May 10, 2012 in Business

Web developers upset with free site offer

By The Spokesman-Review
 
On the Web

Google and Intuit’s free Web: www.gybo.com

An offer to set up free business websites has sparked criticism by Spokane Web development companies that say it undercuts their efforts to provide quality commercial Web services.

Three Web developers say the promotion – a free website for one year – potentially takes jobs from them and may mislead company owners that the effort is adequate to reach customers.

Catching the criticism has been Greater Spokane Inc., Spokane’s chamber of commerce. In March the business advocacy group included a news release about the free website program in its newsletter, sent to about 4,900 area businesses.

GSI noted that the website offer came from Google, the online search leader and a GSI member, and Intuit, the Silicon Valley company that makes Quicken and other business applications. The two tech companies launched the website effort nationwide to urge more businesses to use digital marketing.

Kevin Dudley, marketing and communications coordinator for GSI, said the chamber promoted the website offer on Facebook and Twitter as well.

Lane Guin, owner of Lane Enterprises, criticized the promotion on Spokane business networking site LaunchPad. Guin, a former TV executive who 10 years ago shifted his interests to Web services, said in his view the Google-Intuit offer is of minimal value. Business owners who also want search engine marketing and optimization would have to pay extra for it, according to the terms of the promotion, he said.

When Guin – whose company charges $700 to as much as $10,000 for a Web-development project – contacted a GSI representative about the issue, he said, “How would you like to compete with free?”

Two other local Web developers also are critical of the plan but didn’t contact GSI. Laura Bracken, owner of Spokane-based Design Spike, said she doesn’t oppose businesses testing their Web wings with a free site, but she regards the Google-Intuit offer as nearly worthless.

“If a business doesn’t add content over time, Google … will score that business site even lower (in searches),” she said, resulting in a negative outcome for the business.

Ronda Hutchins, owner of Spokane’s One1Nine Graphic & Web Design, faulted the offer for building websites from templates.

“I would think every business wants a website different than anyone else’s,” she said.

Dudley said GSI’s position is that small businesses should test Web marketing, then move to a more full-function website. “Once a company gets bigger, we would direct them to turn to companies that (do professional Web design),” he said.

One company owner, however, said she’s happy with the Google-Intuit offer.

Trisha Watson, owner of Eyebrow Design Studio, said she previously used a basic Web service that cost $30 a month. Once she saw the Google offer, she switched.

Her new site, www.TrishaWatson.com, has just three pages, but it’s better than the previous site, she said.

Becca Ginsberg, a Google spokeswoman, said Google has seen response by “several thousand” small businesses in Washington state, but she couldn’t break down how many inquiries came from Eastern Washington.


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