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Google Has ‘Built’ More than 250K Websites for SMBs in One Month

SMB open

Mike Blumenthal has been tracking websites created under the banner of “Google Websites,” a simple tool within Google My Business (GMB) that rolled out roughly a month ago. The tool’s target is developing countries. Launching first in India, it was announced in January:

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said on Wednesday that the Mountain View, Calif., company will launch this year a tool that allows owners of small businesses that are now offline to create mobile-friendly websites free of charge.

Google says nearly three-quarters of [India’s] 51 million small businesses currently lack a web presence.

Introduced initially as a way for small businesses in India to create basic mobile-friendly websites, the product is now global. In roughly a month, according to Mike Blumenthal, Google has seen the creation of approximately 250,000 websites. This is a dramatic pace — many thousands of sites per day.

Sites have been created across multiple markets, including more than 16K in the US by Mike’s count. Here’s his tally of the top markets:
Google Websites

Google has been in and out of the SMB web creation and hosting business since about 2006. SMB surveys vary, but a still-meaningful percentage of SMBs in the US don’t have websites.

Google’s first effort at something like this was in 2006, with “Page Creator.” That was replaced in 2008 by Google Sites. The underlying rationale was and still remains: SMBs that don’t have sites can’t be found in search and by extension can’t advertise because there’s no online destination or landing page.

Today there’s a growing debate about whether a website is still required (especially for SMBs) given that many third party sites, including Google, present enhanced business data. One school of thought holds that most (mobile) consumers don’t visit SMB websites. Instead the get the desired information on Google, Yelp, Facebook and elsewhere, so a claimed and developed presence is more important than a website that nobody will visit.

In June, before the Dex acquisition, YP launched an enhanced website product ypWebsite Pro, which included SEO-related services. It’s not clear whether that product will continue on post acquisition. However its launch was a strong argument in favor of the position that SMB websites matter.

The pro-website camp argues that SMBs cannot control the look and feel of profile pages and don’t own them. The SMB site is thus “owned media” and foundational to an online presence, not to mention local SEO strategy.

BrightLocal-SMB-visit-websites

A 2016 BrightLocal consumer survey argues that SMB websites are a critical part of the consumer journey. After reading positive reviews, the top action taken by consumers was to visit the local business website. That number grew from 2015 to 2016.

What are your thoughts about the role or need for SMB websites today?

2 Responses to “Google Has ‘Built’ More than 250K Websites for SMBs in One Month”

  1. Greg,

    Interesting question. We continue to believe that a website for SMB’s is critical. In addition to the reasons you mentioned in your article a website is the authoritative voice for the SMB, it represents the brand and brand image of the SMB. All other 3rd party listings are subject to format changes, alterations, omissions and aren’t controlled by the SMB in the same manner as its’ website. Here’s a recent LSA blog post on this: http://www.lsainsider.com/smb-websites-error-page-not-found .

    Thanks,
    Brett

  2. Greg Sterling says:

    I think SMBs need websites but should understand they’re not the first point of contact but now more of a “landing page” with additional content to help close or provide additional credibility. But most (mobile) consumer contacts are not going to be with SMB sites — at least not initially.

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