer base. Think of this as low-hanging fruit that will raise your profile online.
These tools that are free and relatively low-effort. Let’s take a closer look.
- Google My Business
Want some free advertising on Google? Then claim your Google My Business (formerly Google Places) listing to have your business featured in search results and in Google Maps.
After logging into your Google account (or creating one if you haven’t already), you can claim your business listing or enter one if they don’t already have it. This process will also create a Google+ profile for your business, which will link you to the network of Google platforms and tools.
With a Google My Business listing, searchers will see your location, address, phone number, reviews, hours and a photo. That’s a ton of your business information shown to a customer on page one of the search results page.
Don’t have a brick-and-mortar storefront? No problem. If your business serves customers at their homes or business, you should list your business as a “service area business.” Or, if you do business completely online, list as a “Brand” and your Google+ page will link customers directly to your ecommerce portal.
GMB also gives you a review page for your customers to leave public feedback. You should always encourage customers to leave a review. If you use WordPress, the best free plugin to showcase your Google My Business is Google Places Reviews.
- Google Search Console
Google Search Console (previously Google Webmasters Tools) is a lifesaver.
I use it to plan SEO and PPC strategy and to monitor my sites’ overall health. “Search Analytics” under the “Search Traffic” section shows me what queries are bringing the most traffic. I couldn’t run my business without this data on clicks, impressions, CTR, and position.
GSC notifies you about site errors, broken pages and any issues concerning site indexing. You’ll quickly know if there are any “not found” pages on your site (404 pages). You’ll also know if there are any issues with how your pages appear in search (missing title tags, duplicate meta descriptions, etc).
You can set up and submit a sitemap within GSC to make sure your business site is being correctly indexed.
GSC will also let you know of any security issues (like a hacked site) and Google penalties (like if you’ve been dinged for “black-hat” SEO tactics).
Finally, you can manually submit new blog posts and other pages with new content to make sure your updates appear in search results as fast as possible. To do this, select the “crawl” section on the left side and then select “Fetch as Google.”
Setting up GSC is easy. Access your Google account and sign up at this address. You’ll need to confirm that your website actually belongs to you. There are four different verification methods available. I always choose the “Alternate Methods” tab and have a postcard sent to my clients’ physical address. When the postcard arrives with a PIN, I use it to confirm the account. If you’re setting up GSC for your own site, it’s probably easiest to verify your listing via your Google Analytics account (assuming you already have the GA script in your site’s code).
What’s that? You don’t have Google Analytics set up? Then read on …
- Google Analytics and Search Console Integration
While Google Search console tells you all about your site and how it’s structured, Google Analytics gives you detailed insight into your traffic flow and volume. GSC shows you what you’ve built; Google Analytics shows you how site visitors are reacting to what you’ve built.
The ins and outs of Google Analytics could fill an entire book, so I won’t go into it here.
But I will cover one key free tool that GA offers your business: Search Console Integration.
In GA, under “Acquisition,” you’ll see the “Search Engine Optimization” tab. Under that, you can see three reports: “queries,” “landing pages,” and “geographical summary.”
These reports require Search Console integration in GA. They will give you data about what users see in Google search results before they decide to click to your site. This will help you identify opportunities and prioritize development efforts.
For example, if you see a landing page that has strong click-through rates but poor average search positions, you might decide that improved content will help you attract more visitors.
Visit this link to connect your Google Search Console and Analytics accounts.
- Keyword Planner
Google’s pay-per-click (PPC) platform lets you write ads that target specific keywords. The cost depends on the demand for the keyword, and you only pay if visitors click on your ad. To make the most of your ad budget, test different keyword variations to figure out which keywords will bring you quality traffic at a price you can afford.
But hey—I’m not here to talk about paid search. This blog is about FREE Google tools, right?
Well .. You probably already know that your AdWords account also gives you access to Google AdWords Keyword Planner, which will help with both your PPC and your SEO strategy. Keyword research helps you identify keywords to target when writing blogs and website content.
If you don’t have a budget for paid ads, that’s okay. You must have an AdWords account to use the Keyword Planner. But you don’t actually have to create an ad or pay Google anything to set this up. Go here and set your free account now, if you haven’t already.
- Google Trends
It’s good to know the popularity of certain terms and how their popularity changes over time while planning your online marketing campaigns.
Aside from the Adwords Keyword Planner, another indispensable keyword discovery tool is Google Trends. Unlike the Keyword Planner, you don’t need an Adwords account.
Looking for trending topics to blog about? Want to see which of two similar keyword phrases gets searched the most? Trends will help you do both! It will also show you how often a topic has come up in news headlines over a given time period. If your business is tied in any way to the waning and waxing popularity of specific terms, this is great information to have.