I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, where part of my family worked for IBM and others at tech start-ups back in the 1980s. I was from one of the last generations to grow up searching a phone book for companies offering goods and services, instead of “Googling” it.

Google is a mystery to so many people because it is so vital to a business’s success.  People need to know what it takes to have a business website rank high and be visible to potential clients.  It is absolutely essential to have an authoritative Internet presence in today’s highly competitive markets, especially with national SEO and International SEO campaigns.  I spend hours each week reading through daily industry emails detailing what changes the major search engine players have made so I can keep our clients ranking high.

Since Google doesn’t disclose a majority of their algorithms, SEOs are forced to constantly research to make each of our client’s websites attractive to search engines.  This makes Google a mystery to us, and an important mystery at that.  That is why Google itself is so interesting to me: it’s powerful, mysterious, and everywhere.

On April 18th, I received a phone call from a gentleman who claimed to be from Google wondering if I got the email invitation to come visit the Google headquarters in Mountain View, CA to attend a meeting regarding a program I joined earlier this year.  My first thought was that this was some sales ploy that had nothing to do with Google. I was wrong.  We went back and forth the following week via email and the phone.  Nine days after the original call, I was on a flight to San Francisco to go meet with Google.

The program I joined in February is Google Engage.  It’s where SEO companies spend a day at Google and learn more about Google Adwords, pass proficiency exams, and get coupons for our clients to try Adwords.  I thought it would be great for my clients who were interested in boosting their holiday exposure and help newer SEO campaigns while their ranking emerged.

I was in a group of 25 people, hand picked from the over 4,000 Google Engage members in the United States.  On Tuesday, April 26th, we were picked up from our San Mateo Marriott hotel by a limo bus with a big screen TV in it.  We headed to the campus around 11am and got signed into our day at Google.  The 1900 building was located within a complex of four large buildings with two or three stories each.  There was a cafeteria where we ate prior to the official meeting that was free for all workers.  It had everything from flank steak with delicious au jus sauce, to San Francisco Bay oysters, to organic pizza, and a full salad bar.  They had unlimited free beverages from sodas to Naked fruit drinks.  We met in a small auditorium with a huge LED screen and “Ninja Bags” that was filled with a bunch of cool Google schwag.

We were introduced to many product managers from the various departments to greet us, ask us questions, and show us new features that are yet to be announced.  In order to enter the premises, we not only had do sign an NDA, we had to be escorted to any different buildings by an employee of Google.  Makes sense.  They had cameras monitoring everything over the entire complex.

The meeting lasted about four hours and we received some excellent tips and a stack of coupons for our clients.  It was a great experience and then the stretch limo bus took us back to our Palo Alto Sheraton directly across from the entrance to Stanford University.  They know how to take care of their guests.

Overall, the trip and day at Google was amazing.  Airfare, transportation, and hotels were provided by Google.  I was even able to get up to Fisherman’s Wharf and meet my brother for a dinner.  I was raised in South San Jose and grew up playing sports all around the Bay Area.  It’s turned into a more amazing place  than I ever could have imagined.  Within 30 miles of where I grew up now is home of headquarters for Google, Facebook, Apple, Adobe, Hewlett Packard, and countless other technology companies that not only help your small businesses succeed, but build a better quality of life for everyone.