With some of the fastest broadband connections in the world, most Canadians have embraced the Internet. And yet small businesses are late to the table when it comes to online marketing.

“The gap between where consumers are and where businesses are in terms of Internet use is greater than I expected,” says Chris O’Neill, managing director of Google Canada.

O’Neill says digital media offer an easy and inexpensive way to advertise and track consumer awareness of one’s business. But only one million or so Canadian small businesses have a website, out of a total of about 2.2 million, he says.

While it is difficult to measure return on investment for digital advertising, a recent study of email versus direct-mail costs by digital agency Quizative Inc. found email to be 60 times more cost-effective. And online ad revenue is “rapidly closing in on daily newspaper ad revenue,” says the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada.

Promod Sharma, an Etobicoke, Ont., entrepreneur, is one of 15 million Canadians with a Facebook page. He’s on Twitter and LinkedIn, and he blogs, posts videos on YouTube and has a website for his insurance sales business, Taxevity. But it took him a while to understand the value of social media.

“Then I saw that Twitter was a way to drive traffic to my blog,” he says, which in turn was a way to attract customers to his business.

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