Small businesses on Hilton Head Island are the most digitally adept in the state, according to Google.
The Internet giant recently announced Hilton Head as the 2015 eCity of the Year in South Carolina. Google created the annual program to recognize the strongest online business communities in all 50 states — and they’re not necessarily in the biggest cities.
“You don’t have to have those giant corporations for a community to thrive,” said Patrick Lenihan, a spokesperson for Google. “But it has to have a bustling start-up community.”
Independent research firm Ipsos compiled this year’s list by evaluating which U.S. cities had the highest AdWords penetration relative to population size. Ipsos then conducted research in the top five AdWords cities in each state by evaluating 51 small- and medium-sized businesses on online directory presence, website, social media presence, eCommerce usage, blogging and Google PageSpeed Insights scores.
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Lenihan added that the cities selected for the award typically have local governments and chambers of commerce that emphasize digital marketing and small business incubation. Town officials and the Hilton Head Island Economic Development Corp. have long touted the island as an ideal place for technology start-ups and digital entrepreneurship.
“That is the focus of our efforts — we market the island as a great place for business owners to relocate,” said HHIEDC president Don Kirkman. “The island is rightly recognized for its tourism, hospitality and real estate, but we can (also) sustain technology platforms.”
Kirkman said he hoped the recognition would increase entrepreneurial interest in the area.
“Google is the gold standard for the Internet,” Kirkman said. “Having that recognition is extremely important.”
Lenihan said that, according to a survey of South Carolina businesses that employ 200 or fewer people, 40 percent do not have a website.
“That’s a problem,” he said. “Businesses are losing out. We want to recognize cities that are encouraging online business so other places can do the same.”
The economic impact report listing this year’s eCity winners described Hilton Head as “tech savvy,” and mentioned the town’s Quarterly Technology Forum for Economic Development.
Previous South Carolina eCity winners include Greenville, Charleston and Myrtle Beach.
Other Google eCities in the Southeast
- Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
- Memphis, Tenn.
- Louisville, Ky.
- Gulf Shores, Ala.
- Flowood, Miss.