Today Google and Intuit are in Dayton, Ohio offering FREE WEBSITES to businesses. They are here to remove all of the hurdles associated with getting online. According to reports in the local press, In just a few short minutes you can have an amazing website that will transform your business and secure your digital future… except it probably won’t.
I have no issue with Google coming to town and helping small businesses get online. That is in fact a very good thing. Google will walk you through setting up a Google Places listing, which can be very useful for businesses. They are also offering education and information about digital marketing, which is where business is increasingly taking place. Furthermore, attendees even get a presence on the internet in the form of a free basic website (content not included). While this event could be viewed as competing with our business, I view it as a great opportunity for us – one that should help local agencies to deliver greater value through our “not free” websites.
“What?” “How can that be?” “Google and Intuit are giving it away for free?” “Why would anyone pay an agency for a website, when they can get it for free?” “How can that be good for Dayton marketing and web design firms?”
Here is why. Free space on the web is nothing new. Businesses have been able to get free websites from Tumblr, WordPress, Google Sites, Blogger, Posterous, and thousands of other providers for years. Free space on the web is great, but what you do with that space is what matters. Getting your business on the web is simply the first hurdle, and free helps to lower it. Google is getting people over that hurdle. This is the start of the process, not the end of it.
Free access is not the key to success. It is just a lower barrier to entry in the digital marketplace. That low barrier means that everyone gets to play – you and your competition. With the ability for everyone to “show up” online for free, differentiating your business is a critical part of success. This fact places an increased importance on the creative design, ongoing content, and overall branding of your website. What does your brand represent? What makes you different, special, or better? How effective is your website at communicating your unique value? Consumers have a billion choices at their fingertips, so why should anyone choose to pay attention to your website? What is the story that it tells?
Burton Law has a great website. It was not free. They hired us to use our skills to create a website that gets your attention. Like it or hate it, it tells a unique story, one that will turn some away and really resonate with others. It communicates a brand. It has content, depth, character, creativity and design. None of those things are free, not even from Google.
Every template-driven, free website that is launched today through this event, creates an opportunity for a well designed, unique website to differentiate itself. Free websites that fail to incorporate creative design and engaging content, just add to the noise of the web. My guess is that many of the businesses that get a free site today, will begin to understand the potential of the internet, which is a great thing. They will then spend more time learning about what digital marketing can do. They will also realize that their free site, while built with the best of intentions, has some very big shortcomings. Hopefully, these same businesses will then seek the help of one of the many talented professional marketing and web design firms located right her in Dayton.