Google came to Philadelphia Friday trying to help small businesses boost their web presence.
The event was part of the Internet giant's Get Your Business Online program.
Area politicians, event attendees and Google officials all say helping small businesses grow is a win-win-win.
"Small business is really the backbone of the city of Philadelphia," said Mayor Michael Nutter, a special guest at the morning session at the Cira Centre.
"It's through the use of technology that we will be able to expand our reach, literally, around the world," Nutter said.
Melissa Stewart sat listening in the audience. She's starting a new business, consulting nonprofits on reaching their economic development goals.
So far, Stewart has been tackling web stuff on her own.
"But I thought it was great that Google decided to come out and do this presentation absolutely free," she said.
She left the morning session with key takeaways about organic search results versus paid advertising on Google. Stewart appreciated the tips — as well as Google's business savvy.
"They're working it, so you can't be mad at that," Stewart said.
"They're earning their pay," she added with a laugh.
Google officials say helping entrepreneurs such as Stewart is a win for her business as well as theirs.
"Fifty-six percent of Pennsylvania small businesses do not have a website," said Soo Young Kim, Google's head of marketing for the Get Your Business Online program.
"When over half of U.S. small businesses are not online, that's a service that can't be found online," said Kim. "And that's not great for Google either, because consumers are looking for those products and services."
The 200-plus attendees at Friday's event each received a free website and free web hosting for one year. After that, they're eligible to re-up, but at a cost.
"We hope that businesses will get online and be found online," Kim said, "but also that these businesses will grow and perhaps one day advertise [with Google] as well."
Virtually all Internet users — 97 percent — are using the web to search for local products and services, according to Kim. Having an active online presence is increasingly important.
Google is casting a wide net with its 18-month-old program, having traveled to all 50 states.
The full range of free perks is available to any small business at PennsylvaniaGetOnline.com.
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