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Google Helps Small Iowa Businesses

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - More than 50 Iowa businesses have signed up to attend Google's free "Get Your Business Online" event Wednesday at the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art.

The event is a part of Google's nationwide initiative to promote Internet connectivity, and is the second large seminar it has hosted in Iowa since the project's inception in 2011.

"We see a lot of businesses that the reason they haven't gotten online is first, they think it is too hard, and second, they think it is too expensive," said Whitney Lemon, the marketing manager for Google's Get Your Business Online team.

The event will provide business owners with basic Internet marketing knowledge, a year of free web hosting service by way of Homestead, and a chance to learn about using Google Analytics, Ad Words, Alerts, and other tools.

"Most of these tools are free," said Lemon, who will be with other Google representatives on Wednesday. "It doesn't have to be hard, and doesn't have to be expensive. It just takes that first step."

Lemon said more than 1,900 Iowa businesses have built websites through the initiative's roughly 50 state-wide workshops, but noted there is room for growth.

According to a 2011 Google survey of businesses with less than 250 employees, 66 percent of Iowa businesses do not have a website.

And while many who attend Wednesday's event will leave with a free website, they will also have the opportunity to connect with photographers can further improve a business' web presence.

"A lot of businesses I encounter, they are so busy with the day-to-day that they haven't paid a lot of attention to their image on the search results," said Peggy Cartwright, a Google Trusted Photographer who will attend Wednesday.

Cartwright works with businesses to identify locations within their facility that the owner wants photographed. Each location becomes a "node" in a complete 360-degree tour of their business' interior. The one-time cost of shooting 20 nodes is roughly $1,000.

While none of the business owners who attend Wednesday's event will be required to sign up for the interior photography service, Jay Hawk, the owner of West Side Tire Co. in Cedar Rapids said going through the process in 2013 has proved beneficial for his business.

"This is how people find you today. The Yellow Pages are in the past. The way people find you is electronic media," Hawk said. "If you don't have a presence in electronic media, you are losing ground."

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