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Founder of A Net Gain for Revenue, a Web site development firm in Santa Rosa, discusses ways that business can reach customers over the Inernet.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: How do you get a Web site to appear at the top of well-known search engines such as Yahoo or Google?

DUNNE: There are two main ways to get to the top. The first is free and takes a long time. The second is immediate and takes money.

The free way is to build a Web site that is easy for search engines to read, keeping in mind that search engines can only read text, they can not read pictures. Get lots of other busy Web sites to link to your Web site. Get lots of people to visit your Web site.

The second way is to buy search engine advertising. Also, Google is eager to improve its local search results and it offers free local listings to businesses. Go to www.maps.google.com and click on the link on the bottom left to list your business on Google maps. This is not the same as Google advertising, but it's free.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: How can local businesses use Google advertising to reach local customers?

DUNNE: A few years ago, Internet advertising was like network TV: Your ad ran everywhere in the United States. Now you can target your advertising to the Bay Area, like buying a spot on KPIX or KGO. Even better, now you can search for local businesses on Google.

You do not pay when your ad appears on the "Sponsored Links" side of the page, you pay only when someone clicks on your ad to reach your Web site. Your ad appears only to people shopping for your product or service and you do not pay for your ad to show, you pay only for the click.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: Why is it important that Web sites are designed to be accessible from a cell phone or PDA?

DUNNE: People in their 20s and 30s spend a lot of money, and they use the Web to find what they want. Use a cell phone to search "pizza Petaluma" on Google Mobile and you get a list of phone numbers you can click to call. This is why you should list your business on Google maps.

There are four times as many mobile phones as there are PCs in the world. So-called smart phones, such as the Blackberry and Palm Treo, double in number every year. On Sept. 26, the dot-mobi domain name became available to let you know the Web site is optimized for cell phones. Properly built Web sites work both on cell phones and computers. Standards-based techniques like Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) make this possible.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: After you lost your tech job during the slowdown of 2001, how did you turn your technical expertise into a small business?

DUNNE: In 2000 and 2001, I was working hard to help a startup telecom software company sell the product it was developing. I was stunned when I lost my job and the company went out of business. I was forced to choose between creating something new or going broke.

Pam Hayne of Sonoma County JobLink helped me find funds to get the Web Developer Certification offered by Santa Rosa Junior College. I met many talented artists and programmers at SRJC and we continue to work together today.

Read all of the PD's fire coverage here

Starting a business can be scary, and there are a million ways to do it wrong. But I have a bachelor's degree in business and a master's degree in marketing and I've been supporting myself for thirty years.

PRESS DEMOCRAT: How do you get people who aren't Internet savvy to understand what you are talking about?

DUNNE: My specialty is connecting businesses to their audiences. Your audience could be your existing customers, your suppliers, your employees or new prospects. I started in television in New York, as a media buyer placing TV ads for clients like Procter & Gamble and General Foods. To me, a Web site is like a point-to-point TV ad. It must be attractive, informative, and it's got to work as a business tool. I believe a Web site should pay for its upkeep by bringing in new revenue.

People in business know who they want to reach and what their message is. They know what differentiates them from the competition, and they know how to sell their goods and services. We translate this to the Web. For example, if their business used to rely on word-of-mouth referrals, we turn these into testimonials on the Web site. Good marketing is the key to a good business Web site.