STANSTED has been named as the UK's fourth most internet-friendly town.
The Google eTown Awards recognise the top places where businesses are most actively embracing the web, and Stansted's high ranking reflects the increased use of the internet to spur economic growth.
The accolade builds on the success of Stansted's small businesses, with tech-savvy owners taking advantage of their close proximity to Stansted Airport to offer accommodation, food and leisure services and lead the way in attracting travellers and airport employees online.
To provide a snapshot of this vital economic activity, Google worked with research expert Ipsos MORI to analyse the online strength of local businesses across 1,300 locations in 12 regions by working out how many Google AdWords customers there were in each area.
The top five towns from each region when they analysed further, with a random and representative sample of 51 small and medium-sized businesses from each of the short-listed areas allocated scores for whether those businesses were listed in an online directory, had their own website, had a social network presence, allowed e-commerce on their site, had a blog and had a mobile-friendly website.
The results put Stansted in fourth place behind Richmond, in third, Edinburgh, in second, and Stratford upon Avon, which took the top spot.
According to the Boston Consulting Group, companies with an online presence grow at least four to eight times faster than those without. Stansted beauty salon, Style Me Beautiful, saw interest from potential customers double after it began using the internet to market its services.
The business was launched by Liz Willetts in 2011 to offer personal styling and beauty therapy from her studio in **. She said: "The internet has been really important for the way my business has grown. I blog and use social media, but for me, online advertising through AdWords has been most effective. I've seen interest in the business double since I started advertising online."
Local councillor Alan Dean said: "Businesses in Stansted are working together through a new local forum to up their game and benefit from both the airport on their doorstep and from e-commerce. We recognise that good communications are the key to business success.
"An award like this is a welcome stimulus that will set our broadband buzzing."
Uttlesford MP Sir Alan Haselhurst added: "I am sure that Stansted is proud of its Google eTown Award and I am delighted to represent a community that has truly embraced the internet to help their local businesses to flourish.
"The internet is going to play a key role in Stansted's economic growth, helping local businesses and entrepreneurs thrive, and contributing overall to the wider British economy. I hope this award encourages other local businesses as superfast broadband becomes increasingly available to use the internet to grow."
The Connected Kingdom report published by the Boston Consulting Group predicts that the internet's contribution to GDP will increase from 7.2 per cent today to 10 per cent in 2015, meaning those company's with an online presence will benefit most and add most to future UK growth.
Dan Cobley, managing director at Google UK, said: "The internet is going to contribute massively towards our future economic growth, and many businesses rely on the web to grow. These eTown Awards are designed to recognise and reward those areas leading the way forward in e-commerce and Stansted should be extremely proud to be on the UK's top towns."