Google Enters Domain Reselling for SMBs

Google announced today that they are entering the domain registration space with a limited test of the product.  Here is the full announcement from the Google + Your Business page:

Screen Shot 2014-06-23 at 7.49.12 PMIt’s 2014 and it seems obvious, but across laptops, tablets and mobile devices, a website is one of the first places people go to find information about a business. But amazingly, our research shows that 55% of small businesses still don’t have one. 

So as we explore ways to help small businesses succeed online (through tools like Google My Business [http://goo.gl/Ajvbn5] ), we thought it made sense to look more closely at the starting point of every business’s online presence – a website. And that starts with a domain name.

We’re beginning to invite a small number of people to kick the tires on Google Domains [http://goo.gl/pHvjoO], a domain registration service we’re in the process of building. Businesses will be able to search, find, purchase and transfer the best domain for their business – whether it’s .com, .biz, .org, or any of the wide range of new domains that are being released to the Web. 
 
Google Domains isn’t fully-featured yet, but we’re giving a small group of people the ability to buy and transfer domains through it and send feedback on their experience. (You currently need an invitation code to do so, sorry!) We want input on all the ways we can help make finding, buying, transferring and managing a domain a simple and transparent experience. We also want to make sure our customer support and infrastructure works flawlessly, and that we have the right additional services (like mobile website creation tools and hosting services from a range of providers, as well as domain management support). We’re working with some of the top website building providers like +Shopify+Squarespace+Weebly, and +Wix.com  to help make that happen.

While we’re still building out all of the features, our goal is to make Google Domains more widely available soon. You can check out the first cut of what we’re working on at www.google.com/domains.

According to MarketingLand the domains will sell for $12 and will cover the .com, .net, .org and .biz TLDs. Obviously this day has been long in coming and long anticipated. With the recent rollout of My Business, Google has a platform to sell from. For this stage of the product Google notes that they will be working with easy to use 3rd party web development platforms.

When viewed in light of  their recent purchase and shut down of restaurant web site creator Appetas, it is easy to envision a fully Google controlled, self provisioned web presence for the small business world. Appetas sold a very elegant web creation tool that  included ‘not just reservations and delivery systems, but social media integrations and mobile websites”.

Both domain reselling and web builders are horizontal markets that do well with scale and both would create a great SMB funnel for Adwords as well a be potentially be profitable in an of themselves.  And all can easily be integrated into the new My Business portal

This though, could also be a data play. Google needs to know who is building a new businesses earlier in the cycle. With this service they will also reach beyond their existing SMB clientele that have already started marketing by claiming in the My Business portal and establish a relationship with these businesses early on.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Enters Domain Reselling for SMBs by

18 thoughts on “Google Enters Domain Reselling for SMBs”

  1. Thanks, Mike.

    It’ll be interesting to see how (if?) this dovetails with custom Google+ URLs. I could see how Google would use those as the starting point for suggesting domains.

    The ways to monetize these resold domains are endless, but my gut tells me this one ends up in the Google Graveyard.

    1. @Phil
      Post ascendency of Larry Page, Google is a very different beast than they were before. More focused, more competitive, more aggressive and better able to execute and bring together multiple facets of their organization to focus on a given market.

      My bet, and I will put a beer on it, that 12 months from now this will be part and parcel of their My Business portal.

  2. My concern when I first saw the announcement was that of anti-trust and Google’s monopoly. Domain registration is where businesses start their online journey. Google would crash competition if they had a key for that too.

    What I learned from Donnie Strompf in the comments on my G+ post about this was, quote:
    “When you buy a domain from Google it is still a GoDaddy domain. I did this with a project I am working on and in order to point the name server to my server I had to log into a back end Google/GoDaddy portal.”

  3. @Max
    I am not sure how that changes things that much

    This still puts Google right at the front of knowing when new businesses com into existence and more importantly at the top of the funnel in terms of businesses starting to use the web.

    And if they create a web builder this also allows them to create a turn key package for SMBs that steps folks through the whole of on line marketing.

  4. “And if they create a web builder this also allows them to create a turn key package for SMBs that steps folks through the whole of on line marketing.”

    You mean like good old Google Sites? Google’s foray into domain reselling might finally breathe some life into it. I think the stumbling block has always been that for the average SMB it’s a PITA to use your own domain for a Google Site (involving some registrar-side footwork).

    1. @Max
      It isn’t Google that is creepy, what is creepy is an economic environment that encourages scale AND monopolies. Google is doing what any good capitalist would do; attempt to grow their business. The problem is that we are in a system that is winner take all.

  5. I’m siding with Phil in this discussion. I registered a domain through Google Blogger years ago (actually registered with Enom) and it was very, very difficult to transfer the domain to GoDaddy last year. I had to set up side channel communications with Enom, using a knowledgeable GoDaddy tech support guy as advisor. Google was unresponsive to my requests for help/information even though I’d been paying them.

    Outside of Adwords, Google doesn’t really offer phone or chat customer service, and competing in the crowded, low cost domain market, with companies that provide outstanding customer service seems a rather steep mountain to climb.

    @Mike, I’ll collect my beer at LocalU Austin next year. Wait, you usually buy the beer anyway!

  6. @Paul

    When Google finally decided that they needed to support SMBs, even those using free services, they did. My Business support has gone from non existent to meaningful if not perfect.

    I think they have learned that if they are going to be in the SMB marketplace they need to have support.

    I understand that in the past they thought they could scale everything and support nothing. They also thought that they could solve every problem with an algo.

    They have matured. They added support and they even added people and support to fix those last listings that their algo couldn’t. That is a sign of maturity.

    They seem to want local very badly. And they are formidable. They understand that to win, not against the likes of Yahoo but against the likes of Apple and Amazon that they need support.

  7. @Mike,

    You may be right, but I’m still thinking of my situation with the GoDaddy domain transfer rep and a “back of the envelope” method of contacting the Enom Google specialist, who could steer me through the transfer process. And this wasn’t a free service, Google was non-responsive for the domain I was paying them for.

    Google may be maturing, but you don’t “launch” that kind of customer focus and expertise. You grow it.

    I’ll be looking forward to my Shiner Bock in Austin!

  8. @Mike,

    My doubts about Google’s customer service in the business realm were strengthened this morning.

    This morning at 5:17 am I got an email telling me that one of my YouTube videos, Wharton High School Tiger Band Plays the Star Spangled Banner, was flagged as inappropriate by the YouTube Community. The video was of the local high school band playing the Star Spangled Banner — as the title suggests. I was told I was getting one Community Guidelines Warning strike. Of course, at 5:17 am I was asleep and unable to act on this information!

    Less than a minute later, Google sent another email telling me that due to repeated or severe violations of the Community Guidelines, my YouTube account was suspended. My access to the account was cut off and I was warned not to create another YouTube account.

    I looked at the login history in my account profile and it shows no indication that my account was used by anyone but me. I use strong passwords that I don’t share. There’s absolutely no evidence that my Google account was hacked.

    My sole right of appeal was the ability to type my email address on a form in the hope that Google would look at my case. The form told me that Google might respond and it might not.

    That YouTube channel contained years worth of videos from local football games, choir concerts, Fourth of July celebrations, and community events. It was at least four years old and the only issue that had ever come up occurred when I recorded the fireworks celebration for the Fourth of July and the canned music in the background triggered a copyright violation.

    So after four years of building a library of videos highlighting life in our small Texas town, Google suspended the library in less than a minute with no reasonable right of appeal. Google could have pulled the Channel offline pending human review, but chose the algorithmic response.

    I’ve read that there are bots that will attack a YouTube channel by repeatedly flagging videos as spam. That’s what must have happened here. I can’t tell why my community channel was chosen for the attack, but it shows how vulnerable any YouTube channel must be to malicious actions.

    It also shows that even in situations where substantial, valuable collections of video are consigned to Google with years of adherence to community standards, Google still responds with an algorithm — not waiting for a human review. And there is no offer of a human review and response.

    After this event, would I ever purchase a domain from Google? Not in a million years!

  9. @Paul

    I’m with you. Google’s ill-timed, unrealistic, and inactionable warnings often also pop up in AdWords – where Google makes a heck of a lot more money than it ever will in its domain-reselling effort.

  10. @Paul
    Firstly I am sorry about your YouTube stuff.

    I am not contending that Google does a great job of support in all situations. I am contending that when Google wants to provide good service, the do.

    They have always had good service in paid products and the pivot they did in Local was nothing short of amazing on the service front.

    For years they contended that because it was a free product they couldn’t/wouldn’t provide service. Until they did. They recognized that to compete in Local they needed to do a decent job of it. And they have.

    It appears that this domain thing is a local play to get to the 55% of businesses and new businesses that do not have web sites. If they say they are going slow because they want to provide good service, you can take that to the bank.

  11. @Mike & @Phil,

    I’m not a Google hater. The Googlers I’ve met — all through Local U — have all been smart and helpful. In services that are driven by algorithms, Google sets the standard for the World. I like Google Analytics and GWT as well as the sequential versions of local listings. I’ve had good experiences with AdWords, but I appreciate Phil’s concerns.

    YouTube is at the edge of a paid product. I’ve just recorded a video for one of my clients with the goal of using it in YouTube paid ads. I’m rethinking that now.

    There are two aspects of this morning’s incident that worry me. The first is that an attacker can take a good-reputation YouTube channel, with over 100 videos, from first strike to suspended in less than a minute. That’s amazing and it indicates that Google doesn’t have the ability to detect, identify and respond to a flagging attack. Time to move to Vimeo!

    The other worrisome aspect of the incident is that there’s even less customer service for YouTube than for GWT. If I’m penalized in GWT with a manual action, I can use the disavow tool and request reconsideration. No similar due process exists in YouTube.

    I hope that Google’s customer service is superb for the new domain registration service, but I’ll never use it or recommend it based on my experience with the customer service blackhole in Google’s YouTube.

  12. The statement that I think that they will provide good service in the domain arena if they say that they will and the statement that I would recommend them as a supplier of domains to an SMB are not to be confused. Just because I state the former does not mean that I would do the latter.

    I was make the assessment of their desire and ability as a statement about market realities and about their ability to compete in the space.

    I agree with you that I don’t think it is the best interest of most SMBs to get their domain from Google.

  13. Here’s an update to my comment about a YouTube false flagging attack causing multiple video strikes and my account suspension in less than a minute on Friday morning.

    Upon appeal, the YouTube account was restored on a day later. With access to my channel, I could appeal the strikes and they were removed the next day. The account was returned to Good Standing status.

    @Mike, thanks again for your help in this!

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