google india local business Google started as a search engine by two Stanford University friends to help people find relevant information on the web quickly but in the last few years, Google has grown into a position that can make or even break your online business presence.

The search engine now accounts for the maximum search traffic on the web (everywhere except China where Baidu reigns supreme) and no business (whether online, offline or both) can afford to ignore the “Google Effect” for marketing their products and services on the Internet.

Whether you are selling cookies from home, a small time investor and stock trader, working as a freelance writer or run an iPod repair shop in your garage, you need to promote your presence in order to grow outside the confines of your city. And that’s where Google can be your friend.

Now the next big question – how to promote your business on Google? Ask anyone with even the slightest knowledge of the web and he’ll immediately scream the two buzzwords – Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

SEM and SEO are essentially techniques to help you drive more search traffic to your website through online advertising (Adsense, Adwords) or by optimizing your site structure (use keywords in titles, get inbound links) such that it ranks higher in organic search results.

While SEO and SEM are important, they are a science in itself and you may have to hire the services of a professional for best performance. Fortunately, there are some things you do without being an expert – Google provides some more tools and services that can boost your online presence and give you a competitive edge over your rivals / competition.

Google Alerts – The ultimate goal of Big G is to index every single word on the internet and do it real fast. Google indexes almost every newspaper website, press releases, blog posts in near real time. They also run a free service called “Google Alerts” that lets you track news as it happens. For instance, you trade in metals like Gold and make buying or selling decisions based on market news. You can configure Google Alerts such that you get an email as soon as some news related to “Gold” breaks in any corner of the world. No other TV or radio channel can be so quick.

Google Trends – It’s like a “What’s Hot” kind of service based on what people are searching for on Google. Say you run an electronics store in New Delhi and like to know the kind of gadget devices that are popular among Delhi residents – are Creative MP3 players more popular that Apple iPod. Do they prefer Sony or Canon for Digital cameras? You can get answers to all such queries via Google Trends – type in two or more terms that you want to compare and Google Trends will show their relative popularity on Google. You can even group results by date and cities.

Google Local Business Center (local.google.co.in) – they are like Google yellow pages – you can add your local business listing for free. Google will verify your claim via an SMS or a snail mail postcard and then add you to their database. Google Local allows visitors to limit their search to a particular geographic location (like “flower shops” in Juhu, Mumbai or “Dry Cleaning Shops” in South Extension, Delhi) – the chances of visitors from Google Local turning into customers run very high since they have reached you in a mood to purchase stuff.