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How do small businesses in Australia stack up on the Internet? Google’s got the answers

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Google's Claire Hatton with Perth Lord Mayor Lisa Scaffidi last year.

So, how does small town Australia measure up on the Internet this year?

Continuing its focus on the hinterland, Google announced its second eTown Awards to recognise Australia’s “most web-savvy towns” – those whose small businesses make the best use of the web to connect with customers and grow.

Here are the eight, with the national winner to be picked later:

• Cockburn, WA

• Darwin, NT

• Holdfast Bay, SA

• Launceston, Tasmania

• North Sydney, NSW

• Port Phillip, Vic.

• South Canberra

• Sunshine Coast

“The location of your shop front or size of your workforce doesn’t matter online. Every business has the opportunity to engage customers and grow,” said Claire Hatton, Google Australia’s head of Local Business. “Whether you’re a boutique hotel, beautician or surf school, if you’re not online you’re missing out on a direct line to thousands of potential customers.”

Even though many of us think of the Internet as ubiquitous, a good 2/3rds of the world’s population has no online access. Consequently, the smaller towns and even remote areas have become the next frontier for Internet giants such as Google and Facebook. Readers might recall the search giant’s recent experiment in New Zealand – a network of balloons traveling on the edge of space, designed to enable online access in remote, inaccessible parts of the world.

Web is a boon for local businesses

Google, which runs the huge money-spinning AdWords program, cited an oft-probed link between digital engagement and commercial success – a report by Deloitte Access Economics published that found that Australian small businesses with high digital engagement are twice as likely to be growing revenue, and earn twice as much revenue per employee. Those businesses are also four times more likely to be hiring additional staff.

“Businesses across the country are recognising the online opportunity, from social media that allows direct customer engagement, to websites with e-commerce capabilities where products can be sold to anyone in the world,” said Hatton.

“This web advantage also extends to towns and regions which need no longer rely on a single local resource or industry to prosper. A town’s real assets are now their small businesses owners and employees,” she added.

Google created the eTown rankings in partnership with Ipsos Australia. The rankings use penetration of Google AdWords customers as a proxy for web usage by small businesses in the towns. It also evaluated businesses for having a website, social network presence, blog mobile sites etc.

Last year, the City of Perth topped rankings of the metropolitan cities while Byron Shire, NSW, was the top dog among regional towns.

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