This summer, Google launched its Get Online program, with the aim of providing U.S. small businesses with the tools and resources to get their businesses online — for free.
Google is launching the program one state at a time, beginning back in July with Texas and is steadily adding new states. Utah and Michigan followed very recently on Texas’s heels. Ohio is coming on board with events scheduled in late October. This comes after similar programs were rolled out in Canada, the UK and Ireland.
Search experts/Google watchers like Mike Blumenthal and Matt McGee of SearchEngineLand have noted that Google added some 100+ domains earlier this year, which is evidence of its intention to hit all 50 states. You can see them all here.
Google has partnered nationally with Intuit, the Association of Small Business Development Centers, SCORE, and Meetup. They host free local events for small business owners to get started with their own basic websites, and anyone who’s interested is invited to visit the state site (like WisconsinGetOnline) to get these same resources.
Participants receive the following:
- A free professional website (courtesy of Intuit Websites)
- A free customized domain name and hosting for one year
- A local business listing on Google Places
- Free tools, resources, and training
Participants also receive $75 in Google AdWords credit.
After the first year, renewals for the domain name are $2 a month, and the website is $4.99 a month. So in year one, the website is free. In year 2 (at currently stated prices) you can have your website for under $85 a year — still quite a good deal.
“This program provides a simple, quick service that is designed to dispel the myth that getting online is hard,” explains Becca Ginsberg, of Google’s Global Communications & Public Affairs. In Google’s view, every small business should be online, and it aims to make that a reality.
While local Web designers might fear that this cannibalizes their market, Google points out that this initiative gets businesses focusing on their Web strategies, which will provide plenty of opportunity for development and growth down the road for designers who may have had trouble convincing local businesses to get online in the first place. And given that the sites are a basic three pages with limited customization or enhancement possible, it seems like sooner or later, many of these businesses will be looking for a professional designer’s services.
The Program at Work
Marilyn Caskey, owner of The Garment Exchange in San Antonio, (whose site is pictured above) was one of those business owners who was reluctant to jump headfirst into having a website. She’d had a one-page, text only site for three years, and had never gotten around to investing in a fully-designed website for her vintage clothing store. Then a Google representative walked in her store and invited her to a free meeting for business owners, just down the street.
Caskey learned to build her own site in three days, including keywords, links and videos. Within a week, she’d made $400 in online sales from out-of-town customers who, they’d said, found her on the first page of search engine results. She views it as a way to get a decent site in the near term, and as her business grows she expects to upgrade.
Along with it, there are also resources for companies getting started online. Each state’s site offers tools like the “How-To Guide for Getting Online” (disclosure: Anita Campbell, CEO of Small Business Trends was commissioned to help write this guide) and tutorials on promoting a website. The tutorials and workbook exercises alone are a useful resource.
Google has plans to roll out this program in all 50 states in the coming months. So if you are located in the U.S. and you think it’s finally time to get a website up, check out the [your state]getonline.com site for your state. Be sure to substitute your state’s name in place of [your state], of course. And if it’s not live yet, calendar a reminder to check back periodically.