Google’s next move: free sites and domains for businesses

Most weeks, Google makes an incremental move that seems, in retrospect, obvious.  

Earlier this month, I wrote about their real estate listings attached to Google Maps which will quickly become a major challenge for the established sites such as domain.com.au and realestate.com.au.

Indeed, I get the sense that a real priority for Google at present is developing new business services around local search anchored, of course, around Google Maps.

But the latest initiative in the UK is still a doozy in terms of its ability to disrupt the market. Who’d be a domain broker or site builder when Google has just started giving both away for free? There are plenty of digital agencies that make a big chunk of their living from creating basic sites for small businesses. It may be time to come up with a new business plan.

Google has just gone public on its initiative in the UK. Any British company can get a basic free site and domain of their choice (if it’s available).

And the set-up is very basic too:

Clearly the functionality of the sites is pretty basic. But for many small businesses, a simple site offering punters info on how to find them and who they are is all that’s required.

Effectively, it’s a glorified blog. And of course, it’s easy to add plug-ins later. According to the Daily Telegraph in the UK, PayPal is also involved which makes it more interesting yet.

For now though, the biggest potential benefits for Google are the dual incentives to small business owners to both sign up to Google and to improve the database by providing their details.

Which is, of course, pretty threatening to existing online directory players. When Google’s got the best possible listings in a format the company not only likes but controls, that’s a big future problem for the likes of Sensis. Why would consumers use it if Google’s more accurate and comprehensive? And why pay Sensis to advertise if Google will do the same thing for you for free – and throw in all that other stuff on top?

So how long until it happens in Australia?

A big step, or perhaps barrier, is just who wholesales and funds the domain names. From the looks of the Getting British Business Online site, this is a joint initiative with telco BT, not for profit organisation e-Skills UK and the government-funded Enterprise UK. So presumably similar deals might need to be stitched together for it to happen here – although those equivalent conversations may already be taking place.

If and when it does happen, I don’t think it will be called Getting Australian Business Online. Or at least, at the time of writing the gabo.com.au domain appears to be available for purchase, which would be something of an oversight on Google’s part if so.

But the reason I think it will inevitably arrive in Australia in some format is that Google will make it pay for itself. Every company that lists its site needs a Google account to do so, or to set one up as part of the simple sign-up process. If you’re a business that wasn’t previously online, then you’re a new customer to bring into the Google AdWords financial eco system.

A spokesman for Google told me tonight: “We don’t have anything to announce on this for Australia.” I don’t think I’ll quite be taking that as a denial.

The spokesman also pointed me to 10steps.com.au – “a step by step guide to help Australian businesses start marketing online”, which the company launched last year.

And this week it emerged that Google has hired media agency PHD to work on a project targeting Australian business. Google’s head of marketing Jason Chuck told B&T: “There are great opportunities for online advertising in Australia and New Zealand, and we’ll be growing our marketing efforts to reach new small and medium businesses looking to jump online this year.”

Fair to say, Google wants to get to know small businesses right now, and knows how to go about it.

Tim Burrowes


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.