'Google' Your Way to Improving Your Business

By the time you read this, I will have returned from a vacation to visit my Great Auntie Helen just north of Seattle, combined with a week in Alaska. I’m excited about the trip, yet frustrated too!

While I didn’t need to read the directions that came with my GPS to feel like I’m getting the most out of it, I haven’t had the time to sit down and read the manual for my digital camera or iRiver yet (think iPod). Both of these items will accompany me westward…and with the amount I have on my plate, it’s not likely that either of these instruction manuals will get read (or located?) prior to my departure.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been using my camera for a couple of years and I have the basics down (the same goes for my iRiver), but I feel like if I just knew how to use them a little better and understood the meaning behind some of the other buttons, it would make a big difference and I’d get so much more out of these favorite gadgets.

I feel like the same is true of the search engine Google. I know, I know – it’s easy to use and you already know how to use it to use it as a search engine, but did you know it does so much more, and can help your kitchen and bath firm in so many other ways? Take a moment to read through my column. I have a funny feeling that, by the end of it – or even before – you’ll be heading over to your computer to put Google to work.

Photos and Functions
The first thing, which is fun and will appeal to the visual aspect of the designer in you, is searching for images. It’s also another way – and very under-used way – to do a search. See that photo of me in the upper left hand corner of this page? Go to Google and, on the home page above the search box, click on images. Type in “Karla Krengel” and up pops a photo of little ol’ moi! (Use quotes to keep Karla and Krengel together.)

To put this into business perspective for you, type the words “knobs and pulls” into the search area. Instead of just seeing words, you’ll get close to a dozen pages of photos of knobs and pulls. You can then decide from there if you see something you like and then link to that Web site from the photo. You’ll find it’s a much more visual way to search.

Here’s something else to consider. Remember that crazy photo of you from the company holiday party, the one in which you’re wearing the lampshade? FYI…once posted on the Internet, it’s almost impossible to get it off of Google. The search engine even keeps text and photos removed from a Web site in the equivalent of its memory.

Wondering what the search engine has to say about you? Do what’s called an ego or vanity search. That’s when you type in your name and hit search. (When you enter your name, don’t forget to put it in quotes! Otherwise, for example, if I typed in Karla Krengel without quotes, it would bring me back information on Web sites containing information on Karla or Web sites containing information on Krengel.)

At least quarterly, you should be Googling your company and your competitors. Start with your company name. Google it to see what comes up. After all, your clients are probably Googling you. Don’t you want to know what is being said? Next, Google your competition. Stay on top of things and know what their Web sites look like, what is being said about them (in the media, for example) and how many online entries are out there for them. Often, the more Web entries, the higher up in the Google search return listing the Web site will show up.

One of my absolute favorite Google tools is Google Alerts. Since I’ve already devoted an entire column to this (which you can find online at www.kitchenbathdesign.com, under columns, May 2005), I’m keeping it short and sweet. Pick a topic, any topic, such as the cabinet line “Brookhaven.” Go to Google and request that an alert be e-mailed to you when anything relating to “Brookhaven” is found on the Web. It’s that easy.

Additional Options
Currently, you are reading the writing of a communications major. As my mother will tell you, math was never my strong suit – hence, calculators come in quite handy for me. As my boyfriend tends to not return it to its spot on my desk, well, the good news for him is there is always Google. Yes, type your equation into the search box and back comes your answer. Pretty neat, huh?

Is your office growing and you’re having a problem keeping track of everyone? The Google calendar option allows everyone in your office to sign on and add their appointments to one calendar. Imagine that you’ve gone off on a long awaited Italian vacation, only to realize you should’ve booked the trip for two weeks instead of one. Just sign onto the calendar and extend that vacation! (If only it were so simple!)

“I’m feeling lucky” may be a term you picked up at K/BIS 2005 in Las Vegas, but on Google, the idea still involves Lady Luck. Type your search term into the search box. Instead of hitting the “search” button, on the bottom right of the search box you’ll find “I’m feeling lucky.” By hitting this button, you are trusting Google to take you directly to (most likely the home page of) one Web sight instead of returning a page full of options. I once typed in “Elizabethtown,” as I attended Elizabethtown College. I was curious as to whether the search engine would take me to the Web site for my alma mater or to the Web site for the town of Elizabethtown, KY. Well, it did neither. I forgot about the recent Elizabethtown, the movie, and that is the site I ended up on. Okay, so the search engine isn’t a mind reader. Have I left you wanting even more Google? If so, you’re in luck!

To delve into other cool search options, click on the “more>>” button in the upper right corner above the search box. There you can find out about getting specific topic-related news, how to set Google to do a search of the current news focused on specific topics of interest to you, how to get maps downloaded to your cell phone, how you can get translation done (great for translating your Web site into Spanish!), how to use Google instead of 411 for information, how to do a reverse phone search (type in a phone number and find out who it belongs to), or click on Google Labs and get a glimpse into the future of search.

There is just too much to tell you about, so much so I can’t get it all in here. I guess you’ll have head to the computer to Google, while I go off to find those darned directions! I wish Google could search those out for me!