Read an Excerpt
Learning from Google:
A 21st-Century Model for
You know what Google is. At least, you think you know Google. Chances are you associate Google with being among the most successful high-tech businesses in the world, as well as being the most popular search service on the World Wide Web. And you have probably heard ‘‘google’’ used as a verb, meaning ‘‘to search for or find something online,’’ as in: ‘‘I Googled my professor and found his home page . . . I
Gmailed him my report.’’ (Gmail is Google’s email service; you’ll hear quite a bit about it in the pages that follow.) If that’s all you think of when you hear the word
‘‘Google,’’ you’re missing the latest Internet revolution. What you can learn from this book will improve your life immeasurably, especially if your goals are to work more efficiently and to do a better job of marketing yourself or your company.
What’s So Great About Google?
Back in 1996, two graduate students started their own Web-based search service a which they called BackRub. By 1998, the project had gained a lot of attention, secured some investors, and turned into a corporation called Google—a Web site that made specific Web pages, discussion groups, or even individual words and phrases easy to locate. In recent years, Google has expanded its services for businesses in a dramatic way. Its Gmail and AdWords services are now in widespread use. For example,
Google offers scheduling, word processing, spreadsheet, email, and other applications both separately and as part of an umbrella package called Google Apps. These days, Google is also an increasingly popular solution for small businesses that need to increase their visibility and build their brand. Google is fast becoming the most affordable and effective marketing venue for businesses.
Through its expansion into the business services space, Google itself provides you with a role model that you can follow as you develop your own business online. It all starts when you create a service that gives you a solid foundation. After a steady stream of customers are knocking at your virtual door, you can expand into new areas. Google can help you make that exciting move.
This book will give you comprehensive descriptions of the site’s search engine a advertising, marketing, workflow, and communications features. Not only that, but you’ll be provided with tips on how they can best meet your needs. Google’s search tool and other services can help businesses get organized and on the same page a often for little or no cost. The new Google Apps will let businesses take their online communications and data sharing to a new level. This book will examine ways in which businesses like yours can communicate messages and make Web sites more visible to prospective customers; it will go a step beyond what has previously been said about Google to describe how clients and coworkers can use it to communicate with one another more effectively.
These days, Google is much more than a directory of the Web’s contents. It’s on the verge of becoming an integral part of many small business operations. Google is itself a model for a 21st-century business. You can learn a great deal about how a successful company operates by reading the sections that follow.
Googling Google: Researching an Internet Success Story
Plenty of books have written about Google and how it started. In a nutshell, the business was founded by two men, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who first met in late
1995 when they were graduate students at the University of Michigan. They spent a lot of time and programming effort to come up with a complex algorithm for finding content on the Web with amazing accuracy.
It should come as no surprise that the best way to find out about Google is to
Google the company history yourself. If you enter the search terms Google History on the home page (http://www.google.com), you will see that the first returned result is a link to Google Corporate Information: Google Milestones (http://www.google.com/
corporate/history.html). This will reveal a comprehensive and up-to-date timeline detailing the company’s achievements. Here you will find personal anecdotes from and biographies of Larry and Sergey (who are shown below), as well as a detailed history of their company’s humble beginnings and remarkable growth. Don’t be afraid of being bored. You won’t be. It’s all told with the straightforward and laid-back style that have become synonymous with the name Google.
For more information, you can also scroll down to the bottom of any page on the
Google website and click on the link labeled About Google (http://www.google.com/
about.html). This will take you to a map of all of the products, services, and support features that Google offers, as well as provide links to more corporate information.
The ‘‘take away’’ point here is that Google succeeds by providing a service that everyone wants and needs: access to information and links to virtually any kind of online content.
What’s the first lesson you learn from Google’s story? Having identified a need that is shared by each one of the millions of individuals who go online every day, Brin and Page stuck to their core business and kept improving it. They spent many years building their company, slowly focusing on the basic activity of searching for content on the Web. Only when that process became widely accepted did they begin to sell ads that would appear alongside search results pages. Only after several years did the company go public. Only recently have they begun to provide the business applications described in this book.
When you start up your own Web site, whether or not you use Google, you need to identify your mission and stick to it without trying to take on too much at once.
Define the kinds of customers, clients, or visitors you want to reach. Determine how you’re going to meet their needs by making your own products or services available online. Start with a few pages or business applications and build your presence gradually.
Once you have a firm base—a Web site created with Google’s Web Page Creator (see Chapter 11), a domain name obtained through Google Apps (Chapter 6), or a sales channel created with Google Base (Chapter 15)—you can expand your presence to build a wider audience.
On the Internet, the more prospective customers who can reach and the richer the level of content you provide, the more effective your business will be. As you’ll learn in subsequent chapters, you improve your search engine rankings for both venues when you are able to make links from one Web site you own to another one you own. If your sites have three or four ‘‘levels’’ of content (in other words, if your visitors are able to click through from one page to another and keep finding new forms of information) your site will be ‘‘stickier.’’ You’ll be able to hold those visitors on your site for a longer period of time, which make it that much more likely they’ll perform the action you are hoping for—whether that action is making a purchase a filling out a form, or sending you an email inquiry.
Google gives you a virtual toolbox full of options for creating a Web presence that is expansive and extensive. It can help you in one of two ways:
• If you already have a Web site dedicated to your business or club (or to your own personal exploits), Google provides you with a set of tools that are surefire ways to help you meet your goals. (And you can use Google’s Page Creator as described in Chapter 11 to create another Web site, too.)
• Google gives you a free and yet powerful way to establish a full-fledged Web presence if you don’t have one already.
Keep It Simple
When you look at the Google home page shown in Figure 1-1, what do you see?
Along with the search box and heading and links, your eyes will rest on lots of white space. While other Web sites (such as that of Google’s competitor Yahoo!) are cluttered with links, words, images, and corporate logos, Google’s remains remarkably
Figure 1-1. Google’s home page points to a model of simplicity you should try to emulate.
uncluttered. No doubt Google could make millions by placing a single ad or two on its well-traveled home page. But the site’s managers know the value of simplicity, and you should appreciate it too.
There’s no doubt about it: You can go ahead and hire Web designers and computer programmers to create a complex and world-class Web site that will ‘‘Wow!’’
everyone who visits it. But chances are you have picked up this book because you want to avoid just this sort of expense and complication. You want to be in control and plan your online site in a way that reflects your personality and your interests.
And you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg—or, unless you sign up for the premium
Google Apps service which is aimed at businesses, anything at all. You want to ‘‘Go
Google,’’ in other words.
Focus on Your Core Business
Even as it expands to the desktops of individual business users, Google hasn’t lost sight of its core business: providing accurate search results. Google doesn’t make money off the search results by themselves. However, its paid advertising programs such as AdWords, which place ads alongside search results, have proven to be highly lucrative. Google has found a way to preserve its original mission and maintain the quality of its product for the millions who search the Internet each day. At the same time, it enables customers to take advantage of that product by providing advertising in a targeted way. This system is based on making a decision on how much they will pay each time a visitor clicks on one of their ads.
The lesson for you is to focus on your own core business and establish a base of operations on the Web first. Then you can begin to think about branching out into trying to boost productivity as well as revenue. Suppose you are starting from square one: you have a Big Idea for an online business and you have identified the target audience you want to reach. But that’s as far as you’ve gone so far. You have Internet access through your office, your school, or your home. But you need to set up your own business online. If you only wanted one service to get you started, the logical first choice would be to sign up for email with Google’s Gmail service—email, after all, is central to all online communications. But if you want a complete solution, sign up for Google Apps and look around at other Google services.
Table 1-1 presents you with a road map for Google services that can help you take your first step online: establishing a Web site, email, and a domain. That’s all you need to do to make you or your company visible online.
Once you have a Web presence, you can follow Google’s example and start to branch out. Google can help your company’s internal operations by improving collaboration and workflow among your employees. You can create shared business documents a set up user accounts, and schedule meetings. The Google offerings listed in
Table 1-2 are relatively new and exciting in many ways. That’s why they have the potential to take business away from Microsoft, to mention just one example of other companies that develop expensive business applications.
Table 1-1. Step One: Tools for Establishing an Online Presence
What You Need How to Get It Where to Find It
Gmail only Sign up http://mail.google.com
A Web domain, Gmail, Sign up for Google Apps and http://www.google.com/a
Google Calendar, Web Page buy a domain name for
Creator, Google Talk, Docs & $10/year
Get out news and updates to Create a blog with Blogger http://www.blogger.com your customers quickly and frequently
Make your business’s Add your business to Google physical location easier to Maps find
Make your Web site more Add Google Gadgets content-rich and timely
Table 1-2. Tools for Working More Efficiently
What You Need How to Get It Where to Find It
Save money on long distance Sign up for Google Talk phone calls by typing or conducting voice chat sessions
Creating group discussions Start your own Google http://groups.google.com
Set appointments, plan Use Google Calendar http://calendar.google.com meetings, and share your (also part of Google Apps)
Set up a Google search Obtain Google Desktop engine on your own computer to search through your own files or other computers on the same network
Translating Web pages and Translate with Google text in a foreign language Toolbar
Get the latest business Google Trends statistics and trends
Organize your electronic Use Google’s Picasa service image files
British company uses Google to Collaborate
Rock Kitchen Harris (http://www.rkh.co.uk) is an advertising, design, PR, and web agency based in Leicester, England. There are eighteen employees working in the same office but, as in any organization, staff people frequently need to work from home or go on the road. The solution that has worked best for this company is to use Gmail to keep in touch and Google Apps to share files.
‘‘Google Apps has been particularly helpful in allowing some of us to work from home and all of us to check our email and schedules wherever we may be,’’ says Paul
Sculthorpe, Senior Web Developer for the company. Sculthorpe says that aside from giving everyone on staff the ability to schedule upcoming meetings with Calendar and share files, it’s made his job easier, too. ‘‘It has taken a big load off our general IT
administration staff. Now we can focus on our real work. The calendar and docs sharing is particularly good.’’
Email is the primary Google service used by the company. ‘‘All of our emails are stored at Google. We figure their systems are more resilient and secure than our own shoddy solution that failed a few months back. Those using desktop clients still download all of their emails too.’’ A desktop client is a program like Outlook Express that is installed on your computer and that gathers information from a networked resource—
in this case, an e-mail server. Google’s Gmail service provides an alternative for those who want to take advantage of it.
Although Google’s Docs & Spreadsheets service, which enables a company to prepare a edit, and share word processing and spreadsheet files online, isn’t as fullfeatured as, say, Microsoft Word or Excel, as Sculthorpe observes: ‘‘for simple day to day stuff that needs collaboration, it’s ideal.’’