Google Inc. has begun offering small businesses in California the ability to create free customizable websites as well as access to personal training on how to build an online business.
Google will spring for the domain name and provide free Web hosting for the first year, then businesses will pay $2 a month for the domain name and $4.99 monthly for Web hosting.
Google has rolled out similar programs in other states around the country including North Carolina, Michigan and Georgia, but company spokesman Aaron McLear said California was by far the biggest market to have access to the program.
"There is a perception that getting online is hard, that it's expensive and time consuming," Scott Levitan, Google's director of small-business engagement, said in a statement. "As a company with roots in California, we want to make it fast, easy and free for any business in the state to get online."
Small businesses, defined by Google as those with no more than 25 employees, can go to http://www.CaliforniaGetOnline.com to sign up for the free service. Once they get there, they'll be able to create a URL and choose a website template they can customize as much or as little as they like. Google is teaming with Intuit Inc., the developer of the Quicken personal finance software, to offer the service.
In mid-March Google will host free training seminars to help business owners learn not only how to build their website but also how to secure the domain name, connect with customers and even venture into micro-targeted advertising.
The seminars will be held March 12-13 at Siren Studios in West Hollywood. Other seminars will take place in Irvine (March 14), Bakersfield (March 15) and Sacramento (March 16).
According to Google, 97% of Americans turn to the Web for local products and services, but only 38% of small businesses in California are online.