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Getting businesses online

Google seminar teaches local merchants how to build web presence

Small business owners and employees from all over the Bay Area spent a day at Google's Mountain View campus on Dec. 4 to learn how to build websites and maintain an effective presence on the web.

The "California Get Your Business Online" program is part of a nationwide series of free business seminars geared toward teaching less tech-savvy small businesses how to use a variety of online tools, which event organizer Scott Levitan says are much easier for the novice than many might realize.

Levitan, director of small business engagement at Google, said that his research indicates that about 62 percent of businesses in California don't have a website. That includes many businesses whose owners would like to have an online presence. When Levitan and his team began researching why business owners don't get online, they found that the biggest reason was that many simply believe the process is too difficult, would cost too much to do right and would take too much time.

But with programs like the Intuit website that Levitan and his team were using at the Google seminar, it can be as easy as dragging and dropping, copying and pasting.

"Anyone can do it," Levitan said. "If you can use the web and you can use Gmail, you can get your business online. We started this program to demystify the process for getting your business online."

Mountain View resident and start-up founder Glenn Robinson attended the event, which ran from 8:30 a.m. to about 7 p.m. "It was very professional, very well coordinated," Robinson said. "It was beyond my expectations."

Seminar leaders and guest speakers guided the attendees through a series of easy-to-understand steps, Robinson said, and by the end of the day he had a functioning website, a domain name and had set up a server to host his website. The website for his fledgling business, TrooVizion, is very close to completion.

In addition to showing businesses how to build a simple website, Levitan and his team showed attendees what they need to do in order to get their businesses to show up prominently on a Google search, how to get their business' location to appear on Google Maps, and discussed the benefits of optimizing websites for mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablet computers.

"Getting online really gets you to the starting line," Levitan said. "You want to be found where people are looking for you."

Google started the "Get Your Business Online" seminar series back in 2011, Levitan said. The seminar has been held in all 50 states and has helped more than 100,000 small businesses get online.

According to Levitan, Google holds the seminars for a three reasons: to help local businesses, to help stimulate the economy and because it is good for the search giant in the long run.

Businesses have the potential to grow much faster if they have an online presence, Levitan said. By that logic, if Google can encourage more businesses to get online, then the economy as a whole will grow at a faster clip. Finally, if more businesses are online, that will ultimately mean more business for Google, which is in the business of serving an ever-growing web.

"We think everyone wins," Levitan said.

More information about the program is at the program's website.

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