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by James Perrin on 6th April 2011
With Google being a partner in StartUp Britain, a scheme designed to help British entrepreneurs, we ask whether or not they are really helping businesses with their online activity.
It didn’t take long to find that StartUp Britain is just the latest in a long line of schemes that Google are involved in which are designed to help businesses, especially when it comes to getting online. Last year they announced they will help British Businesses build their own own websites. Last month they announced the same initiative for Canadian and Australian businesses. But just how helpful are these schemes?
Looking at StartUp Britain as an isolated scheme, it is clear that Google’s involvement is quite minimal. The scheme isn’t actually designed at helping entrepreneurs get online, in fact it has come under huge criticism for a variety of different reasons, as Mark King from The Guardian has revealed.
Whilst it is unclear what Google’s involvement will be overall, at the moment they will offer cut price services for anyone joining StartUp Britain – a voucher code claiming £30 worth of AdWords. Now to any start up business looking to get online, this isn’t exactly very inspiring is it?
However, StartUp are experiencing their own problems, with heavy criticism being levelled at their ‘create a logo’ section that sends users to a San Francisco based design company 99designs. Hardly great for UK businesses and entrepreneurship. For whatever reason, Google’s association with this scheme is nominal. A £30 AdWords voucher isn’t actually helping any business get online. So what are they doing instead?
Getting Buisnesses Online
The United Kingdom’s Getting British Businesses Online (GBBO) and Canada’s Get Your Business Online (GYBO) along with Australia’s Getting Aussie Business Online (GABO) and are schemes set up by Google. With the help from various partners and businesses they aim to get 100,000 businesses online by the end of their first year. It’s a scheme that started last year with GBBO and has been rolled out right around the world (seemingly with a particular focus on the Commonwealth).
GBBO, GYBO and GABO offer a free website with a .co.uk, .ca or .com.au (respectively) domain, free web hosting, a web address and a coupon for AdWords. GBBO and GABO offer a two year trial with your chosen domain name whilst GYBO offers a 12 month free trial, with the option of continuation afterwards where normal fees apply.
In an effort to ensure that businesses are thriving, Google want to combat the reasons why so many businesses are still not online. The reasons are varied, but mainly revolve around the issues of cost and time.
Reporting in the Calgary Herald, Managing Director of Google Canada, Chris O’Neill explains that, “Half of the small businesses in this country [Canada] are missing out on customers.” Whilst Matt Brittin, Managing Director of Google UK said, “With over 40m people in the UK now online there has never been a better time for small businesses to use the internet. We hope a free, easy-to-create website will give small businesses the boost they need to get up online”, as reported in The Telegraph.
Has it/Will it be effective?
With GBBO having been active for over a year now, this gives good scope to compare how effective the scheme has been, and what GYBO and GABO can look forward to.
On the surface of things, it is for sure a great idea. Having a free website and hosting service for an extended period of time will get business selling and moving towards where consumerism is happening eventually. If you have a business that is selling a product and service and you don’t have a website, then you are seriously missing a trick.
For example, take a small business that sells picture frames. It would be vital, in a modern consumerist society for this business to have some sort of a web presence. If the owners have no idea about web development, it will take a lot of effort, time and money to take the time out to learn about how to take advantage of online consumer trends.
Well, this is where GBBO, GYBO and GABO can help. First and foremost, it gives users the chance to learn the basic web skills needed to host and manage a website (no matter how basic), and secondly a small business doesn’t have to fork out hundreds or thousands of pounds on website designs and ongoing management.
That said, there are flaws in these schemes. You only have to search for GBBO in a search engine to see the results are littered with technical questions, advice and help regarding GBBO websites. Some recurring problems were evident.
The hosting site only has a few design templates to choose from, meaning that the design of your website will be basic, and similar to other businesses taking advantage of the scheme. The basic design also means that SEO is not really considered, which as we all know is paramount for a website to be seen in search engines. With so many other sophisticated websites, and competitors it would be hard to compete with existing established websites at this stage. You are responsible for content, link building and other complicated SEO type activity.
Regarding GYBO, the site designers Yola, are a US business based in San Francisco. The idea that Google are helping Canadian businesses with help from an existing US website design firm isn’t exactly good news for local Canadian website design companies. The same issues are evident with GBBO as it has been argued that GBBO might be doing more harm than good, especially for small web firms and freelancers.
Whilst these flaws are hard to ignore, it is also hard to look past the great idea that Google are fronting. Although websites are basic and easy to set up (on the whole as I have read some issues with domain names being locked), this is after all the point. Businesses utilising this service aren’t going to be web or tech savvy. It is therefore a great way to entice users to the online world, and Google can reap the rewards.
Regardless of the troubled StatUp Britain, Google are helping businesses to create an online presence and advertise their services, this much is true. Overall, GBBO, GYBO and GABO are great in theory and excellent if you want to get your business details online and visible to large numbers of people. It’s a great starting platform and will allow many local businesses to convert online, where they may never previously have had the opportunity. We all have to start somewhere and Google are certainly doing their part to help us.