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MYOB Get Online Websites – Saviour or Con Job?

An independent investigation into Get Online Business Websites

You’ve seen it on TV. A free website for businesses by MYOB and Wespac, under the branding of www.GetOnline.co.nz. The sales pitch is convincing with quite nice designs, able to be found in Google, mobile compatibility, even eCommerce options. So, what’s the catch? Do they work?

Certainly it’s rare to get a good business website built for under $3,000 and if you’re after loads of traffic, then you’ll easily double this cost. For eCommerce, much more. So, are web designers here ripping people off or does MYOB and Wespac have something special?

MYOB, working with accountants and various banks ‘downunder’ have been pushing this ‘Getonline’ package for a while. But can a respectable accounting software provider and a major Australasian bank really provide their clients a professional, high traffic website at virtually zero cost?

Certainly they are spending a lot of money on costly TV and Google advertising. We’ve counted 850 Google AdWords ads, many for high-priced phrases. Still, as most New Zealanders already know, banks have done quite well the last few years with record profits, so they can afford to splash out.

www.getonline.co.nz results

Let’s do an analysis of their offerings to see if they produce business results.

The analysis

Firstly, these sites look okay visually which is the only criteria small business owners have of any website offering. They unfortunately equate looks (and a slick TV commercial), with traffic potential and business outcomes. But the key thing these days is to be found online. Will Google send traffic to the site? Let’s start by examining three of their client ‘success stories’.

seo-profilerUsing the handy SEOprofiler, we quickly discovered the truth. We checked out one long-standing site they provided in Australia and shown as their portfolio sites, which one would assume be the pick of the crop. e.g. www.tangle-teezer.com.au

Normally we’d expect 100+ rankings for a showpiece ecommerce site, with many on page one. The lack of backlinks and a lowly domain authority of 15/100 didn’t help either. Other New Zealand showpiece myob sites we tested were much worse. SC Projects had a zero ranking, being virtually invisible to Google and potential customers looking for their service or product. Another local MYOB ecommerce ‘showpiece’ website poetryandcloth had similar zero ranking results. Yes, they ‘look nice’ but this alone won’t provide Google search traffic to these businesses.

Should someone call the commerce commission?

tanglemobileCertainly there are things implied in the commercial that are questionable. i.e. being found online, including on mobile devices, although it then comes down to ‘how easily’ or’ how fast’ or ‘how often’ as the lawyers might point out..

Typical of free websites, all of the myob-based sites we tested not only can’t be easily found in Google, but in this case also display poorly on mobile devices.  In fact almost every test parameter we could find showed these sites to be a poor match for business use. Basically, no one coded these myob websites with a view to attracting search traffic, which is not what one would take from the TV ad.

As we’ve said before, this type of promotion is something the commerce commission should be looking into, although as a freebee, there’s little incentive to complain when ‘the product’ doesn’t work as expected. The myob advertising and website copy is carefully worded not to actually guarantee too much. Mostly the expectations occur in the business owners head, since many [wrongly] believe just having a website running, regardless of cost or quality, should produce some results and be a step forward at least.

There’s no free ride online

The truth is there’s big competition online today and a real fight to get to page one of Google. It won’t happen with a free website. Ever.

In reality, to get leads and sales from online, small businesses need to invest $10-30k per annum in various initiatives (read more). Executed well, this strategy guarantees a real return on investment with good website traffic and sales growth. Google cares nothing of looks or the appearance.

It’s Really about Lead Generation, not Business Websites

Let’s step back and look at what’s going on here with getonline. The objective is not really to setup websites. It’s really to get sales leads for MYOB and Wespac. The website is effectively just the ‘offer’ to attract the thousands of small businesses who don’t yet own a website, getting all your personal details as you sign up. The websites are merely a by-product of this data collection process. It’s the fancy bait and a very slick PR exercise, which sadly, many in the press, business community and even the government have been sucked in by.

No Warrant of Fitness Included

shellIt’s easy to be impressed by the $100,000 TV ads. Few people know much about SEO, how Google works or website coding. The press and everyone else have to take it all at face value.

But really it’s a bit like winning a new car on TV game show, only to discover later it’s just a plastic shell, with no engine included. Nobody asked to look at the specifications or to check it could get a warrant of fitness. Fortunately though, with toolsets like SEOprofiler and Marketing Grader, business owners can quickly discover if they’ve being sold or given a lemon.

The question is, should banks or accounting people be allowed to provide these types of business services using misleading advertising? What is their experience? (You try to get a startup bank business loan in a sector you’ve no expertise in and see what they say). Banks should keep well away from offering this type of add-on service that provides nothing but false hopes and unrealistic expectations. As an Auzzie commentator said, would you let a web design company do your accounts for free?

The Lesson – Beware of Geeks [and Banks] Bearing Gifts

weeblyYes, it’s admirable to get more businesses online. But just giving them a free or cheap website that gets almost no traffic, is of little benefit in business today. Free websites do have a place.  I run one myself for my family using weebly, simply because I know it won’t come up in a Google search.  And ironically it’s far easier to manage than the myob one.

But  these free DIY sites in business can become an evil distraction. Business owners or their families will toil for days, even months working on the site content, with almost no resulting leads or sales results, since Google will NEVER rank the site highly. The only way to be found is to spend hundreds each month on Google’s pay-per-click Adwords, plus advertise the site traditionally on signs, printed brochures, TV and magazines – Getting an expertly built website that Google WILL send traffic to would be much cheaper.

Getonline is simply a very smart marketing campaign with an offer that the hapless customer may perceive to be of high value. But in reality it has very little value as it can’t do the job. It’s high tech sleight of hand. The free website offer just proves if you spend nothing, you get little in return. Every banker and accountant knows that.

Read also: Spam, scams and websites       Yellow Pages Toolbox websites      What is your Website Ranking?
and from Australia, Would you let your web designer do your accounts for free?


13 Responses to “MYOB Get Online Websites – Saviour or Con Job?”

  1. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by all this. Banks (especially the Auzzie ones) have tons of money to find new ways of attracting gullible customers. But it’s really hard to turn down FREE. This is why they will likely succeed. Pity the poor, stupid consumer, again.

    Posted by Brian | July 10, 2012, 9:55 am
  2. I’ve a friend who has just signed up to this. Have passed on this review. Thanks.

    Posted by Lisa | July 20, 2012, 11:03 am
  3. Remember …it is FREE. So it may not be great or even good – it does get folks online.

    Posted by Dave | August 2, 2012, 1:41 pm
    • Yes, free/cheap sites do have a place. e.g. tradespeople that just want a site to send people to using traditional means like business cards, signage, print advertising etc or to help support existing customers perhaps. As long as we don’t perceive it will bring in many new clients being those doing a search for products or services on Google, which is the implication in the ads.

      Posted by Kevin T | August 11, 2012, 4:50 pm
    • True and free is always nice. But are you now being asked to signup for wespac or myob services? This is their real reason for the campaign. And if you really do want a free website, there are better offerings out there. Just tried that weebly service and it’s amazing. WAY better than a friends myob website.

      Posted by Brian | October 17, 2012, 12:09 pm
  4. I have signed up for this and I think it is great. I am just a small business and I cannot afford the 000’s of dollars for a customised website. Now my customers are able to go to my website and see the items I sell and it has cost be $0. Maybe in a year or so I will upgrade. Not for everyone but very much for me (and a lot more kiwi businesses I would guess)

    Posted by Ted | August 2, 2012, 4:12 pm
  5. I would see this as at least a starting point for small business who would otherwise never get online at all. It’s really nothing more than that and I’m not so sure it’s designed to be.

    Posted by Jon | August 3, 2012, 7:26 am
  6. Amusing that this article constitutes a far more misleading advertisement for the alternatives it advises. Atlas is not the be-all-end-all of cheap website production for the New Zealand business, but it will certainly save the average plonker thousands of dollars in shady dealings with your average barely-software-literate wordpress charlatan.

    The real catch is that they will ask businesses to start paying after the initial period of having a free website.

    As for SEO, when (if?) that becomes an issue, they can employ any child capable of reading English and typing to read the Google whitepaper on SEO and implement what it suggests.

    Getting an expertly built website can be cheap, but the supply in new zealand is very low, and it is difficult to avoid incompetent sharks and other underworker/overchargers. The MarKeTing XPerts community is mad because somebody is moving their prey.

    Yes, Atlas kind of sucks for something that’s not free forever. But as a software developer, I can confidently say that I would rather combine atlas with SaaS marketing tools than go anywhere near the shoddy software produced (configured, really) by New Zealand’s various self-proclaimed web experts.

    Posted by Sam | January 31, 2013, 4:09 pm
    • Let the buyer beware, but the issue is how can the average Joe know the difference? Are they to trust a local unknown developer or trust their bank will see them right? As you implied, WordPress is no panacea either. Around half my work the last few months has been fixing up and rebuilding WordPress nightmares put together by amateurs. It’s not the tools, but how we used them that makes the difference.

      I guess what NZ needs is more forums where developers young and old can meet and exchange ideas too. Learn good practices. For myself, I go to Melbourne every few months where hundreds can turn up to a monthly meet. There’s nothing in little NZ. Nothing to really help designers, developers or their clients…

      Posted by Kevin Trye | February 2, 2013, 6:20 pm
  7. Seems more like a expensively misguided marketing exercise dreamt up by a team of clueless desk wallas’. Considering that the average small business person would tend “Google” other FREE website options, once they realise that such a thing exists, and probably choose one of the slicker offerings like weebly or wix.
    I would imagine that most succeeding small business people don’t have the time to muck around making their own site on the clunky MYOB Atlas software and therefore would prefer to engage a competent, reasonably priced professional who can relate to their vision.
    I remember someone singing – “You can’t always get what you waaant”, but you will probably get what you pay for!
    I agree with you Kevin, about the need for more forums – a lot of us work outside of the main centers and miss opportunities for collegial contact.
    As a web developer, am I able to offer Free Banking Services?…

    Posted by Stephen Hutton | February 4, 2013, 3:54 pm
    • Good comment re our ability to offer free banking services, a point noted by the Auzzie commentator. Still, with a bit of google search trickery, it’s not hard to discover who is running these sorts of sites and then approach them all a year later when they’ve discovered it don’t work… Plenty of opportunities like this to pick up new work for us developers. Look for those using antiquated, ineffective website or ecommerce systems.

      Posted by Kevin Trye | February 5, 2013, 9:28 am
  8. From my own experience setting up one of these it seems a lot better than it is. Several frustrations which included: You can’t add new pages, or any place to put FAQ or any real block of information. The sites integrate your facebook site in a miniscule logo in the header and give another facebook like button that links back to the website in the centre which seems confusing and redundant. Linking through to Google Analytics is quite time consuming (and they use outdated terms in some instances sending you looking for the wrong info), it also says it takes 15 minutes roughly to update the tracking code into the website but having followed all their instructions it still won’t work a week later.

    I would highly recomend this for people who know very little about getting online and just want a place to get their long-running face-to-face business on the web. Personally it seems to takes hours to produce anything and is so inflexible that there is very little point for my business, I now need to take the domain name away and get online somewhere else.

    The two major frustrations for me are that you cant add any variables on a product such as size or colour – you have to do a seperate item listing for each one and have very little control over the format of your gallery, and that the ‘news’ page is a really poor integration with your facebook updates; there is nowhere to put any solid information, at all.

    There are some instances where this works well for people (and the payonline page that integrates with Paypal is fantastic, particularly if you’re doing the bulk of your sales through somewhere like TradeMe), but for the most part I can accomplish with facebook and etsy for free what i had hoped to do with the website, if you search for my business/product the website is nowhere to be found but thefacebook page ranks really highly.

    There is no trouble with getting online through them, but staying online and being succesful seems to be a horse of a different colour entirely. Great way to dip your toe in for adding another platform to an existing business, but completely useless if you
    are just trying to get set up and sorted.

    Posted by Pixel | March 5, 2013, 7:12 pm
    • Thanks for the update. Interesting feedback from a live user. Much appreciated. However my concern is that businesses wanting a free (or near-free) website really have loads of choices, most offering something way better. e.g. wordpress.com, weebly.com plus dozens more if you need to sell stuff. MYOB have offered up a system that is outdated and clunky in comparison. Still, it is a convincing TV promotion by two companies we tend to trust.

      Posted by Kevin Trye | March 6, 2013, 5:29 pm

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