Google and the Office
Useful (and Free) Ways to Enhance Your Business with Google
The words “Google,” “googling,” and “googled” are now in the dictionary, and there are many reasons why they should also be included in every small or mid-sized business’s marketing plan. Google offers several services to small business owners that allow for increased visibility and productivity, and these services are available at no cost to the user. While some of the services may not be applicable to a law, accounting, or financial services firm (for instance, you can create coupons, a tool that is more applicable to a pizza joint), others are worth considering and implementing. This article focuses on those Google services most useful to a small law firm, accounting office, or financial planner.
Google Local Business Center
Do you ever search for your business with Google and it doesn’t appear? Or it appears, but the listing is incorrect? It is possible to edit your existing business listing, or create an entirely new listing, by using the Google Local Business Center. Google compiles business listings by accessing other sources, such as the phone directory and other websites. However, this compilation method inevitably results in some wrong information being found in a small business’s listing. To allow businesses to access, manage, and correct their listings, Google has established the Local Business Center.
To setup your own Local Business Center account, visit google.com/local/add. You first need to create a free account, and once it is created, you can manage your office location (or locations) all within one account (please note that your new account will need to be verified, either over the phone or by mail). Once you have established an account, you can edit how your listing appears (name, address, phone number, website, type of business). In addition, if the placement of your office on Google Maps is incorrect, you can move its location. Also, the Google Local Business Center includes a tracking tool that compiles statistics and creates graphs showing how others found your business with Google, and what action they took after finding you (if they went on to your website, searched for driving directions, or looked for a different firm). All this information can be valuable in helping to determine the ways to improve your business’s presence both in the electronic and the real world.
Google Analytics is another free service, which is used to monitor your website (as opposed to your business listing). The service creates detailed reports about the visitors to your website. It tracks and compiles statistics based on a number of factors, including the number of hits received, how people found your site, where they live, and how much time they spent on your site. Once Google Analytics has been implemented, you can review reports of these statistics, which can be customized to allow you to analyze specific aspects of your site. Almost 60% of the most popular websites in the world utilize Google Analytics.
To create a Google Analytics account, go to www.google.com/analytics. You can then create an account, and will receive a personalized “Tracking Code” for your website. This is an html code (the code used to create websites) and must be implemented into every page of your site. Google provides instructions on how to properly setup Google Analytics, and it can be used regardless of whether your website is customized or a template. However, for the less Internet savvy, it may be better to have your website programmer setup Google Analytics, as a person familiar with the service can implement it properly within a matter of minutes. Once it is created, you will be able to monitor your website’s traffic.
Most practitioners have likely found that, when conducting research, sometimes the fastest, easiest (and cheapest) approach is to simply run a Google search. However, what many attorneys and accountants are not aware of is that Google offers an alternative search engine created specifically for academic, including legal, research. The service is known as Google Scholar and can be accessed directly as scholar.google.com.
On the homepage for Google Scholar, you can choose from two categories: (1) Articles and (2) Legal Opinions and Journals. The Google Scholar database includes most online journals from the United States, Canada and Europe and case law from both the federal and state levels. You can tailor your search by conducting an “Advanced Search,” in which you can choose to search for specific keywords or party names, or limit results to only federal or certain state decisions. When a published case is found, the results include not only the text of the case, but also listings of other cases cited by it, and the sections most often quoted.
Google Scholar has obvious limitations. For one, unlike services such as Westlaw and Lexis, a user is left to determine on their own a case is still good law. Also, when searching for articles, you should be aware that some online services have declined to be included in the Google database, while others only allow you to view an excerpt of an article for free, but then require that you pay for the entire document. However, despite these drawbacks, Google Scholar is still very useful, similar to the Casemaker system used by many state bar associations. It is not a perfect system, but a free service that gets the job done, and, in many cases, is a better alternative than simply running searches with the more general Google search engine.
Other Google Services
Google offers many other services that may or may not be worthwhile to a small business. A full listing can be found at google.com/intl/en/options. Among the other available services are AdWords (paid Google advertising), Patent Search (search all U.S. patents), Blogger (start your own legal blog), and Translate (an online language translator).
Hopefully this has provided a glimpse of the many services Google offers beyond your standard “Google search.” Google is now the most popular search engine, so it only makes sense to take advantage of the tools that it offers to help businesses increase online visibility and productivity.