Google helps Kentucky businesses move toward their goals

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$1.83 billion

of economic activity

In 2021, Google helped provide $1.83 billion of economic activity for tens of thousands of Kentucky businesses, nonprofits, publishers, creators and developers


Kentucky businesses

More than 234,000 Kentucky businesses received requests for directions, phone calls, bookings, reviews and other direct connections to their customers from Google in 2021

$3.01 million

of free advertising

In 2021, Google provided $3.01 million of free advertising to Kentucky nonprofits through the Google Ad Grants program

A Taste of Kentucky

Location: Louisville, Kentucky
13 full-time employees

Few things say “Welcome to Kentucky” like Derby Pie, bourbon chocolates, and local hospitality. Visitors to the Bluegrass State can find all three at A Taste of Kentucky. John and Sherry Hassmann purchased the Louisville business from a friend in 1986, and ever since they’ve been selling hand-made local crafts, souvenirs, and tasty treats that showcase the best of Kentucky. “People in Kentucky are extremely creative. There’s a lot of history here and a lot of talent,” John says. “We get to share a piece of our community with the whole country.” A Taste of Kentucky launched its first e-commerce website 20 years ago, and today 40 percent of the company’s sales happen online, with shipments to over 20,000 customers each year. To help connect even more shoppers with their Kentucky treasures, the Hassmanns use tools like Google Ads.

When local companies want to share their pride in being a Kentucky business with clients, they find A Taste of Kentucky via Google Ads–and the same goes for tourists looking to take home something unique. “We decided to try Google Ads, and we got our first investment back in 90 days.” John says. But the investment they’re most proud of is the one they’ve made in their employees. “It means a great deal to my wife and me, keeping jobs in our community. These people are our responsibility, “John says. “A rising tide lifts all boats, and as our online business grows, so does our ability to provide for them.” The company employs 13 people full time, with that number swelling up to 30 during the peak seasons of Christmas and the Kentucky Derby. Web sales grew 45 percent in one year, and John and Sherry are putting that money right back into expanded benefits for their employees. “That’s just the way we do things here in Kentucky,” John says. And that’s the true meaning of local hospitality.

The Hat Girls

Location: Louisville, Kentucky
2x YoY revenue growth

The most important element of the Kentucky Derby—after the horses—might very well be the hats. Commonplace at the race and popular at Derby parties around the globe, eye-catching headwear is a big part of the fun. So when high school friends Rachel Bell and Kate Welsh returned to their hometown of Louisville to attend the Derby together, they pooled their creative talents and designed some winners. Their styles were so unique that on their next visit, people remembered “the hat girls.” The two returned seasonally to Louisville in 2013, went into business together, and the name stuck. The upscale creations stand out in the crowd: Rachel describes their hats as “edgier, with bolder colors.” Selling first through local boutiques, they eventually rented their own retail space and launched a website. Online sales soared after their first Google Ads campaign in 2018—they quickly expanded from the region to almost every state. “Even with a small budget, business from outside of Louisville just exploded,” Kate says. Revenue doubled each year, and online sales grew to 30 percent of their business in 2019.

Being a niche business tied to a specific social event, The Hat Girls were especially vulnerable when COVID-19 forced the Kentucky Derby to ban all spectators in 2020. They used their Business Profile on Google to alert customers to changing hours, and the photos and five-star reviews kept their web presence current. Rachel and Kate adjusted their focus, designing some bridal pieces and using the extra time to build up inventory they can later customize. They've also outsourced a local, female-owned business to help design coordinating masks. As the Official Hat Designer of the Kentucky Derby Festival, The Hat Girls are looking forward to the next Derby season—typically a full two months of events leading up to race weekend in May. “We don’t really know what Derby will look like in 2021,” says Rachel. Adds Kate, “But when it does come back, it’ll be the biggest one yet. It’s such a huge event, regionally and for the country.”

Land Shark Shredding

Location: Bowling Green, Kentucky
15 employees

Don Gerard Jr. served in the United States Air Force for four years before going on to work for a number of banks and private companies. These experiences exposed him to mountains of sensitive data, and the way his employers handled it constantly worried him. This concern ultimately inspired him to found Land Shark Shredding in 2007. “We’re a professional security company that protects people’s confidential and personal information by destroying it properly,” said Don. Although he had a decade of experience safeguarding data, Don had no idea where to start when it came to building his business’ online presence in 2017. Health challenges such as multiple sclerosis and loss of vision made it even harder, but thankfully he had friends and colleagues who could help him get his business on the right track. “I had to find out what other people were using and figure out what helped them find success online,” Don said.

When he sought his friends’ expertise, Don found that many of them were using Google tools to bring their businesses online. “I knew Google tools would work for me because they worked for the people I know and trust,” said Don. With the help of his team, Don now uses Google tools to make sure Land Shark Shredding gets noticed online. Google Ads helps Don reach the right customers and increases the company’s visibility on search. “Most of our leads come from Google Ads,” Don said. “We’ve had really good success with it.” Land Shark Shredding’s Business Profile on Google helps it capture customers’ attention by showcasing important business information and featuring stellar reviews. Don also makes sure his team consistently uses Google Analytics to optimize its campaigns to better meet customer needs and behavior.

When Don founded Land Shark Shredding 12 years ago, the business was just him and a single truck. Today, Land Shark Shredding employs 15 people and operates across 22 states — with 500 recurring clients and close to 25 federal contracts. As his business continues to grow, Don makes sure to pay his success forward by donating to charitable causes that are close to his heart. “My particular passion is fighting multiple sclerosis because I’ve had it for a long time,” said Don. In the next few years, Don plans to continue strengthening the company’s online presence to reach more customers and further grow his business. “I plan to start using Google Ads more and more because it has definitely had a real impact on our company,” said Don.

Bit Source

Location: Pikeville, Kentucky
13 employees

For former coal miners Rusty Justice and Lynn Parrish, the industry's decline hit home hard. "About 12,000 miners in our part of the world lost their jobs," Lynn recounts. "But we recognized that there was a really talented workforce here. We just needed to find an industry with equivalent demand for work and earning potential.” In 2014, the two joined an Eastern Kentucky workforce committee dedicated to developing entrepreneurial solutions for the region; it was there that they discovered coding. “We realized that coal miners and coders weren’t that different,” says Rusty. “The coal miner, like the coder, is a technology tradesman—he just happens to work in the coal industry.” With this realization, Rusty and Lynn partnered with local software developer Justin Hall to design a coding curriculum for ex-miners. And in 2015, with a team of 10 miners-turned-coders, Bit Source went live.

Bit Source builds websites, mobile applications, and software solutions for other businesses. It’s a service that, Rusty describes, “can be done in the mountains and be sold around the world.” AdWords, Google's advertising program, helps with reaching clients beyond Central Appalachia. “If we want to grow, we have to break out of this region and get into broader markets. Tools like AdWords help us do that,” explains Rusty. The company uses Google Analytics to see what services are trending in the software development industry, and to optimize their ad campaigns and landing pages accordingly. “We also incorporate Analytics into all of our clients’ websites to show them the value that our websites provide,” he adds. And G Suite tools, such as Gmail, Docs, and Drive, facilitate their internal communications and business operations.

With revenue up by 120 percent from 2016 to 2017, Bit Source today is a source of hope for not only the team but also the broader Pikeville community. “That’s the most gratifying part of all this. In a time of real economic despair, Bit Source was hopeful,” shares Lynn. “And we’re still hopeful that someday we’ll be part of a robust and diversified economy here in the heart of Central Appalachia,” adds Rusty. “There’s a guy here who doesn't think of himself as an ex-coal miner anymore. He thinks of himself as a software developer. All of our team does that. They’re software developers now. This is what they do.”

Trees n Trends

Location: Paducah, Kentucky
170 employees

Glen Arterburn knew he was in for hard work when he took over the Chief Marketing Officer position for Trees n Trends in early 2012. Since the company’s founding in the early 1990s, the outdoor-furniture-and-gift retailer had been steadily expanding across the Southeast with a unique business model: showcasing high-quality, brand-name patio furniture alongside discount home decor and seasonal products. As the company’s growth plateaued, however, Glen needed to prove to his team that shifting the company’s TV and newspaper advertising to a digital strategy could re-energize sales.

Glen wasted no time transforming into a viable e-commerce platform and a valuable source of revenue. Using AdWords, Google’s advertising program, Trees n Trends attracted potential customers to the site when they searched online for outdoor patio furniture. “We went from zero to more than a couple million dollars in online sales a year, and that was primarily through AdWords,” he says. Google Analytics gave him information and insights into how the company’s site and advertising campaigns were doing in order to make them even better. Glen also created a YouTube channel that provides customers with home decorating ideas, product highlights, and tutorials. This not only helped share the company’s story, but also strengthened their credibility among home decor enthusiasts.

“Today, Google is responsible for driving almost 100 percent of our website traffic,” says Glen. And that’s driving company growth again. Trees n Trends now operates 10 retail store locations in Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and Alabama and has hired additional staff to help with their digital marketing and online sales. Through AdWords and YouTube, they’ve increased their website traffic from an average of 15,000 to over 80,000 user sessions per month. And nearly all of their past five years’ online revenue can be attributed to digital marketing. “It was hard work,” says Glen. “But when we turned to AdWords, the traffic, and in turn the sales, started to flow pretty quickly. I’m very satisfied with the results and, more importantly, my boss is now sold on digital too.”


Location: Louisville, Kentucky
80% of Onovative’s sales come from Internet leads

Kentucky natives Michael Browning and Clay Turner know a thing or two about business. When they decided to leave their careers in marketing and finance in 2014 to start Onovative, a banking-communications software company, they saw a chance to shape the future by learning from the past. “We want to solve some of the industry's most frustrating problems with technology,” Clay says. By cleverly combining marketing automation and a customer relationship management (CRM) system with a communications platform, Onovative gives financial institutions a smarter, easier way to communicate.

Onovative harnesses Google tools so that their small business can make a big impact. AdWords, Google's advertising program, allows them to target specific products and offerings, while also controlling when their ads are shown. “We learned that people tend to search for products like ours at certain times during the week, so we schedule our ads to only show during those peak times,” explains Michael. They use Google Apps for Work, including Gmail and Google Drive, to communicate and share information securely. “It’s very easy for a small business to use and comforting to know that all of your information is protected like it’s supposed to be,” says Clay. Onovative especially relies on Google Analytics to gain valuable insight into where their customers are coming from and what they are interacting with on the site. “Other businesses ask us what our secret is. It's really Google Analytics,” Michael says.

Onovative now has nine employees with plans to hire more, and their client base has been doubling every quarter. They are committed to helping financial institutions of all sizes to better serve their customers and hope to double the business by the end of 2016. To do so, they know who they’ll turn to. “The number one reason for our marketing growth is Google,” says Michael. “Google is the only marketing channel that connects people with solutions when they have a question in their heads. There isn’t a marketing or advertising channel that comes close to what we get from Google Search and AdWords.”

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