5 Google Apps You Should Integrate with Your Website
Good web development is about creating your own code and knowing when to implement reusable code. Most people use Google products for some part of business, including email (Gmail), website management (Webmaster Tools and Analytics), and website design (Fonts). Google has an API for most of its products, and several of them are useful when you design a web application. Using Google Apps for your business is $50 each year or $5 each month. You can upgrade to unlimited storage for $10 each month or $120 each year.
Did you know that you can use Gmail with Google Apps to send email with your business domain? For instance, you can use the Gmail web interface with "firstname.lastname@example.org." Customers see your custom domain in the email address, but you technically use Gmail servers for your communications.
After you sign up with Google Apps, you can integrate Gmail into your web application. The advantage is that you don't need to manage your own incoming and outgoing email server. Using this API is especially useful if you have VPS service with your host but don't have hosted email service.
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools
Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools are two separate APIs, but they work together to keep track of your website traffic, backlinks, ranking and referrals. Google Analytics is a reporting tool. It gives you a visual representation of your traffic and ranking in Google. You can identify a referral from another website or organic traffic from search engines. Google Analytics also tells you what type of device your visitors use such as a desktop using the FireFox browser or a mobile device running Android with Chrome. Knowing browsers and devices used to browse your site lets you cater a business to potential and current customers and drives more sales.
Webmaster Tools (WMT) works with Analytics, but it's a totally different animal. Analytics gives you reports for traffic and Webmaster Tools gives you crawling and indexing statistics. WMT helps you identify issues with your site and gives you a list of backlinks around the web from other webmasters. If Google's crawler (named Googlebot) has any issues with your web pages, you receive a notice in WMT.
Both of these APIs are good for mobile device alerts. You can review your site traffic on the go and receive alerts if your site is down using the WMT API.
Google Fonts are for web design and not statistics and reports. Before Google Fonts, you needed to stick to certain fonts in your website design or your users wouldn't be able to see your site content. With Google Fonts, you link a CSS file in your pages. The CSS file is stored on Google's servers, so they download quickly regardless of your viewer's location. Google's Font API has hundreds of fonts to choose from. If you're a web designer, you should take advantage of the easy integration that makes site layout and design more manageable.
Do you take payments on your site? Google Wallet API integrates a payment system for your site. Google Wallet and Paypal are the most common payment platforms on the web. There is an advantage to using payment gateways instead of managing your own system. First, you don't need to store credit cards, so having increased security on your site and database isn't an issue. Google Wallet stores the customer's credit card number, CVV and the name on the card. You receive a confirmation number after payments that you can use to manage orders and customer service.
The other advantage with payment systems is that you can streamline the payment process. Customers already have a credit card and billing information entered on the payment gateway site. You use the Google Wallet API to prompt the user to pay for product. The user selects a credit card and pays. For ecommerce stores, you'll find that most people abandon an order at the payment page. When you make it easier, you reduce the amount of revenue loss during shopping cart sessions.
If you own a storefront with a service location, the Google Maps API lets you calculate your store's location, display an image for your storefront and create directions to your store. Google Maps integrates with Google Local to provide search engine rank for users looking for local businesses. For instance, if you own a red widget store, users looking for red widgets in their area will see your local business at the top of the list.
You use the Google Maps API in your "Contact Us" page. Enter your business address and Google Maps take care of the rest. Your store address shows up on a map, and users can click on it to get directions from their house to your store. Google Maps also have the "street view" feature. A user can view your storefront and the street where you're located. Street view gives users a better idea of where to find you when they are unfamiliar with the area.
How to Get Started
These five APIs are just a few of what you can integrate with your website. Reusable code saves on your development time, and certain APIs and external functionality can give your website better advantages over competitors. You can find a list of Google's APIs at developers.google.com/products/.
To get started, open the Google API console (console.developers.google.com) and create a project. Turn on each API you want to use. All of them are disabled by default. Take note of any costs, because some APIs cost you money each month and you need a credit card on file.
Once you have your project set up, you can integrate API calls with your project. Each API has its own documentation, methods and security properties. Make sure you read the documentation associated with the API before you begin development.
Google offers you some sample code in Java and Python. Read the documentation and you'll find that Google APIs are a great way to build web projects quickly.