Up to 1.5 million UK companies could escape the economic downturn by setting up a basic website in less than 20 minutes, the boss of Google UK has said.
Matt Brittin, the internet giant's managing director in Britain and Ireland, said small firms using the web were growing at four times the rate of their offline competitors.
The businessman was speaking at an event in Liverpool to launch a Google-backed scheme providing firms with advice and support to increase their online potential.
The three-month pilot, which may be rolled out to other parts of the UK if successful, will see around 1,500 businesses in Merseyside given free, one-on-one digital support.
"Small businesses using the web are growing four times faster, they are exporting twice as much as others and their e-commerce sales are growing faster than big businesses," Mr Brittin said.
Despite this, he added, there remained at least 1.5 million companies in the UK with no internet presence.
He said: "They think the internet is going to be complicated, technical, expensive or not relevant to them.
"But what we know, because people search Google for pretty much everything, is that consumers and businesses turn to the web and they research heavily when they are looking to buy anything.
"And if you're not there then you are missing out on customers.
"Here we are in a pretty tough economic downturn with unemployment bad news coming and economic bad news coming. The one economic bright spot is the internet.
"In the UK, we are the number one nation worldwide in e-commerce, we spend more buying things online than anywhere else.
"If you're a business in the UK, and our economy is doing worse than other economies, you can reach two billion people on the internet around the world."