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The resource for building your online presence

Many years ago, in 1998, I started my own business. My mentor told me the most important thing I could do for my business was to purchase a Yellow Pages ad. If you start a business today, the advice I would give is the most important thing a business needs to do is build an online presence.

Shoppers search online before buying. This is true whether you’re talking about restaurant goers looking at the menu, consumers looking up reviews or customers just wanting to know the hours a store is open.

So, how does a small business owner build an online presence?

A great place to start is the “Get Your Business Online” website at At this site, you’ll learn how to get your business listed on Google Maps and how to enrich your listing and get statistics on how your listing is viewed and used.

Getting your business on a service like Google Maps is important, but how do you advertise your products to consumers in your town or across the country? One way is to advertise online.

Online advertising can often be intimidating to small business owners. However, once you get started, it’s not actually all that difficult to do and it can be incredibly effective and cost efficient. Using Google Adwords as an example, the basic idea is for you to get in front of customers at the moment they want to see an ad for your service or product.

When I was finishing my home theater, I searched for projection screens. On the Google search results page ads popped up for companies that sell projection screens. I actually appreciated seeing these ads and I bought a screen from one of the advertisers.

Compare this experience to when I see ads for hair care products on TV during a Huskers game. Look at my photo, I don’t need hair care products. When you get an ad in front of a customer at the right time, they can be impactful, even wanted by a customer instead of distracting and annoying.

Go to and Google will show you how to get started with advertising online.

What about the now humble website? It’s still key to your online presence. Your customers will look to your website as the authoritative source of information. It’s important that your website can be found. Google Webmasters tools can tell you how Google search sees your website and helps you optimize it so it can be found. It can even alert you if your website gets hacked. Check it out at

Everything I’ve mentioned, except advertising, is free. Even when advertising online with Google, you can set a strict budget so you don’t accidentally spend more than you wanted to. So, get online, experiment and have fun! Your business will thank you.

About the Author

Chris Russell
Operations Manager, Midwest Data Center

Chris is the Operations Manager for all of Google's Midwest data centers, including the Council Bluffs, Iowa, location. He has a degree in Computer Science and Business Management. He serves on the advisory board for UNO's college of IS&T and IWCC's Computer Science program, the Iowa Governor's Southwest STEM Advisory Board, as well as the Board of Directors for the Technology Association of Iowa.


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