In a bid to bring more businesses online, Google, in association with the Department of Trade and Industry, Vodacom, and the HRDC, is offering free websites to small and medium businesses who are looking for an online presence.
All very noble and altruistic of course. However, a similar initiative, the “Get Kenyan Business Online” or GKBO has given a few problems, as Google employees used decidedly unethical methods in order to convince people to sign up, including misrepresenting a relationship between Google and Kenyan directory service Mocality.
A Google VP has apologised unreservedly and promised an investigation, but there are still some questions about how culpable Google actually is in this regard. You can read more about the Mocality scandal at Memeburn.
Free Sites As A Sales Tool
Of course, leaving aside what may simply have been some overzealous marketers, Google’s offer seems great on the surface. Naturally, there is more to it than that. If you sign up for one of these sites, you’ll also get a free Google Ads voucher to help you be found online.
Of course, when your Google Ads voucher expires, people are going to stop arriving at your site. (Assuming you were doing it right in the first place, and the Google Ads brought visitors.) Which means you’ll need to buy more Google Ads.
I suppose that fundamentally, there’s nothing wrong with this. They’re providing a nice free service, and if you’re not too worried about getting visitors, you don’t have to buy into Google Ads either.
I do wonder how well these sites will optimise though. Will Google give them preference? Will they give their ads preference?
I do see that a search for web design brings up an add for Woza Online, albeit in the 5th position or so.
The aforementioned initiatives in Kenya and Nigeria have apparently brought more than 20,000 small businesses there online, so it will be very interesting to see what it manages here in SA.
We’ll take a look at these free sites, and see what they’re about, so check back soon to find out.