Free Google Tools for Websites and Blogs
Google has always provided some awesome FREE tools to make people’s lives easier, but many of their tools come in handy when it comes to managing your blog or website (some more than others).
Below is a list of some of these tools, most of which I use myself. If you’re a business on a budget, or starting your own business and you’re on a very tight budget, or you just have a personal blog, or you just want to know a little more about some of Google’s available services, you definitely want to be sure to check these out as they can come in handy!
Google has a lot more services available than I’m listing here. For this post, I wanted to concentrate mainly on services that you could use in relation to your website and/or blog.
Many of Google’s services requires that you have a google account, and there are other ways of creating a google account without having to use gmail if that is your preference, but I find that creating a gmail has come in very handy for myself, and is really easy to do. I have multiple e-mail addresses, and since gmail is web-based and is easy to check, I have associated many of my e-mail addresses with my gmail account so that I can see all of my e-mail from one location, and when I send an e-mail from the gmail account, it can be set up so that it appears to have been sent from one of the e-mails associated with the account. For example, if you have your own domain name, chances are you have an e-mail with that domain, something like firstname.lastname@example.org. Your host provider can give you the details for how to set up this e-mail in a program such as Microsoft Outlook, and these are the same details you need to associate that e-mail address with gmail as well. From there, you can even color-coordinate the e-mails you receive so that you know which address it was sent to through the “labels” function.
If you’re rather not create a gmail account and would prefer to just have a google account, then you can click here: https://www.google.com/accounts/NewAccount
The three most important services (in my opinion) for websites/blogs:
Feedburner was bought out by Google and is now a Google service, and if Google valued it to the point of buying them out, you know it’s a service to look into! Basically, it helps manage an RSS feed (that all WordPress sites and blogs have, by the way), and keep track of your subcribers. You’ll be able to check people’s methods of subcriptions (ie. what kinds of feed readers they’re using), regional location of people who have viewed your feed, etc. Definitely useful in market analysis, and keeping track of who you’re reaching!
What is an RSS feed? RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication”, and is basically just a format used to publish regularly updates sites and blogs. For example, if you click here, you’ll see my blog’s feed (fed by feedburner) in a new tab/window. You can use the URL (web address) for my feed and subcribe to it via a feed reader (such as Google Reader – more on it below), and you can subscribe to other blogs that you enjoy and read them all from one place! It also provides your blog with more exposure as it makes it more easily accessible to people.
Google Analytics is a must have for anyone who owns or manages a website and/or blog. Life the Feedburner statistics, Google Analytics provides detailed information on your visitors – where they come from, how many visits your site/blog has had, how many page views, what pages were viewed, what your bounce rate is, etc.
What does Bounce Rate mean? (taken from Google’s Analytics help section here)
Bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. Use this metric to measure visit quality – a high bounce rate generally indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors. The more compelling your landing pages, the more visitors will stay on your site and convert. You can minimize bounce rates by tailoring landing pages to each keyword and ad that you run. Landing pages should provide the information and services that were promised in the ad copy.
As you can see, this tool is absolutely essential to helping you gear your site or blog towards the audience you’re trying to reach, and best of all, it’s free to use!
Google’s Webmaster Tools are a definite must to keep track of your site from Google’s point of view, including keep track of your site’s top search queries and what rank position your site falls for a particular search query. It’ll basically help you analyze what you may need to update/change/tweak on your website to give it more exposure, and if your site is at all coming up in searches consisting of the key words towards which you’re gearing your website or blog. It’ll also confirm if your web pages are being indexed by Google.
Other Google services:
As mentioned above, Google Reader is a tool with which you can subscribe to RSS feeds and read them all from one location, thus making it easier to keep track of different website and blog feeds you want to read. Whenever you see “subscribe to my RSS feed” or the little RSS icon image: , on someone’s website, you need to use some form of reader to subscribe to that feed, and that’s where Google Reader comes in. I use Google Reader myself, and I also use it as an add-on to my iGoogle page so that I can easily view new posts directly from my main Google search page. More on iGoogle below.
I myself find iGoogle very useful in that Google has been my browser’s homepage for many years, and now, instead of having the basic search engine page, I now have a new “homepage” to work from, where I can easily see the latest news from CNN, the latest blog posts from the feeds to which I’ve subcribed, the date and time, the weather, and other things that interest me (such as “Word of the Day”). It basically allows you to create your own little portal that contains only things you want to see!
Google Docs is Google’s version of the Microsoft Office Suite, but it’s different in that a) it’s web-based, and b) it’s free! Definitely useful on many fronts, from making presentations that you can embed on your website and/or blog, to creating spreadsheets, word documents, etc., and always be able to access them from anywhere in the world (as long as you have an internet connection).
We all know what YouTube is, and again, this is a service that was bought out by Google, so you can trust its value and usefulness. YouTube can be an integral part of your social marketing plan and strategy. It’s an area I haven’t quite delved into yet, but I plan on doing so in the future. You can go to YouTube and search just about anything and find a video on it, from how-to videos (such as, how to use WordPress), to videos of people’s kids in talent shows, to just about anything you can think of!
If you’ve ever searched for an easy way to post photos online, Google has a tool for that as well! They call it Picasa, and it’s both an online webalbum as well as a piece of software that you download and install to help you organize, edit, and share your pictures. I’ve used Picasa in the past, and there are other popular photo-sharing website online as wel such as Flickr, but if you’re a fan of Google, you’ll definitely want to use this tool. It’s very easy to use, and the web albums can be set up as public or private albums, so it’s also an easy way to share your personal photos with friends and family, if you don’t need it for your website and/or blog.
I don’t know a lot about Google Checkout as I’ve been using Paypal for 10 years myself, but if you’re looking for alternative to PayPal, it’s definitely something to check out.
Google Bookmarks works like your bookmarks in your browser, but you store them on the web in a centralized location where you can always access them (as long as you’re online). I user my browser’s bookmarking function for websites I visit regularly, but I like to bookmark certain sites that I want to go back to in the short term (but likely not always or forever) using Google bookmarks. Sometimes, this includes my competitor’s web pages and/or posts, which will sometimes give me an idea on what direction I should take with a blog post, or perhaps provide me with an idea of what not to do on my own site and blog.
Google Scholar is really good to use for researching purposes, when you want to find information that comes from reputable sources. It can be used by students, for example, working on projects/essays/papers, however, it can also be used for blog research, and it’s pretty up-to-date. I was able to see some interesting results when searching “social media”.
Google News is a nice way to view the world’s headlines, and be able to view news in specific categories. Once I’m logging into my google account and it knows where I’m based, it actually personalizes this page for me, so for example, I’m in Canada, so one of the categories Google gives me is “Canada”. The categories I have to choose from are:
You can also search different terms and Google will find headlines that contain your search terms. I find Google News useful for researching topics that I want to blog about. For example, is if I were to search “social media”, the results would be headlines from all over the world, and it tells you how long ago the article was posted.
Google Maps can come in really handy when trying to show the location of something – whether it be your business, where you live, or a business or place you’re referring to, and Google Maps provides and embed code so that you can put them directly on your web page or blog post, like this (Arnprior is the town in which I live):
View Larger Map
Now, you can’t really say that Google is just a search engine anymore! Which services do you use, and what’s your opinion?