Chicago the Latest City to Get Small Business Help from Google

While many small business owners over the last few years have taken the time and effort to build a strong website for their firms, this is still not something that’s been done by everyone. The fact is that the majority of such companies do not have as strong a web presence as experts say they probably should. Now, Google’s latest initiative is trying to bring about that kind of effort in order to improve both its own situation, and those of small companies.

“Just 37% of small businesses have a basic web presence.”

The Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map initiative from Google is a relatively simple idea: Fewer than 2 in 5 small businesses across the country have filled out some basic information about themselves online that would make them more visible to people running web searches for services they might be able to provide, according to a report from Chicago Inno. Google gives companies the ability to do so quickly and easily, and at no charge, so that they’ll show up in searches and, perhaps more importantly, on Google Maps.

What does this entail?
All companies have to do is fill out some basic data about themselves, and they will not only be granted that extra web presence in searches, but also the ability to build a new website for free using Google’s software, the report said. In addition, this latest effort also gives companies free web hosting for the first year, more tools to improve and monitor their sites, free training, and free small business workshops.

“By helping businesses take the critical step of launching online, this initiative not only opens up economic opportunities for Chicago small business owners, but expands and enriches the marketplace for consumers who can now experience some of Chicago’s local treasures,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Quigley, a Democrat representing the fifth district of Illinois, according to the site.

Can it work?
Of course, companies will have to figure out exactly what type of online strategy is going to work best for them on an individual basis, but the fact is that this Let’s Put Our Cities on the Map program has been run – successfully – by Google in other cities. The benefits of a small business having a website, especially one that has the most current information about how to reach them and what their offerings are, should be clear.

Most small business owners haven't taken the time to build a good website for their companies.Most small business owners haven’t taken the time to build a good website for their companies.

However, many owners may not necessarily see it as being necessary, especially if they’ve been established in their communities for a long time. But short of being local institutions, most companies can benefit – and find a bigger audience – by going online, simply because that’s how most people find smaller companies that fit their needs at any given time. While consumers might know they can go to a big-box, name-brand retailer for certain products, they might not know that others can be purchased at competitive prices from local small businesses that they may not even know about. This can be especially true in larger cities, where people might not be familiar with the kind of companies that are being run even a mile or two from their doors.

The more information about themselves that companies put online, the better off they might be in terms of attracting new customers and potentially answering any questions even current ones might have. But owners who want to make sure their websites are done right might have to invest at least some money into the projects. Those who do might be able to free up that cash by finding more affordable small business insurance, including policies for errors and omissions insurance, to save thousands annually.