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Google has been taking out major newspaper ads to promote its new “Get Your Business Online” initiative, a partnership with Intuit that lets SMBs claim a place and update information and also provides a free website. It is a strong effort to get more SMBs online, and buying services. More than 14 states are up and running.

According to BIA/Kelsey’s Local Commerce Monitor survey of online SMBs, 66 percent now have websites, although the overall percentage of SMBs with websites is probably lower.

I saw a series of ads for the effort in The Los Angeles Times. The ad listed the LA Area Chamber of Commerce, the LA County Business Federation, The NFIB, the California Small Business Development Centers (SBDC), Score and Intuit as partners. The ad copy promised that “It’s easy. Really fast. And really free.”

In smaller type, it notes that the free website includes domain name and hosting for one year. To me, that doesn’t qualify for “really free,” but it is still a good deal.

The ads were timed to coincide with a series of Southern California workshops for SMBs. One of them had more than 1,000 sign-ups.

Although I don’t need a new website, I decided to see what was behind the curtain. After clicking past an introductory page that had some SMB tutorials, the site offered to let me sign in via my Gmail account, which was automatically rendered.

What was offered was a “free, easy to build Intuit website; free customized domain name; free web hosting for one year; and free online tools and training.” After the first year, it is $4.99 a month and your domain name is $2 a month — which adds up to $96 a year.

If you already have a domain name, like me, you can import it for free. The hosting alone makes this a great deal. I currently pay about $120 a year for Host Gator (which does a great job).

The service is also promoting a website search engine boost for $4.99 a month, which promises to submit content for constant updating and improved search ranking. Interestingly, this offer did not appear today when I checked on the site, but it was prominently displayed on Sunday.

I didn’t submit my credit card and won’t get a site at this time. Knowing me, I’d probably forget to cancel it. But the service is clearly set to boost SMB penetration, and will not only help SMBs get online, but also help Google and Intuit sell a lot of services once the SMBs are locked in.

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Google have been doing the exact same thing with MYOB (Intuit’s competitor) her in Australia for the last 12 months. See:

    We were concerned that this would be popular and drive businesses to shift their advertising focus. The reality is that it has been a flop. Not that many real local businesses have taken them up on the free offer, and of those I’d suspect that their upgrade rates to the paid offer would be non-existent.

    This is a non-event. Would have thought they would have learnt the lesson from Australia before trying again in the US.

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