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Google Event Aims to Help Maine Businesses Gain Web Traction
07/27/2012   Reported By: Tom Porter

With Maine's new superhighway now in place across the state with the completion of the so-called Three Ring Binder project, the next logical step would be to make sure people are taking full advantage of it, right? Partly with that in mind, more than 100 small business owners from across Maine attended an event today organized by Maine Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe, and the world's most popular Internet search engine, Google.

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Google Event Aims to Help Maine Businesses Gain We Listen

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Maine small business owners gather to learn more from Google about boosting their online presence.

Snowe says the one-day seminar in Portland is aimed at assisting the state's small businesses in beginning or expanding their online presence. "Ninety-nine percent of our businesses are small business and I thought it would be ideal for our state to maximize the potential for having Web sites and an online presence," she says.

Snowe, who's the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, says nearly 60 percent of Maine businesses do not have a Web site. Yet with 97 percent of Americans searching for local products and services online, you can see a gap that needs to be closed, says Scott Levitan, a marketing director at Google who deals with small businesses.

"The beginning of succeeding online is getting online," Levitan says. Never before, he says, has it been so easy and affordable for a business to get itself found by customers.

"It used to prohibitively expensive for a small business advertise," he says. "Today a lot of the tools are free, and even if you want to advertise in a very targeted way, it's much more affordable. So it's a great time to be a small business in terms of being found locally, regionally, nationally or globally."

Friday's event marks the launch of a statewide initiative called Levitan says there have already been about 50 such seminars held in New England alone. The aim of these workshops is to provide business owners with free technical assistance and software tools to start up a Web site, and also enhance their current Web-based operations.

"The first which we're doing is getting businesses on the Web," Levitan says. "We're getting them a domain, we're getting them a hosting, and we're really helping them to build their 'house' on the Web, which is their Web site. But that is just the beginning. You need to be on the map, so when you do a search for the business you're looking for--say a plumber in Portland--you'll get a map with all kinds of pins and as a business, you'll show up."

"I thought it was pretty neat," says John Evans of Gray, who runs a one-man business recycling household appliances, which he collects for free and then takes apart for the scrap metal inside--a true nuts-and-bolts business, if you like, but one which still needs a presence on the Internet.

Evans says he was impressed by the number of online tools which are available. "I was really interested in putting a video or two on the Web site. I got a new domain name. The local aspect of it is good because I only service a small area. I'm not national."

Lindsey Norton: "My name's Lindsey Norton. I live in Freeport and I'm just starting an event planning and design business."

Tom Porter: "So are you one of the 59 percent with no Internet presence?"

Lindsey Norton: "I have a blog but I don't have a Web site, so I guess I do have a presence in that sense, and I have a Facebook page."

Tom Porter: "What did you get out of today? What did you learn?"

Lindsey Norton: "I already knew about basic Web design--I just went through the process. But I was really more interested in hearing about the Google products that are out there and how to increase your Web presence."

Participating business are being offered a Web site with a domain name and free hosting for one year. After that, it will cost $6.99 a month.

Photo by Tom Porter.


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