On The 12th Day of Christmas, Google Gave To Me

Lesser-known gadgets, tricks and Google products that rocked the Loves Data world in 2013.

It’s no secret that we are heavy users of Google products at Loves Data. It comes with the territory of being Google Partners and spending our days immersed in Google AdWords and Analytics. However, there are now so many Google products, services and tricks that we’re finding it hard to keep up! Here are 12 lesser-known features that can come in handy over the holiday period both for work and play:

#1 Search by voice

After a long day working (or feasting!), even typing in a search query into Google can seem like a mission. What you can do though is click on the microphone icon next to the search box, on any device that has a connected microphone, and speak your search query. There’s no need for an app. Or fingers to type with!

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#2 Get instant word definitions

If you get into an argument at the Christmas gathering about the difference between effect and affect, just type “define:” into Google followed by your target word and watch yourself be proven right!

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#3 Search a particular website

If you already know which website is likely to have the results you need, just put your search query followed by “site:” and the name of the website to restrict the search results to that site only. Perfect for getting transport and event information for the holidays.

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#4 Search the contents of images

Found a photo online of the perfect holiday destination but don’t know where it is? Instead of searching by keywords, you can drop a picture into Google Image Search and Google will search for instances of that image and try to identify it. BONUS: If you upload any images to Google Drive, Google will automatically read any text in the images meaning you can use Google Drive to search for scanned forms and documents.

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#5 Coordinate all your Google accounts between different devices

If you log into Chrome with your Google account, it will synchronise your browser in each device that’s logged in. Meaning that if you bookmark the perfect Christmas present at work at lunchtime, you will automatically see it when you get home -- no need to email yourself that link! You can also be logged into multiple Google accounts and switch between them for most Google services. Finally, with Google Keep, you get an app that lets you take easy notes on the go and then see them inside Google Drive, set reminders and more.

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#6. Sick of typing the same thing? Try out Gmail Canned Responses.

Gmail Canned Responses allow you to create templates for commonly-used emails, save them and paste them as required. The first step is to go into your Gmail settings, go to Labs and enable Canned Responses. You can then write templates and save them using the Canned Responses in the bottom right corner of the composer. Then when it’s time to use one, just select from the ones you’ve already written.

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#7 Lots of great visualisations in Google Spreadsheets

With the new year rolling over, a lot of companies would be looking at refreshing some initiatives, budgets or marketing activity -- making this an ideal time to make your bosses sit up and pay attention. For most people, tables do not go hand in hand with engagement, but if you get the data into the right format, Google Spreadsheets has a bunch of chart styles that will liven up any presentation or proposal. You can create organisational charts, gauges displaying a single metric, overlay your data on a world map or even create an interactive animated bubble chart.

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#8 Import web data directly into Google Spreadsheets

Another great feature of Google Spreadsheets is that you can easily import tables, lists and even custom HTML elements from one or more given webpages. For example, below is a list of Australian states by population from a corresponding Wikipedia page.

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#9 Get quick responses using Google Forms

You can also use Google Docs to create forms which are ideal for when you need quick results. Each question is built interactively and user responses are recorded in a Google Spreadsheet. This can help with anything from a quick work poll to managing complex tenant questionnaires for a property.

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#10. Google Consumer Surveys

If you also need a hand gathering an audience for your research project or questionnaire and you live in the US, Canada and the UK, you’re in luck because Google Consumer Surveys is a cost-effective and scalable way to conduct segmented online market research. Just pick your demographics, questions and cost-per-response (from 10c to $3.50) and start gathering insights.

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#11 Custom intelligence alerts in Google Analytics

Christmas time can often be a time of anxiety for those of us in the online space. According to Murphy’s Law, this is the most likely time that our websites might break. Monitoring these can be daunting, especially if there are multiple sites that you might be wanting to keep track of while on the move. One low-barrier way to flag issues is by setting up custom alerts in the Intelligence Events section of your Google Analytics reports. Google Analytics will email you based on the critical conditions that you define. You can also apply the same conditions to any other websites that you have Google Analytics access to, making it easy to set up.

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#12 Public Alerts

While we don’t like to think of it happening, holidays are a time of extreme cold or heat (depending on your hemisphere) and there have been a number of crises and disasters during this season even in the last few years. Google has developed a number of tools to help you stay safe during the silly season. To see a list of alerts for selected regions, go to http://google.org/publicalerts/. The Google Crisis Response website is also updated if a larger-scale event happens: http://www.google.org/crisisresponse/.

So that’s the Loves Data team’s 12 days of Google Christmas! We thank everyone for their support over the year, and look forward to training or working with you in 2014!