originally appeared on saratogian.com
TROY —The familiar red, yellow, green and blue color scheme of Internet giant Google took over the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center on Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s campus Monday for an event aimed at bringing local small businesses online.
About 600 people representing hundreds of local businesses attended three seminars throughout the day that taught them how to build a website, how to return better search results on Google and how to target advertising to their customers, among other web-based skills. All the services were offered free of charge, and Google will pay the cost to host all the businesses’ websites on partner Intuit’s servers for one year.
The event was part of a larger push by Google called Get Your Business Online, which aims to help small businesses build a web presence, said Sean Downey, managing director of media platforms for Google.
Google has been making its way across the country hosting similar events, and has already offered their services to businesses in 13 states.
“We did some research that found while 97 percent of people are looking for local products and services (online), 52 percent of small businesses in New York don’t have a website,” said Rebecca Ginsberg, manager of global communications and public affairs for Google.
The desire to see more businesses make their mark on the world wide web prompted many local leaders, including Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, & the Empire State Dev. Corporation, to ask Google for guidance, Ginsberg said.
Convenience and cost-effectiveness were the name of the game Monday, as participants could take one-hour long class to learn how to build their company’s website, and have that site fully operational by the session’s end. They could then talk one-on-one with Google representatives, who answered specific questions about search engine optimization and marketing possibilities.
“(They) said, ‘The capital region really needs this … please come.’ So we heeded the call,” Ginsberg said.
“A big theme of ours is, this is fast, it’s easy and it’s free, because most people think this is daunting,” Downey said. “ … Our main objective for them is to make sure that any impediments to them being online are removed. … If it’s free it’s going to get people to start quicker.”
The ease of the process has been surprising to many business owners, Downey said, who’ve wondered aloud why they didn’t start a website sooner after sitting through the Google-Intuit tutorial.
“People are very appreciative, we find that they’re very motivated to get themselves working online,” he said. “They understand the opportunity, they just always thought it was harder than we’re showing them today.”
Heather Harster, general manager of P’Sghetti’s, a new restaurant in Guilderland, said she attended Monday’s event to “get our presence known online.” Attending an advertising session was especially helpful, Harster said, learning “how to get the people you want to see your website to get directed to your website, and hopefully into your business.”
Marketing Director Carrie Field, who works for commercial real estate firm CBRE Albany, said the company already has a website, but wanted to learn more about how to get better results in Google searches. Field said she picked up useful tips during Monday’s session that she hoped would help CBRE expand its share of the online marketplace.
For Downey and Google, experiences like Harster’s and Field’s are exactly what they hoped to achieve Monday, and Downey added that the company’s work to help local businesses will continue. Google has set up a separate website for those that were unable to attend Monday’s sessions, and anyone looking to learn about building websites, starting online advertising and more can access the same services and tutorials through that site.
“We don’t want to stop at 600 people.” Downey said. “ … We can’t stop today.”
To access Google and Intuit’s free website-building materials and other online tutorials for your small business, visit www.newyorkgetonline.com.