From the top · 10 February 2016

Google’s aim to connect small business with customers in vital online moments

Google's Digital Garage initiative offers digital skills training
Google’s Digital Garage initiative offers digital skills training to small business

Since setting up in the UK in 2003, Google has become a champion of small firms via a suite of innovative products making business transactions easier. In 2015, Business Advice named the internet giant’s European business head, Matt Brittin, as one of 30 key small business decision makers.

Responsible for the creation and implementation of initiatives that aim to break down costly barriers to entry for entrepreneurs and startups, Brittin’s influence in shaping the small business landscape could not be overlooked.

Considering Brittin’s inclusion amongst our top 30, Business Advice sat down with Google’s director for small business in the UK and Ireland, Shane Nolan, to discover what new products and initiatives small businesses can expect from the company in 2016, and why it continues to consider underpinning small firms important.

The coming year will see Google roll-out The Digital Garage – a new website offering training in digital skills, enabling entrepreneurs to start growing their business. The initiative provides training in social media and search engine optimisation (SEO), along with tips on how to create cheap but effective ad campaigns.

In 2016, Google plans to launch pop-up Digital Garages in five major UK cities, where people can receive one-to-one digital training from the company’s experts. “It’s a great resource for businesses of all sizes, but especially for micro-businesses and the self-employed who want to be more visible online,” Nolan said.

The Digital Garage is the latest of a series of small business initiatives Google has launched in recent years in an attempt to remain Europe’s most widely used platform for business transactions. As Nolan is quick to emphasise: “Our goal is to help connect small businesses with consumers online in those moments that matter most, in a cost effective manner. Many small firms struggle to get online because building a website is viewed as too great a cost.”

Google My Business is a free tool that enables companies to increase visibility in search results on Google Maps or Google. Without needing to create a bespoke website, which takes time and money, firms can use a Google My Business page to build reviews, share contact details, opening hours and other crucial information potential customers look for, with the ability to distribute it widely.

Shane Nolan
Shane Nolan

Similarly, AdWords enables firms to access new customers by placing adverts at the top of search results when people enter relevant keywords. Businesses are charged only when someone clicks on a link. YouTube – another Google platform – sees companies share knowledge and generate interest in products via video, with Google charging firms a fee only when viewers watch to the end of an ad. “These services provide anyone with the means to be visible online without a budget and without building a website,” stresses Nolan.

“You don’t have to be a marketing expert to benefit from online advertising. AdWords automatically suggests the best setting for campaigns, the best budget allocation and even the best formats.”

Businesses with AdWord accounts also benefit from regular free advice with a consultant: particularly relevant for firms looking to sell beyond the UK. A free website translating service and a market finder tool aids small business expansion across borders according to Nolan, finding where the appetite is for products or services and reaching those customers.

For Nolan, one of Google’s most important roles in shaping the agenda for small business going forward will be to try to address the digital skills shortage. Noting that 1.2m of the country’s small businesses along with 23 per cent of UK adults lack basic digital skills, Nolan said that Google will engage with government to tackle the issue. “We work closely with digital charity initiative Go On UK, and we’ve partnered with the Great British High Street competition to offer free digital skills training,” Nolan said.

Under Brittin’s stewardship, Google will attempt to train one million Europeans in digital skills in 2016, enabling more small business owners to use the internet to reach the global market place. In the UK, Google continues to showcase entrepreneurial talent like SBTV’s Jamal Edwards or Cambridge Satchel Company’s Julie Deane, advertising the global firm as an empowerer of small business. With little sign of a change in pace or direction, it’s fair to say that Google will look to carry on buttressing UK entrepreneurs and start ups with innovative products well into the future.

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.

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