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.
Let’s do an analysis of their offerings to see if they produce business results.
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’.
Using 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?
Certainly 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
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
Yes, 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?