Google politely asks Minnesota's small businesses to get a website

Google, one might think, has this whole internet thing figured out. And Minnesota, one might think, is a technologically sophisticated state, wired from corner to corner.

As it turns out, Minnesotans have a lot of room to grow in terms of internet usage, and Google is essentially saying, "Come on in, there's plenty of room."

According to Google -- which, at this point, knows almost every fact there is -- 60 percent of Minnesota's small businesses don't even have a website. If you take "small business" all the way down to the most basic level of a single, self-employed person, that could mean as many as 400,000 Minnesota businesses that don't have a web presence, Minnesota Public Radio reports.

Because it needs full participation in its "take over the world and then Step 2" project, Google's offering Minnesota's small businesses a free crack at joining the rest of earth on the world wide web.

Google's one of the sponsors of the "Minnesota Get Your Business Online" -- not to be confused with "Vermont Get Your Business Online" or "Ohio Get Your Business Online" --  as part of the company's bossy new promotion to push old-fashioned small businesses into this internet thing. Other partners on the project include both the Minneapolis and St. Paul Chambers of Commerce and the Minnesota Association of Non-Profits.

Speaking of nonprofits, Google's end of the deal is that Minnesota's small businesses will get one free year of website hosting from the California behemoth. Earlier this month, at a conference in St. Paul, 900 local businesses took them up on that offer, MPR reports.

The national numbers Google provides are pretty staggering: Something like 97 of Americans look online for products or services, but 59 percent of small businesses don't have a web presence. This sounds like a great recipe to make small businesses into tiny businesses.

So, Google's asking them to cast out into the darkness, taking Google's hand and believing in CEO Eric Schmidt's strong assertion -- "I think so," he said -- that its search results are fair.

Steve Grove, head of news and politics at Google and Youtube -- man that sounds like an important job -- told MPR that a lot of reluctant business owners think that getting their stuff online will be too expensive or too complicated.

"People think, 'Oh, I need to have like a special IT guy' or 'I need to know how to write computer code in order to get on the web,'" Grove said. "But in fact it's actually super easy."

Oh, no. Is this going to be like when your grandparents got an answering machine? Are the small businesses of Minnesota now going to flood Google's search results with a ton of websites called "Website name here" and "Peggie's Venison Jerky Website name here"?

Come on, small businesses. Minnesota's got a good reputation online. Don't screw this up for us.

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