As an individual, it’s likely you have a Gmail account, you’ve watched a video on YouTube, or maybe you even have an Android smartphone, which are all Google products. As a business owner, though, you may be unaware that there are a number of Google products (or “apps”) that are meant for business owners as well. These apps can be used alone, or together depending on your needs. In fact, you can move your entire business onto Google Apps and have branded Gmail, calendars and other services designed to aid your business processes. Below we’ve outlined our top five picks from Google Apps for business.
The Five Best Google Apps For Business Owners
Google Hangouts are great for more than just catching up with friends over video chat. They can also be a virtual meeting room and client presentation tool that can help you expand your customer base and improve employee relationships. Google Hangouts will support up to 15 participants, who can logon from their computers, smartphones or tablets.
Hangouts let you do a number of tasks you may not have considered before. Beyond face to face meetings, if you house files on Google Drive (formerly Google Docs) you can collaborate on those documents from a hangout. This can make group work easier, or make giving vendors feedback clearer. Google Hangouts also supports presentations through Google Drive, so you can give presentations to potential clients without ever leaving the office.
If you’ve ever worked with Basecamp or any of the other project management applications around the web, you may already be familiar with the core functions of Google Sites. Basically, you can create project sites on the fly either on your own or from one of the ready-made templates. Google Sites is a good place to store calendars, common documents, videos or other media that people across the organization will need.
Setting up one of these sites works a lot like creating a Google Doc, and can be edited by anyone who has permission. Each site gets up to 10GB of storage space, which can be slightly expanded if some of the documents included on the site are actually housed on Google Drive. Google Sites also come with Google’s fully encrypted security and customized controls ensuring that whatever you have stored on a Google Site is secure. Site creators can also set permissions on a per-page basis allowing you to give access to outside parties like vendors without having to expose the whole Site. With permissions, you can also create an intranet for your organization, allowing you to maintain a central repository but only providing need-to-know access.
For an additional fee of $5 per user, per month, Google will set up a full-scale storage account tied to the Google Apps that you use. If you’re a Gmail user, you may already be familiar with the significant amount of storage Google offers for free. Google Vault steps that up, allowing you to choose which emails and chats are stored, along with any other documents you keep on Google Apps. Vault creates a secure archive that you can use for audits or for record keeping.
Vault has a couple of other handy features including the “legal hold.” Say you have a problem employee, client or vendor. If you have Google Vault, and place a legal hold on one of your users, email and chat messages can’t be deleted when they are placed on hold. This feature ensures that there will always be a trail when dealing with a challenging individual. Legal hold can also be helpful to maintain records of any conversations that may contain sensitive information, or information that must be kept by law.
From the Vault archive, you can also export chats and emails to other programs or run an audit on particular user activity. Vault leverages the power of Google’s search technology to make finding archived information easy.
If you have a brick and mortar store, Google Places can be a great way to boost your presence online even if you already have a website. Google Places gives you an official listing on Google Maps. If you have a website, business hours or other information about your work, it can be included in this listing along with a phone number. Adding a phone number allows mobile users to search for you and then push to call you from the listing.
Google Places can also help with your SEO. Having a website and a Google Places listing improves your authority and gives you more results. If customers review you, those reviews will also be incorporated with your places listing, adding even more weight to your search results. If you don’t have a website, Google Places can also be a solid stand-in providing all the necessary information and directions at a glance.
If you have a website or blog, Google Analytics has the reputation of being the industry standard for good reason. Google Analytics offers rich analysis of how users interact with your online efforts, and can integrate directly with ad campaigns to help you track what’s working and what isn’t. More than just a register of how many people visited you online each day, Analytics breaks down where they came from, how they got there and what they looked at.
Analytics can also be a great forecasting tool. You can set up A/B tests, or conversion goals and track the results of those efforts. Analytics will also let you go back and look at old information which can help you make forward looking decisions on what to adjust, or how to try something new. Google also offers a fairly deep knowledge base and some tutorials to help users learn how to get the most out of the information they collect.
Beyond standard websites and online stats, Google Analytics now offers improved mobile app analysis as well. This was a welcome upgrade as mobile is quickly outpacing tablets and laptops for web searches and web traffic.
Advanced segments, another feature of Analytics lets you test particular segments of your audience or separate paid from free traffic so you can see differences in parts of your audience. Analytics graphs also support annotations, which let you, and your team make notes right on the graphs for future reference. Further supporting these two features is the custom reporting capability that allows you to create analytics reports that are unique to your organization. These features make Google Analytics a standout for business owners who may want to track the success of multiple marketing channels, and/or audience segments.