Search is only the tip of the iceberg today. With myriad solutions for business, has Google proved that being cool and being capable need not be contradictory?

There are no two ways about it ? Google came, saw, and conquered the search market. The rapidity with which Google has been accepted as a legitimate verb in day-to-day language is no mean feat. Sure, the search turns up nifty results but, let?s be honest here, part of its success is also because Google?s built a reputation for being achingly cool. It’s considered by many devout fans as the company that can do no evil.
Push me, pull you
Google?s two-pronged approach to crossing the language barrier helps businesses make their sites available in up to 13 languages
Translation gadget
Using Google?s free translation gadget (http://translate.google.com) Website owners ? from a merchant in Bordeaux to a local crafts shop in the UAE ? can make their sites instantly available in up to 13 other languages.
Visit the new Tools tab on Google Translate, select the language of your Webpage and then cut and paste the automatically generated HTML snippet and include it in your page. Translation is available from English to/from Arabic, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified), Dutch, French, Italian, German, Greek, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish and from French to/from German.
Now when users visit your page, they can automatically translate your content into another language by choosing a language in the gadget. While machine translation isn?t perfect, users who might otherwise be unable to access your site can now get a basic understanding of your content.
Cross language search
Click on the Translated Search tab on Google Translate, type in your query and select the language in which you would like to see your results. In a fraction of a second, Google translates the query, searches across the Web, and translates the title and snippets of the results. In addition, Google also provides users with an edit link to refine their queries, and juxtaposes translated results alongside the original results so that users with some language ability can compare the results.
This feature is available in English, Arabic, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Traditional), Chinese (Simplified).
Of course, ‘Don’t be evil!’ Google’s unofficial motto has come under scrutiny in recent times as it’s grown from a nimble start up to a corporate big shot. And the competition has been quick to attack the very coolness that sets Google apart. But Husni Khuffash, Country Business Manager, Google UAE, is quick to defend the search giant: “Yes we are cool people with a cool culture but, just to cite an example, my colleague Joanne here, who manages global communications and public affairs, is very trendily dressed and is also a Harvard graduate. So being cool doesn’t jeopardise the quality of your work. I think if you look at our core product, which is search, definitely we are very with it, but I also think we are the most accurate.
“Regardless of our achievements in search, we are also aware of the fact that our competition is just a click away. There’s nothing stopping you, as a user, from taking your business elsewhere if we slack up. So we can’t afford to fixate on our image and disregard performance.”
So what does Google offer regional SMEs? “We’re trying to attract Arabic users and promote the creation of high-quality regional content, for starters,” says Husni.
Small and medium businesses, by their very name, are obviously smaller companies that would like to eventually grow into bigger companies. “Nobody wants to stay small for eternity,” exclaims Husni. But being an SME means you have limited resources to compete with bigger brands in terms of advertising and technology infrastructure. That?s where Google can help, he adds.
Business essentials
One of the most used tools in business is e-mail. Other must-haves include documents, spreadsheets and presentations. The traditional way has been to pay a small fortune to purchase a product and install it on your company’s computers. But not every business needs power features. “I am not trying to run down anyone even I use Excel at times, but for very specialised spreadsheets. Excel is a great product but many businesses don?t always need spreadsheets that stretch to two kilometres.”
So what option do they have? Google offers Google apps (www.google.com/a). It includes mail, which would be your name@yoursmb.com, documents and spreadsheets, among other things. ?What I love about it is the ability to collaborate. This is what businesses will eventually evolve into,? feels Husni.

He cites a real-life example: “I’m currently studying for my Masters” degree from London Business School. About 70 of us students had been sharing, coordinating and collecting information via e-mail all along. This was not very efficient, so we made a spreadsheet in Google apps which contains everyone\s details. Now it’s all in one place that everyone can access and edit. You can see previous versions, and the sequence and source of changes, who added what, when. And you can see who is online and even chat with them. So you can share, collaborate and communicate in real time.?

What’s in it for you?
The fact that you’re in control of how much you want to share or make editable would appeal to the likes of control freaks and managers. You also have the option to revert to older copies, or save the version you want.
While Husni’s example is derived from his personal life, Google Apps would work just as well for business. Colleagues, business associates or regional branches could collaborate online; so instead of everyone having to compare and consolidate their individual files, they edit a single document from any computer, see the changes in real time and respond to them immediately. “We, being a large company, use Google Apps and it works wonderfully for us, so I am sure it would be equally useful for SMEs,” enthuses Husni.
But how reliable is it? What about recent reports of Gmail being down for a few hours? “In technology there is no company in the world that can boast of zero downtime. Yes, these things happen, but I can say with confidence that we responded to the situation very promptly,” says Husni.
And how does it compare with other packages? “The cost per user is very low, and you have the full support of Google behind you. Businesses typically need to invest in e-mail exchange servers, backup, security, and so on. We’re telling them they no longer need to pay for, deploy or upgrade these at their end. We do it for them,” explains Husni. “This way, a tiny company can have the same facilities and support as larger organisations. We are already doing this for our company and Gmail, so we can also do it for our clients just as easily. You become part of a large group of individuals and businesses who share our resources and skills, and thus save money.”
He has a point. Businesses are increasingly turning to Software as a Service. A new Forrester report reveals how much cheaper Web-based e-mail such as Google’s Gmail is in comparison to traditional e-mail installed on-premise for businesses with up to 15,000 users. According to Ted Schadler, a Forrester analyst, “There is greater transparency in what it will cost because it’s pay as you go.” He feels getting such basics off their plate allows companies to worry about more business critical projects. “Why would you want to deal with it if you don’t have to?” he says.
Gmail add-ons for busy businesses
Here are our favourites. You can access them from Gmail labs, a service that lets you test (and use) these additional features while they’re being tweaked by the developers at Google. To access labs, click on the Labs tab under Settings, near where your e-mail address appears in bold lettering.
1. Tasks
Think of tasks as a very lightweight post-it note for your Gmail inbox. One really cool feature is the way Tasks integrates with incoming e-mails.
2. Quick links
Have an e-mail that you know you’ll be reopening quite a bit? With quick links, you can create a shortcut to it that appears in the quick links widget on the left column of your Gmail page.
3. Canned responses
Depending on your line of work, you might just have too many e-mails to get through in one day, many of which don’t require a personalised reply. With canned responses you can send a pre-formatted response to any e-mail you receive.
4. Custom label colours
If you use the labels feature in Gmail ? akin to tagging an e-mail so you can discover it easily later – this is a nice design add-on to help your eyes decipher one label from the other. So, perhaps, you’d like your “travel” label to appear in blue and your “expenses” one to appear in green.
5. Forgotten attachment detector
It happens all the time. You craft an e-mail message, explaining what you’d like done or someone to see in an attached file. But, of course, you send it and forget to attach said file. If you enable the Gmail forgotten attachment detector, a pop-up reminder will come up when you use words like “attach” or “attachment,” asking if you’ve forgotten it.
6. E-mail addict
We spend too much time on e-mail. With e-mail addict, once an hour your e-mail will shut down, asking you to “take a break” and you will become invisible on Google Chat for 15 minutes.
And Google has been taking steps to address what it lacked in comparison with locally-deployed solutions. It recently announced offline e-mail for businesses using Google Apps and for consumer Gmail users. With the offline service, users will be able to load Gmail in their Web browsers even if they don’t have an Internet connection, and they will be able to read, star, label, archive, and organise e-mails. Offline Gmail will also allow users to compose new e-mails and move them to the Outbox, where they will stay till the user is online again.
The offline e-mail service is built on the Gears platform, which Google has also used to make Google Docs, Google Reader, and several third-party Web apps available offline. Google plans to make other aspects of Google Apps, such as Google Calendar, available offline as well. The company expects the rollout of offline Gmail to be complete soon.
Husni speaks of the popularity of Google?s various services and how that makes the transition easier for business users. “The idea is that why should you have a different functionality at work and home. Users, in general, don?t like too much complication. For instance, why are Google Earth and Google Maps so popular? Because people use them in their day-to-day lives and businesses find them extremely useful too. If something is already working so well in your personal life, why do you want to reinvent the wheel at work?”
Ideas for advertising
Moving on from technology, Google is already causing some unease to traditional media companies because it provides something that they held dominance over till lately – advertising. Add to that the fact that because of the quality of its search, it is also extremely influential when it comes to directing people to relevant content and, therefore, appropriately targeted-advertising, and you begin to see why it makes sense to advertise with Google.
“If you ask any SME, whether the economy is doing well or not, at the end of the day they have a business to run and they need to sell to their clients,” says Husni matter-of-factly. Most SMEs can’t afford mainstream media, or even if they can, they need to be very selective, and hence risk not getting enough visibility for the money they spent. The Net has proved to be a great way to reach a huge number of people at a low cost.
With Google AdWords (www.google.ae/intl/en/ads) when someone conducts a search on Google, if your ad is relevant, it appears on the side of the results page. “If you are a mobile provider and someone is searching for mobiles, at that instant that is top of mind for them and they are far more likely to make a conscious decision to click on your ad,” explains Husni. ? “That person is searching for what you provide and at that magical moment you are there. There is no more targeted form of advertising! And you pay only if he or she actually clicks on your ad.”
In the current scenario, everyone wants to know how you can help save them money. Husni is happy to explain: “If you were to produce a TV commercial, you?d need a director, fancy sets, props, beautiful models, copywriters, art directors – in short you’d need a massive budget and that’s even before you’ve aired the ad. With Google AdWords, it’s only text and our system will prompt you through the process of creating your ad. So producing it costs nothing. For SMEs this is a great way to reach people at a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. And you can target different geographic locations and languages.”
So what determines the order in which you appear on the right-hand side of the search page? “Obviously, you need to be relevant to the search term,” explains Husni. “If two ads have the same relevance, then it depends on who has bid higher. But you don’t pay anything if someone else?s ad is clicked.”
You also have the option to flip to the other side of the fence and make some money by letting Google advertise on your site. Google AdSense matches ads to your site’s content and audience, and depending on the type of ad, you can earn money from clicks or impressions.
Quick tip: Push your site on search
When a user enters a query, Google searches its index for matching pages and returns the most relevant results. Relevancy is determined by over 200 factors, one of which is the PageRank ? the measure of the importance of a page based on the incoming links from other pages. In simple terms, the more sites link to your page, the higher is its PageRank.
Trivia: A few years ago, online Bush-bashers used PageRank to their advantage. They ganged up to link the term “miserable failure” from their blogs to the 43rd President’s homepage. As a result, a Google search for “miserable failure” returned the White House’s Website as top result.
Having a Website plays an important role in advertising your business. “There is no excuse today for any business to not have an online presence,? feels Husni. There are many people, including us, who allow you to get online using readymade Websites. For instance Google Sites (sites.google.com) allows you to create and even collaborate on your Web pages. And Google Webmaster (www.google.com/webmasters) and Google Analytics (www.google.com/analytics) provide simple yet effective ways to optimise your site and drive traffic to it.”
For very small businesses (for instance, a tiny shop) without the budget, knowhow or time to set up a Website, Google offers AdWords Business Pages. The ad clicks straight to one page that, literally, has just the business card, company name, business, location, contact details, and so on. “It’s not a Website, but it’s our way to provide those really, really small businesses an online presence,” reveals Husni.
Google also does its bit to educate the market about best practices and its services. Husni feels it’s an ongoing, two-way educational process because even we learn about their needs. A popular event is the Google Clinic, which is pretty much like visiting a doctor for your Website. “We conduct workshops and other free events for our clients, and would be happy to extend the invitation to SMB Advisor readers for our next event,” he adds.
In conclusion, Husni has this advice for entrepreneurs: “Today, the economic situation worldwide is precarious, but it’s also an opportunity. If you’ve lost your job, this is a great time to start out on your own. And because other people have also lost jobs, you can have the best talent in the market at a reasonable cost. So if you dream of being an entrepreneur, now is your chance.” And needless to add, Google has a few services that could help you along.
Ketaki Banga, with inputs from IDG International

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