For Google, the perfect search engine is something that “understands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.”
Google dominates the search engine market, handling nearly 90% of all search queries in the UK. And, although the picture is more balanced in the US, Google still enjoys 61% of the market. Moreover, the search engine giants continue to increase their share of the social login market, increasing 3% to 38% in the first quarter of 2014, with Facebook declining 3% to 42%.
This domination is not without good reason. Google is not only a fantastic search tool. It creates great products, supports a huge developer community, constantly evolves by establishing strategic partnerships and offers a wealth of services – essential for browsers, businesses and search engine marketers.
Google has become a synonym for internet search, but its world extends far beyond the search field.
Most of us use Search, Gmail, Images, Maps, Translate and YouTube every day. We depend on them for both business and leisure. In this paper, however, we’re exploring – and, indeed, drawing attention to – some of the tools, services and products Google offers which might be unfamiliar with web users. Provisions that enable publishers and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses; allow developers to contribute to the online ecosystem and, ultimately, help deliver a better search experience for us all.
Google endeavours to provide businesses with the help they need to succeed on the web. In November 2013, it launched Google Partners – a new certification platform that provides online marketers and agencies with sales and marketing toolkits, free certification exams and access to a wider community of “Google experts” and web professionals.
“Our vision is simple”, states Google, “to build true champions of the web and support them with the resources, training and support to help business succeed online.”
Google Partners (GP) was designed with customer feedback in mind. Firstly, it seeks to connect small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) more closely to the Google ecosystem by providing access to training opportunities, special events, as well as the latest research and product updates. Secondly, GP strives to “demonstrate credibility”. The new Partners badge, for instance, recognises businesses that have excelled with Google products and adhere to the best online practices. Thirdly, and just as crucially, Partners accreditation enables SMEs to grow their business – if your company owns a badge, then you are part of GP search and, therefore, connected to thousands of potential clients.
Just recently, we touched upon some of the benefits for Manchester-based businesses in using agencies with the Google Partners badge.
“Partners stay ahead of the curve by working directly with Google”
Google Partners organises existing (similar) programs under a more efficient and easy to use platform. Most notably, it incorporates its web analytics tool – Google Analytics. GA is the most widely used analytics program on the web and provides a vital tool for businesses and marketers for optimising their webpages. Indeed, investment in an “implementation or analysis expert” has proven invaluable for thousands of businesses nation and worldwide.
What is the Google Analytics Certified Partner (GACP) program?
Certified Analytics Partners have to meet Google’s rigorous qualification standards. The program is, fundamentally, an accreditation for agencies who offer “web analytics implementations, analysis services and website testing and optimisation services.” And, in order to become a Partner, agencies have to complete a demanding application and interview process, followed by a series of exams to determine whether their capabilities and knowledge are of the highest level.
The Google Analytics Certified Partner scheme was designed to help SMEs connect with the most suitable agencies so they can develop fresh business models, promote conversion rate optimisation (CRO) and, ultimately, boost profitability. The basic (though pretty essential) Google Analytics software package is free to use but, in order for companies to successfully promote themselves online, it’s necessary to utilise advanced features such as goal tracking, e-commerce tracking and cross-domain tracking.
Creating a unique measurement plan, for instance, is essential. Analytical data can prove indispensable, but it needs to be relevant to the specific business-model. Companies need more than just a solid analytics infrastructure; information should be tailored to individual needs. The management of GA data takes time, technology and expertise – particularly if it is a large business, and you have major aspirations.
In fact, operations big and small can benefit from GACP directed analytics campaigns. In 2012, the “Obama for America” used Google Analytics to democratise rapid, data-driven (and effective) decision making. “Throughout the campaign, Google Analytics helped us democratize our web data, and enabled all of our teams to make key decisions quickly”, said Nate Lubin, the Director of Digital Marketing. “Having the data to understand how supporters and swing voters were engaging online was instrumental for doing our part to get President Obama re-elected.” For example, they used Real-Tome reports in order to recognise which debate-related organic search terms brought the most users to the campaign website. They could then place relevant search ads on these terms to inform browsers of Obama’s political stance on important issues.
Businesses can also use Google Analytics’ e-commerce tools to gain a deeper insight into customer preferences. By analysing the “tracking functionality results” the strategy division at Nissan has been able to better understand the vehicles that are in demand and, therefore, more effectively target the niches of local markets. In other words, proper interpretation of analytical data enables businesses to make quick decision making on important business matters and help facilitate website optimisation.
At Digital State Marketing we help to tackle similar optimisation issues. Take a look at our case study of James Pendleton – Estate Agencies – a detailed analytics operation which involved solving complicated beta site and canonical issues.
It’s not easy to obtain Achieved Partner status, but there are huge benefits for search marketers. Firstly, you obtain the verifiable “Certified badge”. Very important, obviously (!). Secondly, you receive more technical support from Google and gain deeper insight into tools such as beta features and product roadmaps. Thirdly, certified partner status increases your prominence in the search marketing world; there are invitations to exclusive events, speaking opportunities and, of course, client referrals.
An AdWords Certification demonstrates that an agency has mastered Google’s best advertising practices – and was introduced to help users become more equipped to manage the complexities of online advertising.
Certification qualifications are much sought after in the pay-per-click world (although, following the launch of Google Partners in November last year, agencies are now able to take AdWords Certification for free). Google places great important on AdWords campaigns and, understandably, encourages SEO professionals to use them as part of search marketing campaigns. They can be very effective. But, for best results, expertise is essential.
How can AdWords campaigns help businesses to grow? And why should you look out for Google AdWords Certification?
Effective use of AdWords can be particularly beneficial to SMEs. Business can define their budget from the start – you can pay what you want, you are only billed if your ad is clicked and ROI is usually very good because it guarantees traffic. Furthermore, as it taps into the analytical side of search marketing, it enables companies to, firstly, target specific traffic by location and demographic and, secondly, monitor the success of certain Ads.
“Google gave me a way to go specifically to my customer and we didn’t pay for it unless it worked”, says Bruce Treidel, owner of Bethel Music Centre based in Connecticut. “The business has never been this good and we’ve grown by about 15%, at a time when a lot of business are failing.”
“AdWords has definitely helped to increase our overall sales,” says Nathan Anderson-Dixon, Director of Mini Farm – a mobile petting farm based in the Midlands. “We also use Google Analytics to monitor and track the click-through rate, which we find very useful.” Mini Farm uses AdWords as an integral part of their varied online marketing strategy and, in the future, plans to continue investing heavily in AdWords to fully realise its potential.
Hostelbookers.com, a London-based budget accommodation booking website, has also used AdWords campaigns to expand its business. “As we began growing internationally, we needed to be sure that we were reaching our target market accurately. Thanks to AdWords, this has been a breeze”, remarks marketing manager Juan Perez. In conjunction with Export Advisor, AdWords as helped the company to keep a multi-national operation simple and effective. It has experienced over 30% annual growth, so, truly, the sky is the limit. “Our main aim for the next few years is to increase traffic to our site, and start advertising in even more languages”, Juan continues, “and with AdWords and Export Advisor at our side, we have every confidence in our ongoing success.”
Used effectively, AdWords can simplify a businesses’ marketing task because it encourages lots of pay-per-click traffic. Keyword traffic equates to sales, which is (hopefully) converted to profit. If a website is struggling for organic hits then “paid search” is the next best thing and Google provides all the necessary tools to help businesses tailor the most suitable campaign.
“Create your ads. Your ads appear on Google. You attract customers”
Partners, Analytics, AdWords, certification schemes – Google probably does more than you think to help business and search marketers make the most of the web. However, their extra-curricular services do not end there. In fact, Google has created well over 100 products and tools to help improve your web experience and make your life easier.
You’ll probably be familiar with Matt Cutts’ video blog. Now, however, Google is sending more shockwaves through the world of video conferencing with its new Hangouts service. It’s free and, because it is already integrated into most people’s workflow, represents a major challenge to separate commercial entities such as Skype. Videos can be saved and stored on YouTube, so viewers do not have to watch “webinars” live. It’s convenient and simple.
And there’s much more… Google Help allows users to post questions and get advice about all of Google’s products and services. Google Drive gives Google+ users access to cloud storage and file sharing. Meanwhile, Google Trends has become one of the most versatile tools available to search marketers because it suggests content ideas that encourage traffic and links.
Question time: How important are Google Certifications?
The answer, in short, is very important. Google does not make it easy for search marketing agencies to obtain certified partner status, but when the SEO landscape is so competitive, it is invaluable.
Microsoft offers a comparable “Bing Accredited Professional” status, which gives marketing agencies placement in their member directory, quarterly newsletters, certificates and use of Bing’s accreditation badge. However, its value to UK-based search marketers is more limited because Bing’s share of our search engine market is only 6% and the qualification criteria are much less rigorous than Google’s more respected equivalent.
Google Partners is essentially the showroom for AdWords, Analytics and Google’s other support tools. The search engine giants have not always made it easy for users and businesses to discover and access their services – but it’s getting much more straightforward.
From Google’s perspective, a better service means more users, which means it can control more of our data. Billions of internet users and business entrust Google with their information – Google’s greatest asset because it helps to further entrench their dominant position.
Our online experience continues to evolve and Google is at the vanguard of developments in the world of online provision. Google offers a wealth of free services and businesses who recognise their possibilities can expect real results.
What are YOUR thoughts? We’re always keen on feedback so please feel free to comment below – or via our social media (@smg_uk) – and tell us if there’s anything you’d like us to discuss.