So you’re finally ready to get the name of your fine establishment out on the Internet. When first starting out, this can be more than just a little overwhelming. The process of making sure that search engines offer your site or listing as a response when a prospective customer submits a query for a service or product like yours certainly sounds complicated, and the number of different ways to go about search engine optimization (SEO) don’t make it any seem any simpler.
However, there’s only one best way to approach SEO, no matter your level of experience, and that’s the same way you would eat an elephant—one piece at a time. This time around you’ll not only learn about the ways that working with Google can help your SEO, but also how to access the three most important Google features for making an online face for your business: namely Gmail, the Google+ social and business network, and your online business listing.
Setting Up Gmail: Getting Started
Signing up for one of Google’s email accounts is simple, and you may already have an account you user for your business correspondences, personal communications or both. However, there are a few things you need to ask yourself as you prepare to sign up for your business Gmail account:
- How much information does Google need?
- What username to you intend to use?
- What name are you going to put in your user profile?
- Do you need this address to forward mail to another, or vice-versa?
Reaching the signup page is as simple as running a web search for “Gmail sign up,” and the process is fairly straightforward. Google requires some basic information such as first and last name, username, a secure password, your birth date and your gender. These are used to maintain and secure your identity online, so don’t put in data that isn’t accurate or at least memorable. You can also give Google your cell phone number or a current email address, but these are only used to retrieve your password or verify your identity in the event this password is lost.
When it comes to choosing a username, there are a few best practices. Even if you’re the sole proprietor of the business, using your own name, or a variation thereof, is not recommended when setting up a Gmail account. Instead, pick something relevant either to your business name or the kind of service or products that your business offers. Avoid using numbers and underscores, although for Gmail the use of periods is acceptable—a feature unique to Google’s email service, the address used will register identically regardless of where or how many periods are included in the word. So Google’s servers read firstname.lastname@example.org the same as they read email@example.com. This helps protect users from having important correspondences sent to users with a username almost identical to theirs, but could also limit your options in choosing a username.
- To choose your company’s Gmail username, follow these guidelines:
- If possible, use the shortest form of the company name: firstname.lastname@example.org, not email@example.com
- Barring that, use a short description of services: firstname.lastname@example.org, not email@example.com
- Try not to use confusing abbreviations unless they’re part of your business name or easily recognizable: ABChardware@gmail.com would be fine, but toolsfromDTWM@gmail.com would not
- Repeating the above, do not use numbers unless they’re part of your company name: firstname.lastname@example.org is acceptable, but email@example.com is not
- Do not use more than 20 characters in your username, under 15 is even better
- Avoid phrases of more than five syllables, three or fewer is even better
- Words and phrases that are easily remembered and associated with your business work best, but be sure to adhere to the guidelines above for a clean, professional username.
For the name in your profile, you can either break the name of your company into a “first” and “last” name, or you can put the full name in the field for first name and then the word “email,” “mailbox” or “administrator” in the field for last name. This way the name of your company always appears in its entirety, regardless of the viewing settings of your recipients; this can be extremely helpful if you’re transferring to Gmail from another email service, as it avoids issues of mistaken identity.
On the other hand, if you want the ease of a Gmail inbox but still want to be able to check messages from your old email address, Gmail has a simple forwarding system that you can set up with ease with just a few clicks from your inbox. Note that this makes emails sent to Gmail forward to another account, not the reverse—if you’re worried about missing important messages from your old company email address, check and see if your old email provider offers forwarding service. If not, make sure you send out a minimum of three messages, over no more than 10 days, notifying your business contact list of the change in address to avoid the problem altogether.
Getting into Google+
Signing up for Gmail also automatically creates a new Google user account, which makes setting up your new business Google+ account that much easier. Simply click the square button in the upper right of your inbox, and select the red G+ icon from the resulting dropdown. This will take you right to your new Google+ profile, giving you the option to set up a personal page. You can have both a personal page and a business page with the same account, and business pages offer the added benefits of automatic directory submission and multiple managers, but you’ll need to have a personal page to start a business page. The process of setting up a personal page is extremely simple.
First, Google will ask for a user image. Choose a square image over 250 pixels on each side; since the personal page is for you as a manager, a photo of yourself or your storefront will be just fine. If your image isn’t square, you’ll have the option to crop it into a square on the next screen.
After your user image is set up, the service will ask you to set up something called “Circles.” These are Google’s friend and follower group; anyone you add to your circles will be viewable to you from your Google+ homepage, and people who add your company to their circles will be able to see who you’ve added. These are generally imported from your contact list, so if you’ve imported your contacts from another email account when setting up your Gmail, you should be able to easily select your customers, colleagues and affiliates to add to the list. If you didn’t add anyone to your contacts list, you can manually search for your colleagues and affiliates, and then add customers later. (Note that while there are default Circle types provided, such as friend, family and coworkers, you can also create custom Circles easily to define you’re the relationship your business has with each user.)
With that, your personal profile is set up! Now you can change your cover image, check your feed and add more contacts. For the image, the minimum size is currently 480×270 pixels, while the maximum is 2120×1192 pixels; 1080×608 pixels generally offers the best result.
Once you have that set up, you can make your business page! To do this, click the “Home” button on the upper left of the page and select “Pages” from the dropdown. From here Google will guide you through the process of setting up your business page—it’s pretty much the same as setting up a personal page, so if you managed the first one this one should be easy. Once you’re all set up, user image and cover photo included, it’s time to make your first post! Make sure to check your visibility settings, because you can make every post universally public, limit it to your Circles, or even to specific groups within your Circles. That’s all there is to it!
Joining Google’s Business Listing Directory
Setting up Gmail automatically gives you a Google account, and setting up a business Google+ automatically gives you a Google Business listing—however, that listing is generally incomplete, and still needs some help from you.
In order to fully submit your business to Google’s listings, while logged into your business Google account, visit Google My Business online and simply click the “Get on Google” button in the center of the screen. This will take you to nationwide map, where you can put in the name of your business and allow Google to run a search; often, this will bring up a pre-created listing for your business, generated by user interest, local directories, or in correlation to a social media account. You can choose to “take ownership” of this business easily enough, making the changes that you need to get things up to speed and then awaiting verification.
Many businesses are eligible for instant verification, which is electronically via phone. One of Google’s outbound calling bots will call the number listed online for your business and give you a four digit verification number; inputting this into the correct field will give you full ownership and control over the listing. If you’re not eligible for instant verification, you’ll have to wait about a week for a postcard to show up from Google, also with that handy four digit verification number.
If you don’t already have a listing, you’ll have to option to input it manually once Google finishes its search. Once you submit this information, you’ll be mailed a postcard to verify the legitimacy of your business, and maintain ownership of the listing from then on.
Google may seem like a big animal to tame, but the simple step-by-step instructions and basic English guidelines make it easy for anyone to get set up in a snap. Just make sure you have a little time set aside to get it all done, since you may be waiting for verification for a while it’s much easier to do everything else in one pass. Get started sending, receiving and posting, and you’re sure to find new customers in no time.