Do you feel overwhelmed by the thought of creating a website?
Scott Levitan,director of Small Business Engagement at Google, says having a website is as important as having a business card. Yet, most small business owners --58 percent -- STILL don't have websites. Levitan is out to change that.
Over recent weeks, he has been traveling the country, putting on workshops to teach small business owners how to create an online presence. He's insists creating a website is less time consuming than most people think. Levitan just left Miami where he put on a two-day workshop that drew more than 1,000 small business owners. I caught up with Levitan and asked him a few questions that I thought would be helpful to all of you.
Me: Why do you think some business still aren't online?
Scott: It boils down to perception. The perception it that it's hard to make a site or that it's expensive or time consuming. We want people to know that it's not that hard and it can be done quickly, in about an hour.
Me: Why do you think it's important to be on the web?
Scott: We know that business that are on the web are growing twice as fast as those that are not.
Me: What is the make up of the businesses that already have a website?
Scott: A disproportionate driver is related to age. The younger business owners are more comfortable with technology.
Me: Does gender factor into who has a website?
Scott: We have no data on men or women. What stood out in South Florida is how entrepreneurial people there are. They have a drive to learn how to make a website that I had not seen anywhere else. I had an 82 year old with a vacation rental business who was not going to leave the workshop until she got a website.
Me: Who are the types of business owners that show up at your workshops?
Scott: We're seeing a mix of businesses. The new and the experienced. We've seen people who are unemployed for long time, too long, and they decide they are going to start something and need a website. We also see a big group of businesses that have been around for more than five years who realize if they are going to stay successful they need to figure this out. A significant number of those who show up run home-based business. One of the things the web has afforded is the ability to run a business from home. That has not been as possible in previous generations.
Me: What else do the business owners want to know from you besides making a website?
Scott: They ask, "How do I show up? How do I get found." Anything I tell them that helps to answer that question is tremendous.
Me: So, what do they need to know about that?
Scott: They need to know five basic things.
- Every business needs a domain. (your address on the web)
- You need a website with that domain (your house on the web)
- You need to know how to get found. If someone has a plumbing disaster, they will look online for a plumber. You need to be that plumber that gets found. It takes 15 minutes to learn about discoverability.
- Your email address is your modern day business card. Using a personal email for business is not professional. Instead of email@example.com you want to be firstname.lastname@example.org
- All of the above can be free
Me: Creating websites and learning how to do business online can be so overwhelming. As an owner, how do you fit this in with everything else you need to do to run a business?
Scott: There are not many things that take you less time than doing laundry that can have as great an impact on your business as having a website. Initially focus on fundamentals and continue to get those right. You just want a basic web presence then, you can put more time into it and experiment.
Me: Do businesses need to create a seperate website to be viewed on a smartphone?
Scott: We have a program called gomo.com that makes it easy for businesses with websites to make their website mobile friendly. Remembe, the perception is that this is hard but all of this can be done in one afternoon.
To find out about Google workshops in your state, free domains and hosting, go to floridagetonline.com. or www.gybo.com.