Google Tags makes it easy as pie to find local customers

To characterize the life of a small business owner as “busy” would be a bit of an understatement. You get up early to set up shop, spend all day on your feet working with customers and burn the midnight oil balancing expenses—then do it all over again the next day. It’s no wonder you sometimes feel you’d have to be superhuman (or be able to stop time) just to keep up!

With so many hats to wear, we know you don’t have much time to play the role of marketer. But attracting potential customers is an essential part of growing your business. With that in mind, we designed Google Tags, our newest online advertising offering through Google Places that lets you personalize your and Google Maps listing with specific information such as a coupon, video, website, menu, reservations, photos or a custom message.

Susan Holt, the co-founder of a recreational cooking school in Washington, D.C., has been using Google Tags, and I’ve asked her to share her experience:

My friend Susan Watterson and I had been friends for about 20 years and were both instructors at the same culinary institute when we saw a unique market opportunity and decided to go for it. Our employer, who was primarily focused on professional training for students and one-off recreational cooking classes for the public, was constantly turning away business; their business model relied on a paper catalog of printed classes that were advertised months in advance, so they had little flexibility to accept new bookings. But after watching an estimated $40,000 worth of business walk out the door one week because they couldn’t accommodate the size or timing of these types of corporate events, Susan and I decided we could flip that model and create a cooking school specifically tailored to recreational learning and private events.

With no previous business experience, we began the long and eye-opening process of starting our own company. Along the way, we learned more about raising capital, leasing property and complying with design and construction codes than we ever could have imagined. Our vision and passion kept us going, and in November 2008, CulinAerie opened its doors in a 3,800 square foot space in downtown D.C.

A strong website with the built-in functionality to register and pay for classes online was part of our strategy from the start, but we soon realized we needed a way to generate more awareness. Part of that effort included building out our Place Page on Google Places to gain more visibility and make sure people looking for us online had basic information like our phone number and location.

Then in May 2010, we heard about Google Tags, a super-easy way to do online advertising that wouldn’t require any ongoing work. We already knew through our website analytics data that our free business listing on and Google Maps was bringing in lots of customers—about 60 percent, in fact. So the ability to include a little yellow tag to help our listing stand out against the competition was a no-brainer—and at $25 a month, it wouldn’t break the bank. At first, we used the website tag to drive more traffic to our website, but then we decided to push the envelope and switched to a coupon tag that promoted a discount on our classes.

Since setting up Google Tags, the clickthroughs on our listing have increased a whopping 400 percent! Class bookings also jumped 9 percent because of the coupon tag, and our 24 contract instructors are busier than ever teaching classes on baking and entertaining for occasions like team-building events, birthday parties and summer bridal showers.

Now, while we’re concentrating on the important things that ensure our clients have a good time at our school—like creating new concoctions for the cocktail mixing course—our Tags are working for us and helping us connect with new local customers online. I guess you could say it’s been a recipe for success.

Posted by Chikai Ohazama