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Giving Rural Businesses a Boost: Extension Offers Classes to Ensure Business Owners Have Power Over Their Online Presence

by Dawn Hegland on June 15th, 2011

Is your business online? The answer might surprise you. Do a simple test. Google yourself. What came up? Much of the information you find on your business could be handled by a company unaffiliated with yours. It is often inaccurate, and can be filled with ads and links to the websites of other competing businesses around the region. 


To help improve online presence or rural businesses, Extension is offering a series of classes to help get regional businesses online. These are not computer skills classes, but are instead specifically designed to help local entrepreneurs to effectively communicate and market themselves in a competitive economy. The introductory workshop series will help businesses find what presence works with them, whether it’s a website, a controlled listing on google, or social media. The classes will also provide information about online sales.


Based on recent analysis of west-central communities done by the Upper Minnesota Valley Regional Development Commission (UMVRDC), about twenty percent of businesses in the region have their own website which shows up as a top listing in major search engines. But what about the other eighty percent? Most of these were found in the mapping sections of search engine mapping tools or unaffiliated online directories. These are inaccurate sources of information. For example, the study found that if you searched four businesses in three search engines, you were likely to find three major errors, either in location, address listing, or even the business name.


Most entrepreneurs probably realize that getting online could help their business grow, but out here in rural, west-central Minnesota, such efforts might seem like wasted time. Many think that in little towns, anyone who needs to find a business can do it easily, and any efforts at building a website or blogging are a hindrance because of the efforts they require.  However, building web presence can help almost any business in some way.


Online presence is helpful in a variety of ways and at a couple of levels. The Extension website notes that online presence can help businesses market to new audiences, provide better customer service, communicate more easily with current and potential customers, and become more efficient at internal operations like purchasing. But putting businesses online doesn’t just help businesses, it also helps the whole community. The internet is a major source of information for families and businesspeople looking to move to the area. Having a variety of businesses online can help attract and recruit new community residents while also expanding those businesses and thus supporting the local economy. 


If you are interested in participating in any of the business online courses listed below, click here to view our events calendar, read class descriptions by clicking here, or contact the UMVRDC at 320-289-1981 for more information.


Upcoming Classes:


Montevideo-School Computer Lab

June 23 – Google Tools

June 28 – Marketing Your Website


Clara City- Library

July 26 – Roadside Advertising

August 11 – Doing Business Online

August 18– Social Media


LQP County- Computer Commuter

June 22 – Google Tools – Dawson

July 11 – Social Media – Dawson

July 18 – Roadside Advertising – Madison

July 27 – Marketing your website – Madison


Appleton- Elementary School Computer Lab

June 29- Doing Business Online

July 20- Google Tools

July 28 – Marketing Your Website

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