Randi F. Penfil

Understand what your target audience wants and needs, let them know how your business can fill those needs, and how they can reach you. If you’re a business owner and have read at least a couple articles on marketing, you already know that. But what you may not know is that Google offers a number of free or budget-conscious resources designed for these purposes, says Randi F. Penfil, a speaker with Grow with Google, which offers digital skills workshops.

Penfil will show business owners how to use these resources including search engine optimization (SEO), Smart Campaigns in Google Ads, Google My Business, and Google Trends at an upcoming workshop sponsored by SCORE. “Reach Customers Online with Google” takes place at the South Brunswick Public Library on Tuesday, June 25, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. For more information, visit princeton.score.org.

Penfil finds that using SEO to promote one’s business and website is a popular topic at the workshops. She recommends that you make it as easy as possible for humans and search engines to find your web content. Create pages that load quickly and can be viewed easily on different types of devices like mobile phones, tablets, laptops, or desktops, she says.

Google’s SEO support team recommends that you create unique and accurate page titles; make use of meta tags to further describe the content on your website; use heading tags to emphasize important text; plan your navigation based on your home page or root page; include a site map for search engines to ensure that they discover new and updated pages; and use “alt” descriptions that describe images.

Today it is not nearly as easy to fool search engines into pushing your content higher up in search results as it once was when people could use tricks such as overusing keywords, putting false information in webpage descriptions, and adding irrelevant backlinks. Today’s search engines are looking for websites that provide quality content and positive user experiences.

At the workshop Penfil will discuss Google’s indexing process and free tools that help website owners test and improve SEO and understand users’ search trends.

Be trendy. One such tool is Google Trends, a free resource that can be accessed online at trends.google.com. This tool can help you when thinking about what content to use and the related key words or phrases people are searching on. Using the explore tool on the Trends web page, a user can type in a keyword and will be given a chart showing the popularity of that term over a period of time. Using the “Add Comparison” option, a user can compare the popularity of one term to another. You may have a product or service that exactly provides what customers are looking for, but if most of them are searching on a different phrase, your offering will appear lower in the search results or not at all.

You can also modify your search by specifying countries, subregions or time periods ranging from years to hours. You can modify the search by categories such as news, online communities, shopping, and type of search, such as image or YouTube. Google Trends also lists related topics and queries alongside your results.

Buy an ad. An easy way to promote your business is with Smart campaigns in Google Ads, says Penfil. Your Smart ad can appear when potential customers search for phrases related to your business on Google or Google Maps. Ads can appear within or outside your geographical area. A big advantage with Smart Campaigns is that you can choose your goals — whether you want more calls, actions on your website, or store visits — and you pay only when a viewer clicks on your ad. These campaigns use technology to monitor and improve the performance of your ads continuously.

Smart Campaigns are designed to be set up quickly and easily, and they allow you to set your own budget. When you sign up you fill in the content that will appear in the ad: a headline, your business’s main selling points, website link and links within your site, and phone number and address.

A Smart Campaign includes a map pin that may appear in your ad for customers located near your business. If your customer clicks the pin, she’ll be taken to your business location on Google Maps.

Make a sale. Google My Business, often referred to as your digital storefront, is a free resource designed to attract new customers. Once you create a verified business profile, your information appears on users’ screens when they are searching for it or for businesses like yours.

Your business information can include your address, phone number, website, open hours, photos, and posts you create about special offers and promotions. It also allows customers to share stories and leave reviews, and it gives you the opportunity to interact with your customers.

Inside track. Insights, a feature of Google My Business, is a tool that provides the owner with information on how customers find your listing on text or map results. It tracks actions like calls, requests for directions, visits to your website, and what sites your customers come from.

Penfil has been a speaker with Grow with Google since 2017 and a SCORE mentor since 2014. As a team member with Grow with Google, she conducts seminars and workshops helping small businesses and nonprofits build their digital footprint and get found online.

Before joining with Google she served Constant Contact as the regional development director. Prior to that she ran her own company, Penfil Marketing. Earlier in her career, she held positions with Reach Local and First Keystone Bank. She holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Penn State University and has studied photography at the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Her father owned an accounting firm, and her mother worked in education.

Penfil’s advice to business owners is to take advantage of Google’s free resources and to create a Google Profile if they don’t have one already. And once it is created, keep it up to date so the information will be relevant and meaningful when customers find it online.

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