Google has announced an initiative in partnership with business software firm MYOB to provide free websites for small and medium sized Australian companies. It’s called Getting Aussie Business Online and follows a similar initiative in the UK.
This will probably cause a panic amongst web designers and digital agencies, but in a way it had to come to this and overall may actually be good for the industry.
Already there are plenty of cowboys in the market who seem happy to design and sell websites for ridiculously low prices. In many cases these operators do untold damage to the industry as their sites are poor and the results for the client are unimpressive or negligible. It creates massive scepticism and mistrust amongst customers and perpetuates a belief that the web doesn’t help small business.
The truth is, bad websites don’t help anyone, so the sooner the cut-price cowboys are starved out of the industry the better. Perhaps the Google / MYOB offering will expedite this.
As the owner of a digital agency, am I worried about the Google / MYOB deal? Not at all.
The free website initiative is clearly a way for Google to help grow the overall market, and of course their client base. And having more businesses online with decent websites can only be good for the industry.
I’m yet to see what these sites will be like and how effective they’ll be, but if they’re decent I would have no problem referring smaller businesses to them as a way of introducing them to the web.
The fact remains that for most sites to really succeed they need a steady flow of useful and relevant information. They need to be properly optimised for search. They need to have a clearly conceived traffic conversion strategy. They need to utilise the power of social networks. We call this inbound marketing.
The web these days is about content and connections, not the mere fact that you have a website. I would suggest that 90% of the businesses who launch a free website via Google / MYOB will not do so with a professional strategy but at least they won’t have wasted their money.