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Free websites for 50,000 Australian small businesses

Haven’t gotten round to having a website made yet? You’re not alone. Between 50 and 60 percent of Australian businesses do not yet have an online presence. MYOB and Google would like to change that. From today, the first 50,000 businesses to visit http://www.gettingbusinessonline.com.au/ can get a free website. It takes about 15 minutes to set up.

“Fourteen million Australians search for businesses online but one million Aussie businesses are invisible to these potential customers because they do not have a website,” said CEO of MYOB, Tim Reed.

“This initiative, getting Aussie business online, is about taking away the barriers for small business,” said Google Australia Head of Local Business, Claire Hatton. “Today in Australia having a website is as important as having a phone.”

She said before people make any kind of purchase these days they look for information online first. Google statistics reveal that in Australia there are 4000 searches per day for accountants, 12,000 for builders, 30,000 for cafes and 60,000 for restaurants.

“Small businesses are the quiet celebrities of the Web. There are more searches for ‘builders’ than ‘miranda kerr’, more searches for ‘florists’ than ‘julia gillard’, more searches for ‘accountants’ than ‘ricky ponting’,” said Ms Hatton.

To sign up for a free website, business owners need an ABN, a phone number, and a few minutes to write about what they have to offer. A few clicks and the website goes live.

The first freebie website was created by Terry Randall, Owner of Randall’s Excavations and Earth Moving. You can take a look at it here: Randall’s Excavations (http://www.randalls-excavation.com.au/).

“I’ve been thinking about putting up some sort of website or something, but just never got around to it,” said Mr Randall. “At first I thought this was going to be a bit, you know… but in 15 minutes it was up and away and I thought ‘how good is this?'”.

Each website is created using a website building product called MYOB Atlas, launched today at the Getting Aussie Business Online function held at Vivo Cafe, Sydney. You get a .com.au domain name, free for two years, and after 12 months there’s a pay as you go monthly fee of $5 per month to keep your page live using the MYOB Atlas tool. Domain renewal is about $30 per year, after the first 24 months, which are free.

“We believe the three primary barriers to getting online are fear (DNS hook ups and other confusing, technical terms generate fear), time and cost,” said Mr Reed. “…this initiative solves those problems.”

“We are looking for other promotion partners who are also committed to getting Aussie businesses online. We’d like this to become a movement,” said Ms Hatton.

UPDATE 3 March 2011:

Until MYOB have the capacity in Australia, websites will be hosted in Singapore. The fine print of the terms and conditions mentions information sharing with Google and the company that manages their data management (we understand their Singapore host to be Amazon).

“You consent to the sharing of information including your Personal Information between us and Google Inc in relation to your application,” the terms and conditions state, “for the purpose of marketing MYOB or Google products to you.”

As well as:

“We may share your Personal Information with service providers we have retained to perform services on our behalf, such as providing web hosting or database management services.”